The Abstract Podcast

Facing your fears with science

In this episode, we reveal the truth about some of nature’s most feared creatures.

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The fear of snakes or spiders are among the world’s most common phobias. They’re rooted in a human’s evolutionarily embedded survival instincts to detect danger.

Not helping matters are the terrifying stories about spiders like the Sydney funnel-web, whose large fangs can rip through shoe leather to kill a person in just 15 minutes, or snakes like the king cobra, whose venom can kill up to 20 people (or one elephant).

However, a number of common myths about these creepy creatures are misleading. Despite all the infamy of funnel-webs, they’re actually more afraid of you — and their venomous superpowers are nothing more than the result of a happy evolutionary accident.

Even though their presence can instantaneously leave many grown adults frozen in fear (and on top of the nearest piece of furniture), snakes remain hopelessly misunderstood outcasts among their animal kingdom peers. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever come into contact with deadly snakes or spiders in modern-day life, you can still use the cold, hard scientific truths about them to face your fears — and it may even be good for you.

In this episode of The Abstract, we reveal the truth about some of nature’s most feared creatures.

Our first story uses science to debunk some of the most common myths about snakes. Despite an aggressive reputation, not all snakes are venomous — or even all that dangerous. Scientists say the more humans learn about them, the more likely we are to conquer some of our deepest, darkest fears.

Our second story explains how a highly venomous group of spiders got their powers. Solving a decades-long mystery, new research reminds us that some of the most feared human threats are nothing more than convenient evolutionary coincidences.

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Right now, facts and science matter more than ever. That's part of the reason for The Abstract, this all-new podcast from the Inverse staff that focuses exclusively on science and innovation. Three new episodes are released a week, and each covers one theme via two related stories. Each features audio of original Inverse reporting, where the facts and context take center stage. It's hosted by the Tanya Bustos of WSJ Podcasts. Because we're Inverse, it's all true but slightly off-kilter. It's made for people who want to know the whole story. Nick Lucchesi, executive editor, Inverse

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