No.23: Floating Alone In Space

(Note to readers: A technical hitch has arisen with this list, which was lovingly compiled in the pub by a team of FT operatives. My wife Isabel threw the list in the bin, assuming it was rubbish. The other kind of rubbish. We have done our best at reconstructing the scary things but it should be noted that some of these entries are no longer fully endorsed by Fear Science.)

My mother once told me of her childhood dread that gravity would fail, sending her hurtling upwards into space. When I have told this to people several of them have nodded in sympathy (her other great fear, that of fish that could walk, has met with less recognition). In reality, of course, being adrift in space like Major Tom or that guy from Tintin is unlikely to happen to any of us, because nobody with any sense is likely to allow us into space. We are more likely to become lost at sea, or in a desert. But these more credible fears are dwarfed by the sheer immensity and emptiness of space. This unexplorable hugeness is also the very appeal of space for amateur astronauts everywhere – many a fear is the close cousins of someone else’s desire.