On this day in 1970, Apollo 13, NASA’s third lunar mission, experienced an oxygen tank malfunction that caused the mission to be aborted. The famous words from the 1987 movie Apollo 13 were “Houston we have a problem.” The actual quote was “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” The Apollo 13 mission also gave us the oxymoron “successful failure,” meaning that although the ultimate mission of reaching the moon was a failure, the secondary mission of returning the astronauts to earth safely was a success. (See October 12: Oxymoron Day)
Although no one died on the mission, Apollo 13 provided no solace for those with triskaidekaphobia: the fear of the number 13. After all, not only was the mission given the number 13, but other number 13s pop up when you look at the statistics related to the mission:
-The problem occurred on the 13th of April.
-The mission was launched on 4/11/70. 4 + 11 + 70 = 85 and 8+5= 13!
-The mission was launched at 13:13 Central Standard Time (1).
Even if you have no fear of the number 13, or any other numbers, there are plenty of other phobias to concern yourself with. The suffix -phobia is Greek for fear. And even if you have no chronic fears, exploring the world of phobias provides good practice for checking your knowledge of Greek and Latin roots. For example, claustrophobia is the fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces. Claustrum is Latin for enclosed place.
The Sum of All Fears
The following list of phobias is from O.V. Michaelsen’s book Words at Play. See if you can match up each of the phobias with its correct definition.
A. Fear of dampness or liquids
B. Fear of good news
C. Fear of sunlight
D. Fear of things to the right
E. Fear of sermons
F. Fear of open or public places
G. Fear of meat
H. Fear of learning
I. Fear of Mondays
J. Fear of things to the left.
- F, 2. B, 3. I, 4. E, 5. C, 6. D, 7. G, 8. H, 9. A, 10. J
Today’s Challenge: Say Farewell to Your Phobia
What are some common fears that people have, and how can those fears be overcome? Triskaidekaphobia Day is the perfect day to look your fears in the face. Brainstorm and research some common fears, such as fear of flying, public speaking, intimacy, spiders, failure, heights, or death. Select one, and write a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that provides your audience with common sense ways to confront the fear and overcome it. (Common Core Writing 2)
Quotation of the Day: Fear is an insidious virus. Given a breeding place in our minds … it will eat away our spirit and block the forward path of our endeavors. -James F. Bell
1 – Kennedy Space Center
2 – O. V. Michaelsen, O.V. Words at Play (Sterling Publishing Co., Inc, 1997)