13 Common Myths that Scientists are Already Tired of Disproving
Exploring science might save the day. But often people pass off something as the ultimate truth when in reality it’s all just your run-of-the-mill myth. We have all heard and know almost all of them. And no matter how absurd they are we start to believe in them. Starting with the one about getting arthritis from cracking your knuckles and finishing with the one about each of us swallowing 8 spiders in our sleep every year.
1. There is no gravity in space.
Actually, gravity is everywhere. It shapes the orbits of the planets, the solar system, and even the galaxies. It is true that gravity decreases with distance. So the further you are away from a planet or star the less gravity you feel. Gravity is pulling us down, so every ship in the orbit around the Earth is slowly falling toward our planet. And since the ship and our astronauts are falling at the same speed and the latter have nothing to press against, they feel so weightless.
2. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
That’s a nice proverb, but a little bit far from reality. Of course, repeated lightning strikes have a very low probability, but they are not impossible. Take for instance the Empire State Building which is struck by lightning about 20-25 times each year. The building was once struck 8 times in 24 minutes, so being hit several times within a short time span isn’t that unusual after all.
3. All dinosaurs went extinct after an asteroid hit the Earth.
Sometimes it seems like we learned this in school. In reality, though, the asteroid killed about 75 percent of all plants and animal life on the planet, some small species of dinosaurs survived and evolved into birds. This fact is supported by fossils dated after the so-called K-T event. Yet the extinction also provided evolutionary opportunities. Before the event, mammals tended to become dinosaurs’ meals. After that mammals, at last, got a chance to evolve into larger and more complex species, like horses, whales, bats, and primates.
4. Doing crunches will give you a flat stomach.
Unfortunately, we cannot target fat loss in our bodies. We can only build more muscle. So doing crunches alone won’t give you a flat super-impressive stomach with that ever-elusive 6-pack. If you don’t eat healthily and don’t do cardiovascular or full-body training in addition to that, you’ll just build lots of muscle under your belly fat and it may seem even bigger than before.
5. The 5-second rule
It is still believed that if you drop some food on the ground and pick it up within 5 seconds, it is safe to eat it without rewashing. Some people extend that to 10 seconds, some think it helps them to develop a robust immune system, others simply don’t care much about it. But either way, there are too many germs on the floor and if something lands on them they immediately stick to it, no matter whether it is food or not.
6. There’s a dye in pool water that detects urine.
This “scary” myth came right from our childhood. And really there’s no better “remedy” in this case than making kids believe they can be caught peeing by some super-cool ingredient that they add to pool water. While in reality there is no such thing as a urine-detecting dye even though there are many warning signs that the pool is monitored with a chemical “pee alert.”
7. Touching a toad will give you warts.
This myth probably originates from the fact that toads have many wart-like bumps on their skin. In reality, those are just glands and toads don’t secrete anything that can cause warts on our skin. As dermatologists say, actual warts are only caused by human viruses. Though the toads’ glands may contain poison that really irritates the skin.
8. Penguins fall backward when they look up at airplanes.
Legend says that British pilots were buzzing around the islands off the coast of South America and they saw penguins toppling over like dominoes when the birds looked skyward. Well, scientists tested this story and found out that these amazingly awkward creatures can maintain their footing perfectly, even while looking upward. Though low-flying aircraft can really cause them to panic and leave their nests.
9. Opossums hang by their tails.
This myth has also appeared in some popular movies. And like many others, this myth is also totally illogical and absurd. Sure opossums can grasp branches with their tails while climbing trees and babies can hang by their tails for a little while. But adult opossums are too heavy to do that for more than just a few seconds. Besides, it is completely useless because would inhibit their survival. All in all, they simply have no reason to do this.
10. If you touch a baby bird with your bare hands, its mother will reject it.
It is common among parents to not allow their children to touch any nests or the baby birds inside them. Also, it is believed that even if you pick up a lost baby bird and return it to its nest, its mother will reject it because of the human smell on its dear baby. In reality, most wild animals have a very strong bond with their babies and they won’t abandon them no matter what.
11. Bananas grow on trees.
There are over 500 types of bananas and people mostly cultivate the ones that can be cooked, growing them in tropical regions across the globe, from South and Central America to India, China, and Africa. Despite the common belief, bananas are actually giant herbs related to lilies and orchids. Though they really look like trees.
12. Peanuts are a type of nut.
Despite the common myth, peanuts have several names and are not a true nut. They are actually a type of legume. Maybe because they have a thin, netted, spongy shell in which the seeds are “hiding.” And they also vary from oblong to nearly round and have a papery seed coat that ranges in color from whitish to dark purple.
13. Carrots improve eyesight
The carrot diet cannot correct impaired vision, but this does not mean that it is completely useless. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, a nutrient essential for eye health. This vitamin can also be found in milk, cheese, egg yolk, and liver.
What popular myths have we missed? Why do you think people still believe in many of them? Please share your thoughts with us all in the comments below.