Category Archives: Myths and Misconceptions

The Interesting Thing That Happens When a Helicopter’s Engine Dies Mid-Flight

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Myth: Helicopters will drop like a rock when the engine shuts down. In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, […]

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The Ends Justify the Means

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Entangled in Florentine politics during a tumultuous time at the height of the Renaissance, Niccolò Machiavelli became alternately a diplomat, a victim, a prisoner, an exile and, ultimately, the “father of modern political theory.” And although he remains famous today for his well-articulated methods for ruthlessly thriving in a corrupt world, he never said the phrase that is most often […]

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The Many Myths Surrounding Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin said humans descended from monkeys. Darwin coined the term “survival of the fittest.” Darwin was the first person to theorize evolution as the origin of species. Darwin did not believe in God. Darwin played shortstop for the New York Yankees. These are just few of the common myths that are associated with Charles Darwin. (Well, maybe not playing […]

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The Truth About Christopher Columbus

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“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…. Today, Christopher Columbus is celebrated as a mythical hero by some – complete with songs, poems, and fictional tales about his great adventure across the Atlantic to explore the majestic land that would eventually be known as the Americas. There are fifty four communities named after the explorer in […]

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Wyatt Earp – The Great American… Villain?

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The history books (and Hollywood) often describe the famous lawman, Wyatt Earp, as many things: brave, courageous, moral, law-abiding, and honorable. In the story of the “Gunfight at the OK Corral,” Earp is often portrayed as the hero, the good guy we all should be rooting for. In truth, Wyatt Earp was a much more complicated individual who, among other […]

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Parrots, Peg-legs, Plunder – Debunking Pirate Myths

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Pirates murdered, pillaged, raped, stole, and generally made the lives of others who stood in their way terrible. But despite these facts, books and, more recently, Hollywood have glamorized the “swashbuckler on the high seas.” In the process, a lot of fiction has been attached to the pirate mythos. For example, the rumor that pirates commonly made people walk the plank […]

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Is It True That a T-Rex Couldn’t See You If You Didn’t Move?

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Derek asks: Is it true that a T-Rex couldn’t see you if you didn’t move? If so, how do scientists know this? In the immensely popular (despite the sins) movie Jurassic Park, there’s the famous scene where the giant T-Rex is attacking a jeep during a thunder storm. As it attacks, Dr. Alan Grant, a self-respecting paleontologist, yells, “Don’t move! […]

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Chastity Belts Were Never Actually Used in Medieval Times

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The lasting images of what most of us perceive to be the “medieval times” includes heroic knights, stampeding horses, court jesters, giant turkey legs, ruling kings, and pure maidens wearing chastity belts. But the fact is that, besides the more obvious of those that aren’t accurate, most scholars believe that the chastity belt didn’t actually exist during medieval times, but […]

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Did the Austrian Army Really Accidentally End Up Fighting Itself in a Major Battle?

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Karla asks: Is it true that once the Austrian army accidentally ended up fighting itself in a battle? If you ever feel like you’ve “made a huge mistake,” just remember: it’s probably not bigger than the Battle of Karansebes, during which the Austrian army broke into two and ended up mistakenly fighting itself. At least, that’s what supposedly happened. There […]

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The “War of the Worlds” Mass Panic That Never Really Happened

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On October 30, 1938, from the Mercury Theater in New York City, Orson Welles broadcasted a “modernized” radio play of H.G. Wells’ (no relation) 1898 novel “War of the Worlds.” For the last three quarters of the century, we’ve been told that this fictionalized CBS broadcast sent Americans into a panic; that citizens across the country did not realize that […]

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The Surprising Truth About Cousins and Marriage

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Jamie M. asks: When did people stop thinking it was OK to marry your cousin? In modern western society, marrying your cousin is not well accepted, particularly in the United States. Through a combination of old prejudices and present-day conventional wisdom about inherited birth defects, first cousin marriage is seen by many as a little too close for comfort, as […]

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There Is Technically No Such Thing as an Electric Eel

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Myth: Electric “eels” exist. There are, however, electric fish: eight-foot long, 600 volt, mouth breathing, alligator-killing fish. Electrophorus electricus Although there are a number of fish that produce an electric charge, the species that is called “electric eel,” E. electricus, is a member of the fish order, ostariophysian. Mistaken for an eel due to its shape and lack of pelvic, […]

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The Truth About the Bermuda Triangle

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The Bermuda Triangle is a large area of ocean between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. Over the last few centuries, it’s thought that dozens of ships and planes have disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the area, earning it the nickname “The Devil’s Triangle.” People have even gone so far as to speculate that it’s an area of extra-terrestrial activity or […]

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Seagulls Will Not Blow Up if They Eat Alka-Seltzer

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Seagulls, or gulls depending on how much you dislike syllables, are considered a pest to many, a minor, avoidable annoyance to many more and the harbingers of death OH GOD LOOK AT THEIR COLD DEAD EYES! to my neighbour who doesn’t get out much.  Over the years, there has been a persistent and rather macabre urban myth circulating that gulls […]

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Native Americans Were Not Introduced to Alcohol by Europeans

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It is a sad truth that Native Americans suffer from alcoholism at rates far higher than those of other ethnic groups. While many causes likely contribute to this problem, some of those most commonly espoused, including lack of prior exposure to alcohol and genetic predisposition, are oft-repeated misconceptions. In fact, well before Europeans began to colonize the Americas, Native Americans […]

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