15 Quick Myths
*Editor’s Note: Happily, most of the myths on this list were covered a couple years ago on Today I Found Out‘s sister site, Misconception Junction, which has since been merged with Today I Found Out. So I went ahead and linked to each of those articles in the below myths list as I imagine most of you missed them being on the different site and back when TIFO/MJ weren’t nearly so popular. 🙂 So if you want more details on any of the myths, follow the links! Otherwise, bask in the machine gunning of knowledge below:
- Myth: Viking Warriors Wore Horns on Their Helmets: In fact, it is debatable whether Viking warriors wore helmets at all. So where did this myth come from? It most likely started with the ancient Roman and Greek writers like Plutarch, who vividly described the northern tribes as wearing all manner of strange things on their heads.
- Myth: Bananas Grow on Trees: In reality, the banana “tree” is a herbaceous plant or “herb”. The banana itself is a berry.
- Myth: Irregardless is Not a Word: You might not like it, and your English teacher might not like it due to the inherent double negative built into the word, but just don’t make any bets that it’s not in the dictionary. “Irregardless” has been around since the 18th century and today you’ll find it in most dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary. Of course, most guides, including those dictionaries, still prefer “regardless” or “irrespective”, but never-the-less, it’s still a word.
- Myth: Poinsettias are Poisonous: Poor Poinsettias, everyone steers clear of them. The myth that they are poisonous was started sometime in the 20th century shortly after they were brought over from Mexico. The child of a military officer allegedly died upon consuming a poinsettia leaf. As a result of this story, the toxic properties of this plant have been highly exaggerated. According to the Madison Poison Control Center, a 50 pounds child would need to eat about 500-600 of the incredibly bitter tasting leaves of a poinsettia plant before any medical action would need to be taken.
- Myth: Humans Have Only 5 Senses: In fact, humans are known to have at least nine senses and most researchers think there are more like twenty-one or so.
- Myth: Bats are Blind: Au contraire. Some species use their sense of hearing more than their eyes as a matter of adaptation to a particular lifestyle, but their eyes are still functional.
- Myth: Chameleons Change Color to Blend Into Their Environment: In actuality, the primary reasons for a chameleon changing color are to regulate their temperature, as a reflection of their mood, for communication, and due to their health.
- Myth: Seasons are Caused by the Distance of Earth from the Sun: Seasons are actually caused by the 23.45 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. This means that different parts of the Earth are oriented towards the sun at different times of the year. Thus, the seasons are all about duration of direct sunlight. In fact, the average temperature of the Earth is actually higher when it’s furthest from the Sun, not when it’s closest.
- Myth: Goldfish Have a 3 Second Memory: The idea that with every lap around the fish bowl your goldfish is experiencing the world as if it were completely new is completely incorrect. Goldfish actually have very good memories for fish. In fact, they can be trained to do a variety of things, even play a fishy version of soccer, and can remember things they are taught up to about a year later. Goldfish have even been shown to be able to recognize their owners.
- Myth: You Should Drink 8 Glasses of Water Every Day: While this is probably good advice for some people, especially if you live in a really dry area, it should not be followed as a rule and eight glasses is probably a lot more than most people need, depending on their diet, climate, physical exercise, etc. For instance, people who eat a lot of veggies and fruit are getting quite a bit of water just from eating those things (e.g., apples are about 85% water) without taking a drink from a glass. Bottom line, if you’re thirsty, drink. If not, you probably don’t need to.
- Myth: Sushi is Raw Fish: Although sushi is sometimes served with raw fish, sushi is actually any food dish consisting of vinegared rice, usually served with some other toppings, but not always. To be even more accurate, sushi is actually “rice-vinegar” whereas sashimi is raw fish.
- Myth: Thomas Crapper Invented the Toilet: It would be funny no doubt, but to say he invented the toilet is a stretch. He was a famous plumber in his day and did make various improvements to the toilet, including inventing the ballcock (yep), but the toilet had been around long before this plumber walked the Earth.
- Myth: A Duck’s Quack Doesn’t Echo: Don’t believe me? Go to a grocery store, buy some bread, find a lake, bait some ducks, catch one, and release it under a bridge or ravine. All sounds will echo in the proper environment unless some pretty specific noise canceling technology is used to stop it, something that ducks don’t have and can’t reproduce naturally.
- Myth: Dropping a Penny from the Empire State Building Would Kill Someone if It Hit Them: Pennies only weigh about a gram and they tumble as they fall so the air resistance is significant. If the penny reaches its terminal velocity, it would be falling at about 30-50 miles/hour, a speed it will likely not reach in this case due to updraft and windiness around tall buildings. Even at the 50 mph velocity, the penny isn’t going to do much of any damage to anyone.
- Myth: A Toilet’s Flush Will Change Direction Depending Upon Which Hemisphere It Is In: This is one of the most widely debunked, and yet staunchly defended myths I’ve ever encountered. Proponents will attribute this to the Coriolis Effect. While this does influence things like hurricanes, which are huge and last for many days, it has an incredibly miniscule effect on the direction your toilet or sink water swirls (small and short duration), which is eclipsed by a variety of other factors that actually determine the direction of swirl in your drains.
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