Popular Facts That Aren't Actually True
Some so-called facts have been around for so long, we automatically accept them as being true — like a blue sky — without questioning the science behind the myths. Whether you heard these untruths from your friends at school or your parents or grandparents, it’s time to do some autocorrecting to get to the truth.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular "facts" that aren’t actually true. Chances are good that some of the things you believe to be true are actually completely false.
Death by Penny
The question is a familiar one. If you dropped a penny from the top of the Empire State Building, and it hit someone on the head, would the impact be enough to kill them? As the myth goes, yes, it would kill them, making it the unluckiest penny in the world to find. However, science is here to prove this claim wrong.
Existence of Iron Maiden Torture Devices
Whether you like Iron Maiden's music or not, you can probably agree that the torture device the band is named after — a large, coffin-shaped box with spikes inside for impaling victims closed inside it — is on the more horrific end of the torture spectrum. Of course, for all intents and purposes, it didn't actually exist, at least, not in the way it has been portrayed.
Napoleon Bonaparte's Short Height
This may be one of the most popular incorrect facts in history. Napoleon Bonaparte was not short — at least not for the time. Part of the confusion comes from different measuring systems. Using the French system at the time, he measured 5 feet 2 inches, but using the English system, he measured 5 feet 6 inches, making his height slightly above the average height for men in that time period.
Waiting Period for Missing Persons
If you watch TV shows, movies or even media newscasts, you probably think you have to wait a certain amount of time before filing a missing person report with the police. It’s generally assumed to be somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. This isn't true.
Fresh Produce Is More Nutritional Than Frozen Produce
One common "fact" says that fresh produce has more nutritional value than its frozen counterpart. Although this may seem logical and fair — eating carrots fresh from your local farmer's market does seem a lot healthier than microwaving some frozen carrots at home — it's not necessarily true.
Brown Bread Is Healthy Bread
For those of you trying to eat a little healthier, the idea that brown bread is inherently healthier than white bread is tempting to believe. Just choose the right color in the bread aisle, and you're good to go! Unfortunately, it's not actually that easy.
Most of Your Body Heat Is Lost Through Your Head
Everyone has probably experienced this one: It's winter, and your mom makes you put on the warmest beanie you can find to keep your head — and, therefore, your body — toasty and warm. It's a fairly common belief that most of your body heat is lost through the top of your head. Just keep your head warm to keep your body warm — but it's just not true.
Catching a Cold with Wet Hair
Related to the myth of losing most of your body heat through your head, this is another myth that seems to have lasted through the ages. Your parents probably warned you that going outside in the winter with wet hair was a great way to catch a cold. Guess what? Your mom was wrong about something.
Blind as a Bat
This familiar expression has lasted for years, steadily making its way into everyday vernacular, and no one seems to question its logic or truth. Well, let’s put a stop to that right now. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not actually blind.
People follow many etiquette rules when it comes to food, and everyone probably knows this one. If you drop a piece of much-desired food on the ground, it will still be safe to eat as long as you pick it up within five seconds of it hitting the ground. Thank goodness there’s a way to avoid the tragic loss of something delicious, right?
Einstein Flunking Classes
As one of the most famous academics in history, Einstein seems to generate an obscene number of stories. It’s not his fault, of course. The stories seem to appear as if by magic and then just stick around. One of the more popular myths is that he failed some of his math classes.
Twinkies Are Forever
This myth seems to grow in popularity in direct relation to how many zombie movies are coming out. After all, if the world is on the brink of an apocalyptic event and you need to find an easy to store food that won't go bad, you will probably swallow your pride and stock up on anything that fits the bill — including Twinkies. On the other hand, although Twinkies may seem like they would last forever, they actually won't.
Sharks Are Immune to Cancer
It might sound a little bizarre, but a lot of people actually think that sharks are immune to cancer. This rumor likely started because shark skeletons are primarily cartilage instead of bone, and cartilage inhibits, to a certain extent, the growth of blood vessels, which are crucial to cancer cells' ability to thrive. This could make people believe sharks are immune.
Toilet Seats Are Loaded with Germs
Okay, surely this one can’t be a lie. It makes perfect sense that toilets would be dirty, right? Toilet seats should definitely be full of germs — people put their bare booties on them! — but that’s not actually the case. The University of Arizona actually conducted a study to test this myth, and they discovered that toilet seats are actually relatively clean.
Shaving Makes Your Hair Thicker
Unfortunate as it may be, this myth is fairly popular, especially among younger people, and it causes widespread fear of out-of-control hair growth from shaving. The story goes that when you shave, your hair grows back thicker than it was before, but this simply isn't true. Science is ready and waiting to fend off such ridiculous claims.
Chameleons Change Color to Blend In
It's fun to imagine a chameleon playing along and changing color every time you put it in front of a new background, blending in easily as it switches from green to orange to purple. The reality is a little less dramatic than that. The changing colors of a chameleon are actually heavily influenced by the creature's mood, temperature and the light that's hitting it.
One "fact" in particular causes some (well-earned) fear. Some deodorants may increase the risk of breast cancer in women, due to certain chemicals entering the body through small cuts in the skin or through the pores themselves. If that was true, it would be a good reason to worry about your antiperspirant and go natural. However, this isn't actually the case.
Salty Water Boils Faster
When you're making pasta, your recipe will probably call for you to put some salt in the water as you're waiting for it to boil. Apart from seasoning the noodles themselves — because salt is good on everything, you know, even if it’s not good for you — the theory behind this is that it's supposed to make the water boil faster.
Bullfighting may be morally frowned upon in this day and age, but it still happens in various parts of the world. In addition to being cruel, it also perpetuates a myth about bulls. The waving red flag or cape is an iconic part of bullfighting, presumably because bulls go absolutely crazy when they see the color.
Not-so-Visible from Space
Ever since humans forged their way into space, people have asked a lot of questions and learned a lot of things about the world beyond this planet. One of the most famous truths you may remember learning from these forays into the galaxy is that astronauts can see the Great Wall of China from space.
Cracking Your Knuckles Leads to Arthritis
If you have a habit of knuckle-cracking, you've probably had at least one person tell you that cracking your knuckles (or any of your other joints as well) will damage them and cause arthritis. While it might sound like a logical possibility — that cracking sounds awful! — the science behind it just doesn't add up.
The Highest Mountain
This may not be the most pressing untruth to correct, and it probably doesn't come up in conversation very often, but the principle of tossing out false truths demands this myth be corrected. In most circles, Mount Everest is labeled as the tallest mountain in the world. In one respect, it’s true, but it’s technically incorrect.
Sleepwalkers Should Stay Asleep
Sleepwalking is a lot more common than you might think. According to some studies, up to 40% of children experience some form of sleepwalking, although most of them grow out of it as they get older. You’ve probably heard that you're not supposed to wake sleepwalkers up because it could cause a violent shock that is both upsetting and potentially dangerous.
Don't Swim After Eating
This so-called fact is a hugely popular one that you will hear constantly when summer rolls around. You munch on some lunch with your friends, decide it's a little too warm for your liking so you start to hop in the water to cool off. Your friends warn you not to go in the water right away (just like your mom probably did when you were younger). It’s supposed to be dangerous, but that's just nonsense.
Alcohol Warms You Up
People have relied on this particular fact for centuries. When you think of old books and how their characters warmed up after a night wandering outside in the elements, you probably remember them sitting by the fire and sipping on some strong whiskey or wine to warm themselves. You may have even tried the strategy yourself at some point. Rest assured, this is a fake cure for fighting the cold.
Coffee Dehydrates You
For those who need a little extra help waking up in the morning, this myth is a bit of a heartbreaker. Coffee is your best friend, so it's a true tragedy when you’re told your favorite beverage — hot in the winter and cold in the summer because iced coffee is equally delicious — is dehydrating you. Fortunately, this isn't actually true.
Coffee Stunts Growth
Apparently, people just like to pick on coffee. Another popular myth says coffee can stunt growth, so you shouldn't give it to children. There are a lot of reasons why you shouldn't give coffee to children — particularly the extra sugary versions like those delicious caramel Frappuccinos that are more sugar and cream than coffee — but growth stunting isn't one of them.
The Ten Percent
If you're into science fiction at all, you've probably heard the story that humans are only using about 10% of their brains at any given moment. Of course, this begs the question: what could we do if we could use the other 90%? Well, as it turns out, it's a bit of a moot point, because the myth of 10% is false.
It Takes Years for Gum to Digest
If you're an avid gum chewer, you probably started the habit young — gumball machines were so much fun! — and were warned by your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and everyone else that you should never swallow gum because it would take years to digest and pass through your system.
The Five Senses
Contrary to popular belief, humans don't have five senses — we have a lot more. All right, this one might sound a little ridiculous, but the myth about humans having five senses has existed for far too long. No, it’s not about a mysterious, ghost-spotting sixth sense, either.