108 Common Misconceptions


This list of common misconceptions corrects erroneous beliefs that are currently widely held about notable topics.

  1. Schizophrenia is multiple personalities Etymologically, it means “split-mind”, but dissociative “multiple personality” disorders are different.
  2. The Oceans are blue because they reflect the sky Nope. Absorption and scattering of light causes blue colour
  3. Sugar makes children hyperactive Studies have disproved this. ADHD still occurs in children with sugar-free diets.
  4. Seasons are caused by the Earth’s distance from the Sun. They’re actually related to the 23 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis.
  5. Salieri vs Mozart They were friends with a little rivalry. Nothing more.
  6. Bulls hate red. Bulls are colour-blind. They actually react to motion as a perceived threat.
  7. Hair & fingernails grow after death The skin dries and shrinks away, giving the appearance of growth
  8. Milk increases mucous In most people, just a placebo effect. There’s no need to avoid dairy if you have a cold.
  9. Evolution is always creating more complex organisms Not always a simple to complex progression: sometimes a smaller genome will be evolved, but ‘devolution’ is a misnomer.
  10. The Vomitorium Not a room Romans used during Bacchanalian binges but the name for the entrance to a stadium. Vomiting was not a regular part of Roman dining customs.
  11. Cooking removes alcohol Partly true. But studies show not all burns off.
  12. Alcohol keeps you warm Alcohol dilates warm blood vessels near the skin creating the impression of warmth but it can actually drop core body temperature.
  13. Searing meat seals in moisture. Nope. It’s for flavour.
  14. Sex reduces athletic performance No physiological basis to this, could even help male athletes because of increased testosterone.
  15. Caffeine dehydrates you Not really. The diuretic effect of caffeine is offset by the amount of water in the caffeinated drinks.
  16. Chastity Belts Not used to prevent a wife’s adultery in medieval times. Instead invented by 19th century prudes to prevent ‘dangerous’ masturbation.
  17. Viking’s Horned Helmets Created by a costume designer for a 19th century Wagner opera.
  18. Goldfish memory span While not the smartest in the animal kingdom, Goldfish do boast a better memory than most politicans.
  19. LSD stays in the spinal fluid for years LSD is eliminated by the body in under 10 hours.
  20. Thomas Crapper invented “crap” Actually it’s Latin for chaff.
  21. Washington’s wooden teeth A much more hygenic mix of gold, ivory, lead and horse and donkey teeth. No wood.
  22. Shaving your hair makes it thicker Regrown hair isn’t thicker, coarser, or darker, it just appears so because it’s no longer tapered.
  23. Chewing gum takes 7 years to digest It is indigestible, but passes straight through.
  24. Bananas grow on trees. Nope. Bananas actually grow on massive herbs which resemble trees.
  25. Houseflies live for 24 hours Average lifespan is actually about a month. Maggots hatch within 24 hours.
  26. Tongue-rolling is genetic A famous 1940 paper claimed tongue rolling was at least partially genetic. Another famous 1975 paper refuted this. The debate still hasn’t been settled.
  27. Sushi is raw fish Lost in translation. Sushi means ‘sour rice’ and does not always feature fish. Sashimi means ‘raw’ — but isn’t just fish.
  28. Bats are blind. No. They can see AND use echolocation. Awesome!
  29. Blood is blue under the skin Blood is always red, misconception is based on diagrams showing the difference between veins and arteries and human colour perception.
  30. Killer brace position The brace position really is your best chance at surviving an air crash.
  31. Your eyes will pop out if you sneeze with them open There is no mechanism that would allow a sneeze to push your eyeballs out.
  32. Refreezing Food = Bad Whether raw or cooked, as long as the food was thawed and hasn’t spoiled, it’s okay to refreeze. Exception: defrosted raw meat or fish.
  33. Immaculate Conception means Virgin Birth Separate ideas. Immaculate conception means Mary was not subject to original sin. Virgin birth means Mary miraculously conceived
  34. Catching warts from toads Warts are unique to humans. Toads don’t have them.
  35. Sharks don’t get cancer. Oh yes they do. Particularly skin cancer.
  36. We only use 10% of our brains Metaphor that’s been misunderstood; not all neurons are always firing, but inactive cells are still important.
  37. Mussolini’s trains ran on time Fascist propaganda. They did run on time but only because of work done before his reign.
  38. Don’t touch baby birds! Birds have a limited sense of smell. Probably more harmful to leave them to the cats but it’s all relative.
  39. Sleeping with an electric fan on can be deadly Big myth in Korea. Very unlikely.
  40. Vaccines causes autism Fraudulent research that’s been shown as manipulated.
  41. Vegetarians can’t get enough protein Protein in eggs, beans, vegetables is easily enough. Vegans need B-12 supplements though.
  42. A Fatwa is an Islamic death sentence Fatwā means ‘non-binding legal opinion’.
  43. Humans and dinosaurs co-existed Despite 59% of US adults thinking they did, we actually missed each other by ~63 million years.
  44. Different parts of the tongue taste different tastes There is no ‘map’, and there are 5 primary tastes: bitter, sour, salty, sweet and umami (savoury/meaty).
  45. Humans evolved from chimpanzees No — they are our closest living genetic relatives, along with bonobos. A shared ancestor last lived 5–8 million years ago.
  46. Black holes absorb everything Not really ‘holes’ but hugely dense objects with massive gravitational pull.
  47. Men think about sex every 7 seconds It’s not been measured. But is greatly exaggerated.
  48. Elementary My Dear Watson Not in the original stories. First used in the 1929 film.
  49. Single genes exist for different personality traits Gross oversimplification; there is no ‘gay gene’ etc.
  50. Alcohol kills brain cells Only in heavy users and alcoholics who rely on alcohol to get most of their calories.
  51. Iron Maidens Never were medieval torture devices. But 18th century fakes created for sensational circuses.
  52. US Constitution written on hemp Written on parchment, despite the best efforts of stoner revisionists to convince you otherwise.
  53. Most body heat is lost through the head Only in infants. Or if the head is the only uncovered part of the body.
  54. You have to say if you’re a cop US Police working entrapment law do not have to identify themselves. A hollywood-induced myth.
  55. We have 5 senses We actually have close to 20 including balance, pain, movement, hunger, thirst, etc.
  56. Using your cellphone on a plane is dangerous Handheld devices have no impact on planes’ communication & navigation equipment.
  57. Missing Persons Reports Police do not demand a 24 hour period before they accept a missing persons report, especially if violence is involved.
  58. Marijuana is a gateway drug Most pot users don’t go on to harder drugs. Those who do are probably influenced by social and other factors.
  59. If you’ve used LSD, you’re legally insane. Urban myth
  60. Evolution is just a “theory” In science, the word theory means something more than a conjecture
  61. Waking sleepwalkers is dangerous No, but they’ll be really confused. Sleepwalkers are more likely to hurt themselves if they’re not awoken.
  62. Lightning never strikes twice No reason why it wouldn’t; the Empire State building gets struck about 100 times per year.
  63. Rule of thumb Not from a law allowing a man to hit his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb.
  64. Glass is a liquid Has both solid and liquid properties. “This is why stained glass windows are thicker at the bottom” Not true though. Bad manufacturing process is the cause.
  65. Great Wall of China visible from Space Myth.
  66. An “Autism Epidemic” There’s only been an increase in diagnoses of autism, caused by heightened awareness of the ailment, not incidence.
  67. Cellphones at gas stations could trigger explosions Scientific testing has discovered no link between cellphones and gas station explosions.
  68. The First Thanksgiving Celebrations were recorded 50 years before the ‘first’ Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony.
  69. Three Wise Men visited Jesus Nowhere in the Bible does it specify this. A mash up of Matthew 2 and Isaiah 60:1–3: “The wise men visited Jesus as a child, in a house”.
  70. Dogs sweat by salivating They regulate temperature through panting but sweat through footpads.
  71. George Washington smoked cannabis He grew hemp to make rope and clothes but there’s no evidence to suggest he smoked a fatty most nights.
  72. Pilgrims wore all black Nope. They sported late Elizabethan in-colours: reds, yellows, purples and greens. And no buckle hats!
  73. Edison invented the lightbulb He made the first practical lightbulb, but it was obsolete within a year. England’s Joseph Swan patented a design before him.
  74. There is no gravity on the International Space Station Gravity is everywhere. Earth’s gravity is pretty strong on the ISS — NASA says a person who weighs 100lb on earth still weighs 90lb there.
  75. Chemical Imbalance Simplistic. Thank pharma for the idea that major depression is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters likeserotonin.
  76. Some people have a photographic memory No hard scientific evidence, but memory that mimics a camera is unlikely. Some people just have great memories
  77. Hair products can “repair” your hair Nothing can fix split ends or damaged hair. They can prevent damage and make hair look better though.
  78. Flushed water rotates the otherway in the Southern Hemisphere The Coriolis effect, induced by the Earth’s rotation, does not affect the small amounts of water in toilets, bathtubs.
  79. MSG causes headaches Anecdotal evidence. But no scientific proof.
  80. A Jihad is a “holy war” It actually translates as “struggle”.
  81. Dropping a penny from a tall building could kill someone Terminal velocity is 30–50mph which isn’t fast enough. It would hurt though.
  82. Einstein failed maths Nope. He failed an entrance exam for a school, two years early, and still excelled in maths.
  83. Islamic matyrs receive 72 virgins Nowhere in the Qu’ran, but is reported elsewhere, but is a matter of debate.
  84. Birth order has an effect on personality Birth order has a minor effect on intelligence, but not on personality traits.
  85. The Left and right brains have different capabilities No solid functional division; some functions activate some areas more than others. Left brain can learn ‘right brain’ functions and vice-versa.
  86. Henry Ford invented the car He just improved the design, mostly by supporting the work of his employees.
  87. You can get high from banana peel A hoax, perpetuated through the Internet.
  88. Lie detector No such machine. A polygraph test detects arousal, not lies. And can be easily faked.
  89. Planes dump toilet waste at high altitude They’re emptied on ground. Blue ice is caused accidentally. Trains used to dump on the tracks, though. Dirty trains.
  90. Lincoln freed all slaves He instigated the process but full abolition didn’t occur until three years later after the Emancipation Proclamation.
  91. Oil stops pasta sticking Does not prevent sticking. But it can stop the water foaming or boiling over.
  92. Brainwashing Hogwash. No evidence of intensive indoctrination techniques that can change or programs peoples’ minds.
  93. The ‘Dark Ages’ The period between the decline of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance was not that dark or backward. An historical cliche.
  94. Eating before swimming is dangerous Doesn’t increase risk of cramps; alcohol is the biggest increase in risk.
  95. Steep Learning Curve Actually means a skill that is easy and quick to learn. Think about it. The curve just goes up and up.
  96. Black belts are masters Introduced only in 1880, in Judo, to show competency of basic techniques.
  97. Jesus was born on December 25th December 25 was declared official celebration date in 350CE. Could be guesstimate based on conception, or winter solstice, or Yule.
  98. Adding salt to water makes it boil more quickly Naturally salted water will boil more quickly, because of the low heat capacity of the salt content but adding salt to fresh water will not make any difference.
  99. Hard-wired The brain is actually incredibly fluid & plastic. So virtually no psychological capacities are ‘hard-wired’ from birth.
  100. Water conducts electricity Water itself is actually an insulator. It’s also a great solvent. The substances it dissolves (salt etc.) contain ions, which do conduct electricity.
  101. Antioxidants are good for us Antioxidants don’t do anything for our health, might actually be harmful. Research shows they have no effect on free-radicals in the body, don’t prevent ageing.
  102. Get “Closure” No evidence this mythical emotional end state is ever achieved by victims of trauma, bereavement or loss.
  103. Napoleon was short A tall tale. At 5’7″, he was actually above average height for a Frenchman of the time.
  104. Human brains are special because they’re huge There might be other reasons why human brains are unique, but focusing on size ignores important possibilities.
  105. Satan rules Hell Doesn’t say this anywhere in the Bible.
  106. The 5 Second Rule Amount of bacteria transferred to fallen food depends on how contaminated the floor is, not how long the food stays there.
  107. Scientific Proof Proof is incompatible with science which is, by its nature, provisional and self-correcting. Only Maths has proofs.
  108. A gene for… Genes code for proteins, so there are actually no genes ‘for’ specific characeristics, esp. not psychological ones.
  109. Drink 8 glasses of water a day! Not necessary for everyone; subjective and dependant on individual weight, environment, what you’re wearing and more.
  110. Apple Macs can’t get viruses Yes they can — just less frequently than Windows computers

Sources: wikipedia, informationisbeautiful.net



Categories: Literature & Fiction

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