10 ‘Facts’ Everyone Believes Are True, But Aren’t

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You would think that in a day and age where you can access an entire database of every factual piece of information within seconds, there would be no misconceptions being spread around on a regular basis. Instead, we have summer movies being made based on the premise of these misconceptions. People will believe anything they hear, and it’s time for that to end.

10. Waking Sleepwalkers Is Dangerous For Them
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As someone who used to sleepwalk as a child, this misconception in particular bugs me. There is absolutely no evidence that suggests waking a sleepwalker will harm them in any way. In fact, you’re probably doing them a favor by waking them up, because they could do something that could end up hurting themselves or someone else. There have been reports of people driving their cars in their sleep, climbing cranes, and even for killing people close to them.

Sleepwalking happens during stage 3 of non-rapid eye movement sleep. This stage of sleep is very deep, and it can often be difficult to wake up while in it. If you wake someone up from this stage of sleep they can be confused, startled, agitated, and it may take a moment for them to recognize who you are. As a result, they might hit you or try to push you away. In other words, the worst thing that will happen if you wake a sleepwalker is that for a minute, they’ll be scared, and you’ll have newly forming bruise.

Experts suggests that instead of waking a sleepwalker you should grab their arm and gently lead them back into bed so that they don’t end up hurting themselves while walking around.

 

9. We Only Use 10% Of Our Brain 
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This misconception is world famous. Two out of three Americans believe this myth to be true. It even inspired two Hollywood movies, Limitless, and Lucy. In both films, the main characters are able to use the rest of their brains, which gives them superhuman intelligence, and in the case of Lucy, she becomes a killing machine that is capable of literally anything. We too, could become that powerful, if only we were able to access more than 10% of our brains, right?

Hell no.

People have been trying to figure out where this myth originated, and there is no concrete answer. Some people attribute it to Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis in the 1890s, who tested a theory in accelerated raising of the child prodigy, William Sidis. The idea behind this experiment was that people only reach a fraction of their potential. Later, in 1936, Lowell Thomas summarized this idea, and added a false percentage saying that “Professor William James of Harvard used to say that the average man develops only ten percent of his latent mental ability.” However, other books prior to this stated that scientists and experts say we only use 10 percent of our brainpower.

If we only use 10% of our brainpower then we’d be able to lose 90% of our brain in an accident and still be able to function perfectly. In reality, if you lose 90% of your brain, the consequences are catastrophic. Research has revealed that head trauma to any part of the brain will leave the patient with some sort of functional deficit which can act as evidence to counteract the idea that we only use 10% of our brains.

Con Stough, a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology at Sinburne University of Technology in Melbourne stated that when you learn something, you aren’t accessing a new part of your brain that is being unused, you’re just making new connections between cells.

Ashley Bush, another professor from Melbourne, said that brain activity such as thoughts and calculations might represent 10% of your brain, but there are other things that the brain does that you don’t even realize it’s doing.

The brain is constantly performing dozens of different activities to keep you alive, but you aren’t conscious of the things that your brain is doing. For example, your brain is subconsciously making you breathe right now. But, now that you are aware of your own breathing, you have to do it manually. Sorry about that.

 

8. Black Widow Females Always Eat Males After Mating
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To start you should know that yes, it is true that certain species of black widow females eat their male partners after mating. However, they don’t do it every single time after mating. Despite the numerous studies done on black widow mating almost all of the evidence found that suggests of mating cannibalism has been observed in laboratory cages where the males have nowhere else to go. They can’t escape.

According to Burke Museum in two of the three black widow species that live in the United States mate cannibalism has never been observed in the wild. There is one species in the United States that is known to cannibalize their partners after mating, but it is treated as the normal occurrence in black widows rather than the exception.

However, you should know that it’s not just female spiders that eat their male partners. A study published in Springer’s Journal of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology found that male spiders of the Micaria sociabilis species eat their female partners after mating. Although it is believed that female spiders cannibalize their partners if they are inferior to them, scientists are somewhat stumped as to what makes male spiders cannibalize their mates!

 

7. Food Expires At Their Best Before Date
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Did you know 40% of America’s food ends up in a landfill? The average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Some experts estimate that 30 to 50 percent of the food produced in the world goes uneaten. Why, you ask?

According to food safety expert Brian Buckley, it’s in part due to the fact that people assume things have gone bad and are unsafe to eat just because they are beyond the date on the package. Brian is spending his days trying to inform the population that the dates on food (except in the case of infant formula and baby foods) mean absolutely nothing. The dates on packaging are often an indication of quality, rather than food safety or a health issue. Of course, almost nobody knows that.

In fact, the FDA has no regulation on best before dates or sell by dates. Stores can legally sell food where the expiration date has passed. Often times, to avoid complaints from customers and from the misinformation being spread around, stores will remove those items from the shelves. In my experience in working at a store that sells food, I can say that the food doesn’t get thrown out; it gets donated to homeless shelters. But if people are cleaning their cupboards, they will more than likely just throw out expired food.

You don’t even need to throw out “expired” milk. Experts say that when in doubt, you should just trust your nose, and not the date on the package.

For future reference, here are some quick definitions to the dates you can find on food products:

  • Best before date – The date according to the manufacturer that a product has the best flavor or quality.
  • Use by date – The last day that the manufacturer vouches for the product’s quality. Basically the same thing as the best before date.
  • Sell by date – The last day stores are supposed to sell a product. Stores should remove the product when the shelf life has expired, even though the food can still be enjoyed after this date.

 

6. Blood Is Blue Until It’s Been Oxygenated
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Do you think that your blood is blue until it’s been oxygenated? Well, I hate to break it to you, but your whole life is a lie. Your blood isn’t blue right now, and it most likely never will be. Before I dive into the science behind this, I’ll paint you a picture. In order to take blood out of someone’s body, the needle that is used can’t have any oxygen in it. When the blood is taken out, what colour is it? Spoiler alert; It’s red.

Deoxygenated blood is a darker color than oxygenated blood due to the difference in color between deoxyhemoglobin and oxyhemoglobin. It’s never blue, but it can be a wide range of colors spanning between bright red, and dark red.

So, why are veins blue? It has to do with the way light from different wavelengths is hitting your skin. Some of the light is being absorbed, and some of the light hitting your skin is being reflected back to your eye. To simplify it, some of these wavelengths, particularly the ones that are blue, doesn’t penetrate your skin as well as other ones waves, and is absorbed by the blood more than other light waves. What you’re seeing isn’t that your veins are blue, you’re really just seeing a bunch of shitty, clingy, blue wavelengths that are able to make it back to your eye, while other wavelengths are absorbed into your skin!

To reiterate: If a vein is close to the surface of your skin, even though most of the blue light will be absorbed, red light doesn’t reflect as much, so your veins appear blue. If a vein is far away from the surface of your skin, the light won’t be absorbed by your blood. However, the blue light isn’t able to penetrate the skin as deeply as the red light, so you see the blue light as opposed to the red one! It’s like a lightwave sandwich, seen from above, and the blue light is the bread.

 

5. It Takes Your Body 7 Years To Digest Chewing Gum
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Chewing gum has been around for thousands of years. Pieces of birch bark tar with tooth marks in them have been found in Europe that date back to the Stone age. Chewing gum can improve test results and ease anxiety, but does it really take your body 7 years to digest it?

Pediatric gastroenterologist David Milov of the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Orlando, Florida says that there is no science to support that claim. “If the legend were true,” says Milov, “that would mean every single person who ever swallowed gum within the last seven years would have evidence of the gum in the digestive tract,” but he says that colonoscopies turn up no such evidence. Milov admits that sometimes he finds gum, but he says it is no more than a week old.

Apparently, although gum is resilient it can’t be broken down by your digestive system. To start, gum is designed to resist the digestive properties of your saliva, but even in your stomach, gum can avoid being broken down by your stomach acid.

 

4. You Should Wait An Hour After Eating Before Swimming
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This myth is believed to originate from a Boy Scouts guide book published in the early 1900’s. In the book, it states that if you go swimming less than an hour after eating, your body will cramp up and you will drown because you won’t be able to keep yourself afloat. It’s total nonsense.

While it is true that blood flows to our stomachs after eating a big meal in order to help with digestion, it isn’t enough of a reroute to cause your body to cramp. In fact, while you may cramp after eating and swimming, it has more to do with what you are eating rather than that you are swimming. You could indulge in a big bag of chips before going swimming, because the carbohydrates from the chips are more quickly broken down than the fat from, say, a delicious homemade burger.

Now, it’s not a bad idea to wait a little bit for your food to digest before you go swimming, but you should know that many competitive swimmers eat right before racing in order to give their bodies the energy they need to power their massive bodies. However, no matter how bad your cramp is, you will never drown from one – especially not after eating.

 

3. The World is Getting More Violent
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You’ve seen it on the news. Every night, there are more reports of crime, protests, rioting, and civil war in other countries. And, despite what you might believe or hear on the news, the world is actually getting more peaceful.

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has been looking at violent statistics for many years, and published his findings in 2011 in a book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined.” Don’t worry; he’s been continuously updating his statistics since he published them.

Pinker explained in an interview that he’s counter the number of wars, count the number of people killed in the wars, and plot out the trends on a graph over time. Pinker said that his findings revealed that during World War II, the human population lost 300 of every 100,000 people each year. During the Vietnam War, that number dropped down to being in the teens. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the number had dropped into single digits. In fact, for most of the 21st century, there has been less than one war death per 100,000 people every year.

Pinker acknowledged that despite war deaths decreasing, and violent crime decreasing as well, there are still countless news stories every day about violent acts. He says that it’s journalist’s job to report current events, not random places in the world where violent things aren’t happening. However, he says that it’s misleading to always be reporting on violence around the world without any actual context to those events.

In the industrialized world, violent crime rates have been overall getting lower for the past 15 years. While the United States still has a very high rate of violent crime compared to other first world countries, the rate at which violent crime occurs has fallen every year since 1994!

 

2. The Food Pyramid
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The food pyramid was first introduced in Sweden in 1972, however it was later introduced in the United States by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1992. The pyramid contained information about the suggested amount of food that should make up your diet. The original food pyramid, the one that you know and love, said that you should eat mostly grains and vegetables, and little dairy and meat products. I’m here to tell you that the pyramid you know and love is wrong. It’s been wrong for a long time, actually, and nutritionists have known it this whole time.

To start, Walter Willett, chairman of the Nutrition Department at Harvard University said that “The thing to keep in mind about the USDA Pyramid is that it comes from the [U.S.] Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for promoting American agriculture, not from agencies established to monitor and protect our health, like the Department of Health and Human Services, or the National Institutes of Health, or the Institute of Medicine.” In other words, it’s a little sketchy that you’re letting an organization so closely tied to promoting agricultural businesses tell you what to eat.

Furthermore, according to Willett, the food pyramid that we all know and love is scientifically unfounded advice, and the misinformation provided in the pyramid can lead to being overweight and having poor health.

Another issue with the food pyramid is that it’s not very clear. Not only are you not told what type of grain you should be eating, the serving sizes are all over the place. For example, the pyramid tells you that you should eat a maximum of two to three servings from the meat and alternatives group, but then the pyramid says that a minimum (no maximum) two to four fruit servings is best for your diet. It’s a little inconsistent.

Modern nutritionists say that the biggest food group you should be eating is fruits and vegetables. The new nutritional guide is known as MyPlate, and a very detailed diagram can be found here.

 

1. You Can See The Great Wall Of China From The Moon/Space
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This ‘fact’ is more propaganda than anything else. If you really think about the idea that you can see the great wall from space, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s not very wide, and it’s the color of the ground that it’s built on. It is believed that the origin of the myth that it can be viewed from the moon started in a 1932 Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! cartoon, claiming that the wall was “the mightiest work of man, the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the moon.” We hadn’t even been to the moon yet, Ripley. Cut that shit out.

Neil Armstrong has been asked countless times as to whether or not he could see the great Chinese structure from the moon. He said that he could see continents, lakes, and splotches of white and blue, but he could not make out a single man-made structure from the moon, which is about 230,000 miles from Earth. To put that into perspective, the diameter of the Earth is only 7,926.3 miles. In other words, that distance is the same as if you were stretch the Earth out in a straight line 29 times. Bullshit you can see a dinky little wall from that far away.

Now, can you see it from orbit? That’s debateable. The first Chinese astronauts in space said that they couldn’t see it from space, and it was a pretty big deal. Leroy Chiao, a man who actually spent time on the International Space Station made it his mission to take a photo of the Great Wall from space. He was able to, and you can see those photos online, but Chiao later admitted that when he took the photos, he wasn’t sure if he could actually see the wall or not. The wall is so deteriorated in parts of the country and it is literally the same color as the ground, so it makes the wall almost impossible to see with the human eye from space.

So, what can you see from space? According to NASA, you can see cities, major roadways, bridges, airports, dams, and reservoirs!

[Header image via Shutterstock, Sources]

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