10 Science Myths You Probably Believe

10 Science Myths You Probably Believe

Going Back to Basics

We’ve already talked about one of the biggest science fallacies that most of us still believe – the idea that humans only have five senses. As it turns out, there are plenty more to cover.

1. Goldfish have a 3-second memory

Photo Credit: Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff via Wiki Commons

Photo Credit: Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff via Wiki Commons

It’s actually surprising that this one stuck around for as long as it did since it is pretty easy to disprove. Basic experiments performed with goldfish involved Pavlovian conditioning where the fish would receive food under certain circumstances (normally in association with another object). After several instances, it became clear that the fish learned to associate the two together, showing that their memories last for at least several days.

2. Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth

Photo Credit: Joe Hastings via Wiki Commons

Photo Credit: Joe Hastings via Wiki Commons

Ok, this is based on a technicality, but this is a good fact to know if you want to be a smartass. The tallness of a mountain refers to its length from base to summit. The height refers to the length from sea level to summit. So, with that in mind, Mount Everest might be the highest mountain in the world, but it’s not the tallest. At 33,465 ft (10,200 m) Mauna Kea in Hawaii is taller than Everest which is “only” 29,029 ft (8,848 m). However, almost two thirds of Mauna Kea is underwater.

3. Lightning never strikes the same place twice

Photo Credit: David Selby via Wiki Commons

Photo Credit: David Selby via Wiki Commons

Over the years, this saying has taken on a more metaphorical meaning but there are still those who consider it literal. There is no reason why we would believe such a thing. Lightning strikes the Earth anywhere from 50 to 100+ times…per second (different sources claim different numbers). That’s over 1.5 billion times per year. The chances that one area would never be hit twice are incredibly small. Moreover, we know for a fact of places that have been struck multiple times. Tall buildings are very good at attracting lightning. The Empire State Building in New York gets struck 100 times each year.

4. People in the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat

Flat earth map

Actually, the ancient Greeks wrote about the Earth as a sphere and this was 2,500 years ago. That knowledge was never lost so, even if the masses might have believed such a notion during the Middle Ages, the educated always knew that Earth was a sphere (an oblate spheroid, to be precise). Certainly, Columbus doesn’t deserve any credit for sailing around the world and showing it’s not flat, despite what some school classes might say.

5. Sharks don’t get cancer

Photo Credit: Albert Kok via Wiki Commons

Photo Credit: Albert Kok via Wiki Commons

We already kill countless millions of sharks every year just to get their fins in order to make soup that tastes like nothing. Now sharks also have the misfortune of being hunted for their cartilage which can allegedly cure cancer. The problem is it can’t. At no point did scientists believe such a claim, but the general public was more eager to indulge the fantasy because of the incredible positive effects it would have on society. However, we have definitive proof of sharks with tumors so the notion can be put to bed once and for all.

6. Most of your body heat escapes through your head

Photo Credit: Loadmaster via Wiki Commons

Photo Credit: Loadmaster via Wiki Commons

Various reasons have been given for this idea (such as the lack of fat in your head compared to other body parts). However, the truth is that you will lose just as much heat through your head as you do through the rest of your body…under equal circumstances. However, unless you have a tendency to stroll naked through the snow during winters, your body is not under equal circumstances. Normally, your head is the only exposed part of your body which is the simple (and obvious) answer to why it is colder than the rest.

7. Blood inside your body is blue

Photo Credit: Colin Davis via Flickr

Photo Credit: Colin Davis via Flickr

This one seems pretty obvious. After all, you can look at your veins right now and see blood passing through them and it looks blue, right? This lends credence to the myth that deoxygenated blood is blue but as soon as it exits the body it is exposed to oxygen and it turns red. This is not true because human blood contains hemoglobin at all times, even when it doesn’t contain oxygen. Hemoglobin is a red protein so the blood in your body is actually a dark red. In the simplest terms, veins appear blue due to how light is reflected.

8. The Great Wall of China can be seen from space

Photo Credit: Severin.stalder via Wiki Commons

Photo Credit: Severin.stalder via Wiki Commons

Another idea specifies that the Great Wall of China is, in fact, the only man-made object that can be seen from space. In this case, it is doubly wrong. It all depends on what you mean by space. In low orbit, the wall can barely be seen, but so can a ton of other stuff we’ve made including modern roads. From further back like the Moon, you’ll be having trouble making out anything smaller than a continent.

9. Chameleons can change colors to blend in

Photo Credit: Charlesjsharp via Wiki Commons

Photo Credit: Charlesjsharp via Wiki Commons

Chameleons are awesome and interesting. That is a fact. However, the idea that they can camouflage themselves by blending into their backgrounds is not. In short, there are multiple reasons why a chameleon would change color and it depends on the species. Their mood and their intentions play a large role. If a chameleon is happy and courting a lady chameleon, he’ll change color. If he is angry and getting ready for a fight, he’ll change color again. External factors such as temperature also play a role.

10. We Only Use 10% of Our Brains

Albert_Einstein_1947

This is probably one of the most frequent myths on the Internet. The idea that we humans only use 10% or so of our brains has appeared in books, movies, TV shows and countless other places. If we are able to somehow unlock all of that hidden potential we would become geniuses to rival Einstein or, allegedly, even gain psychic powers.

Speaking of Einstein, he is one of the people often credited with starting the myth in the first place, although there’s no evidence to substantiate this claim. Either way, we don’t use just 10% of our brains. They remain pretty much active all the time. However, different parts of the brain have particular roles so it is true that we need a smaller amount of brain function under certain circumstances like when we’re resting.

Want more myths? Here you go:

History Myths Part 1. History Myths Part 2. Sports Myths. Food Myths. Police Myths. Animal Myths Part 1. Animal Myths Part 2.