40 Common Myths Thought To Be True Debunked By Scientists

By Sachin P

More often than not, interesting facts and figures that we have believed to be true turn out to be fake. This may be because of peculiar advertising trends or because you heard it a few times when you were out and about talking with friends. You can always seek the help of science for answers and to make sure you’re up to date. However, some things, like how people say it takes years to digest gum, are a good example of how common knowledge can become twisted and confused. You may hear about nonsense here and there, but in this article, we have the knowledge carefully sourced to shed light on a wide range of topics to keep you in the right loop. Now, you can finally be aware and not just follow what the crowds are saying.

Sharks do not have the ability to sniff out blood from far away

Sharks have the advantage of millions of years of evolution for them to be one of the best predators in the ocean. They have a finely tuned sense of smell, but even that cannot pick up a tiny blood trace from miles and miles away.

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However, sharks can pick up signals several football fields away, as a large area in their brain controls their sense of smell. Though several hundred feet isn’t as impressive as several miles, that’s enough knowledge for you to test the water before getting in if you have a wound.

Ostriches do not put their heads in the sand to hide

Ostriches can reach a speed of 60 miles per hour if they sense danger, so they do not need to stick their heads in the sand as a defense mechanism. The expression is used to describe timid people, and even though most have come to accept it, it’s not a proper fact.

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If things get terrible, they tend to play dead, but they normally prefer to fight or run away from the threat and do not wait around to stick their head in the sand. Thankfully, the field biologists today have managed to sort this out for good.

Chewing gum does not take seven years to get digested

Some anecdotes stand the test of time, like the fact that if you swallow gum, it will get stuck inside your stomach or intestines, taking over seven years to digest. But fear not, because as experts state, there is no solid ground for this to be based on.

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There was that one incident where a toddler swallowed a coin wrapped in gum, which caused a blockage in his digestive system, but apart from that, rest assured, the occasional gumball that you intentionally or accidentally swallow will pass through your digestive tract without an issue.

Lightning does strike the same place twice (or more)

What makes lightning an interesting phenomenon is its apparent disorder. The age-old story that lightning does not strike the same place twice sounds true at face value, but lightning strikes the Empire State Building alone on average 23 times annually, which caused it to be used as a lightning laboratory.

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Lightning is nearly always on the lookout for the least work with the most outcome, which means it targets a tall object. Again, the Empire State Building, with its 100 floors, is as tall as it gets. It offers the least resistance for the lightning to become grounded.

Turkey meat – which contains Tryptophan – does not make you sleepy

Turkey is a beloved staple on thanksgiving, but many people mention an unusual side effect. Having a good amount of turkey can lure one to a heavy sleep. This arises because turkey meat contains the chemical Tryptophan, which is also found in cheddar cheese.

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Cheddar has more Tryptophan when compared with turkey meat, and it is similar to the chemicals found in our body that help us feel relaxed. If you really do feel sleepy, maybe it’s a result of too much of your mom’s thanksgiving spread. There’s no harm in that!

You won’t catch a cold by being in a cold environment

Modern virology studies state that just being in a cold environment won’t give you the sniffles. Colds are caused by the grumpy viruses inside your body which causes your body to react. We guess mom was wrong about not letting you go outside with wet hair!

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Staying indoors could mean you’ll spread more of the virus in the air inside rather than being outdoors. But, during a pandemic, it’s always better to follow safety guidelines so that you can enjoy more cold days in the future, with or without wet hair!

No one will get killed by a penny falling from the top of the Empire State Building

This is one of those rumors which nearly everyone knows about, but no one knows where the story came from! Maybe we missed the section in our physics books where this incident was explained. Well, don’t worry because it is simply not true!

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This rumor didn’t take the air resistance into count, and since a penny is flat a lightweight, its speed slows considerably during the fall. The terminal velocity is between 30 to 50 miles per hour, so even though it won’t kill you, it can be quite painful.

Exposure to oxygen does not turn blood more red

It sounds believable because if you look at a popped-up vein, the blood has a blue tint because of the vein itself. So, does the exposure to oxygen really make blood turn that deep red color even more? The study of the human body is still always ongoing, but what gave rise to this idea?

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The fact is that the blood of humans is red both inside and out, and when it comes in contact with air, it turns a bit vivid, but all in all, blood is not blue. You are a “blue blood” if you’re royalty, but that’s just a figure of speech.

Vodka before beer doesn’t keep that hangover at bay

It is an unwritten rule in frat houses and sororities that drinking vodka before beer can prevent you from developing a bad hangover. It has been tested for ages for those who want to have a good time, but does it really work? It’s not like you remember everything clearly after partying heavily anyways.

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But, this fact is not true, and the best way to avoid a hangover is to drink alcohol in moderation. There is a limit to the amount of alcohol your body can handle, so if you want to wake up the next day refreshed, mind what you consume.

Shaving won’t make that hair grow back thicker

If you’re a girl, chances of you having heard your mom, sister, or friend saying, “shaving makes the hair grow back thicker” is high. Not everyone is comfortable with hairy arms and legs, so is there any scientific backing to this old wives’ story?

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What happens when you shave is that the end of a hair follicle gets cut off, and when it grows again, it feels a bit rougher than it used to. So don’t worry. Don’t let this get in your hair, as it’s simply not true.

Mouths of dogs are in no way cleaner than ours

Dogs are, in general, one of the best gifts to humankind. Some people love their dogs so much to the point that they don’t mind exchanging kisses right on the mouth, on the basis that sometimes dogs mouths are cleaner and that there’s no apparent harm.

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But dogs eat most of the things which we see as disgusting, like garbage, poop, and the odd animal carcass. That means that their mouths are quite unhygienic. This does not mean that we would love them less, but it’s always better to be cautious.

Earth’s tallest mountain is not Mount Everest

Among adventure sports, mountain climbing claims a popular position because those who do it as a hobby and a sport can’t stop saying anything but good things about it, whether it’s the views, the satisfaction, or the exercise. It’s quite a dangerous sport, but that hasn’t stopped those who love it.

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At 29,305 feet, Everest is the highest mountain from the global mean sea level, which is the standard. But, if we consider the submerged parts, Mauna Kea clocks in an impressive 33,500 feet, which is considerably higher than Mount Everest.

Germs don’t wait five seconds to contaminate your food

It’s a real shame when you drop all that delicious food on the floor by accident, but you manage to pick it up before five seconds. Why? Because this doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat it. Germs can contaminate food within milliseconds. So, from where does this popular myth spring up?

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The state of the food plays a part in the level of contamination as moist food attracts more bacteria than dry food. If you really want to eat it, it’s your decision. But do know that the five-second rule has not even a five-second basis.

Your strawberry frap is not harvesting any red bugs

Carmine, a widely used ingredient in food dye, is made in South America by collecting cochineal bugs from cacti and crushing them. Even the thought of a bug in your food can make you feel disgusted, and most food items use it as a dye as it is quite cheap.

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You can rest easy as Starbucks stopped using carmine in their strawberry fraps in 2012. But, this does not mean that every other product which used carmine as an ingredient has stopped as well. It is always better to check the label, just in case.

The high nutritional, low pesticide nature of organic produce is a myth

Organic food has that more healthy appeal because it’s perceived to be fresh and packed with vitamins and minerals, music to health food lovers’ ears. In reality, organic produce farmers tend to use natural pesticides. That is enough to burst the bubble.

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There have been experiments done to analyze if organic produce has more nutritional value than engineered products. There are no clear benefits highlighted, nor do they have more vitamins in comparison. Maybe it is the fact that they are perceived to be safe which makes people comfortable.

Night sky’s brightest star is not the north star

Humans have used the north star for guidance for thousands of years, and even in a technological era such as this, some still use it to find direction. As many say, the snag was knowing which one was the north star as it wasn’t the brightest one.

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On a serious note, the brightest star visible to us would be Sirius. North Star or Polaris, with all its fame, is not even in the top ten as it takes the 50th spot. Let’s observe a minute of silence which followed the brightest star as a direction marker.

Old coal does not turn into diamonds

Coal, under immense pressure, temperature, and over many years having the ability to turn into a diamond, has become a favorite myth amongst motivational speakers. So, do they start as coal to adorn the necklines of many admiring women, with all their diversity in size, shape, and color, as diamonds?

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It’s hard to know for sure as diamonds are produced at least 90 miles below the earth’s surface and coal about 2 miles below. The immense difference in the distance is enough to put a rest to this story as we simply cannot observe how they are made!

Water is not stored inside camel humps

Nicknamed the “Ship of the desert,” camels are many things. In fact, desert-dwelling people value camels in very high regard as they provide food, clothing, and transportation. So, can they really store water in their humps to survive the dry spell of the deserts?

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The humps are full of fat, which they can convert to food or water when resources are scarce for them to quench their thirst and hunger. They can survive for seven months without water, and the hump shrinks in size the longer they go without proper nutrition.

Your growth does not get stunted by your love of coffee

Coffee has taken the world by storm, and most of us can’t start our day without a good cup of joe. With about 146 billion cups consumed per year in America alone, does our love for coffee have any effect on our growth?

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Experts have not found any relation between the growth of bones and caffeine consumption, caffeine being the main chemical found in coffee that gives it its kick. So, there’s nothing to worry about, as your cup of joe won’t affect your growth in any way.

An apple a day really can’t keep the doctor away

Here is something that you have to have heard at least once in your life. This saying is quite universal in its spread and makes you wonder if Isaac Newton was behind the apple’s popularity. Apples are healthy, and the idea itself isn’t bad, but is it true?

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There’s a lot of vitamin C, fiber, and other nutrients in apples, but that alone won’t make your life healthy. If you can throw in some more fruits, vegetables, and exercise into that, you can surely maintain a fulfilling life.

People don’t just use only 10% of their brain in a given time

Remember that Scarlett Johansson movie, Lucy? Well, that movie popularized this belief to an unbelievable degree. It got people thinking about what they could achieve if they could unlock their brains’ full 100% potential. So, to find the truth, we need the help of neurology.

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With the help of advanced machinery, neurologists and scientists have found out that most activities use all the parts of our brain, as everything is interconnected inside and very active. So, in reality, a belief like this does not have any backing at all.

Bats are not blind, as the saying goes

Bats are interesting creatures. They either eat fruits, insects or drink blood to survive. They use an ability called echolocation to find their way in the dark, together with the fact they live in caves, which might have given people the idea that they are blind.

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Fruit bats use their sight and smell to find food, and insect-eating bats use echolocation to find their prey, but they all have small and sensitive eyes. So the claim that they are blind has no grounding and is quite incorrect.

Matter does not consist of only three phases

Matter consists of three phases: solid, liquid, and gas, which we learned as fundamental in physics and chemistry. But, there is also another phase called plasma – not the plasma handed out in hospitals and not the one seen on TV.

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Plasma is not the only other state of matter to exist as there are the superfluid and quark-gluon plasma states. There’s also another called supersolid, but thankfully, these states do not matter in daily life. However, it is still an interesting fact to consider.

Don’t worry, chocolate does not cause acne

Ah, chocolate! Even the sound of that word alone can make you happy, and it is a beloved food among nearly all humans. But, those who care about their complexion usually stay away from eating chocolate as they say it causes acne. Is it really true?

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Researchers were inquisitive to know if that was the real case. What they did was that they created two groups and gave one group a potent chocolate sample and the other a placebo. In the end, there was no visible difference between the two groups. Yay!

You won’t get strong bones by drinking a lot of milk

Is cow milk really the solution for strong bones? Health classes in school had us thinking that for a long time, even encouraging us to drink milk three times a day. But, what is the actual truth behind this claim which many people are behind?

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Milk does pack a good number of vitamins and minerals. Being a lover of milk does not give one an upper hand when it comes to bone strength, as opposed to someone who doesn’t like milk. So, drinking coffee with a lot of milk in the morning won’t make your bones less brittle.

Sugar and herion doesn’t have the same addiction level

Let’s face it; Sugar is in nearly everything these days. But is it really as addictive as heroin and cocaine? Even though similar parts of the brain are lit up when sugar or heroin is in your system, it is not that hard to give up on sugar.

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Also, sugar withdrawal is not deadly. You might feel a blandness when you try sugar-free food, but as time goes on, you will get used to it. Before sugar was produced for the first time, people had no need for it. Plus, moderation leads to a healthy life.

Chameleons don’t always change their color to match their surroundings

Chameleons seem otherworldly. They are a fascinating family of reptiles who can change color based on their situation, but they do not always match their color to the color of the surroundings, as many have come to believe.

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Chameleons change their colors to communicate. They change color to impress females or a defense mechanism by turning into a dark color. People think of camouflage first thing when they think of chameleons, but this idea only holds when they are resting or staying in one place only.

Swimming after having a meal won’t give you cramps

Most people have a swim and then have food, but never the other way around. Why? Because of the fear that swimming after eating can cause cramps, they won’t swim properly. Is there any truth behind this belief?

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If you do get a cramp while swimming – which is something that can happen – keep calm and float on your back. So, is there a connection between eating food before swimming and cramps? Absolutely not. But, never consume alcohol and swim because it’s dangerous.

Like that video, lemmings do not commit mass suicide

This belief was widely spread due to a particular documentary that aired in 1958, which showed dozens of lemmings following each other off of a cliff. What really happened was that the crew wanted to film something interesting and decided to push some lemmings off a cliff.

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Lemmings might fall off of places that they don’t know well, as they tend to migrate from their place of birth if the lemming population gets too big. This minimizes the competition for resources. But in no way would lemmings commit mass suicide. It has no backing.

You do not get warts if you touch a toad

It does sound true, especially when you look at a toad. For starters, they are covered with warts. Naming toads as a leading cause of warts in humans sounds far off, though. It’s time that we looked for the real cause, which causes warts in humans.

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Warts are caused by a family of viruses called HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), and they spread by contact. If you see someone with warts, be cautious. We’re happy to hear that toads don’t cause warts, but some toad species are poisonous, so be careful when handling them.

Goldfish do not have a three second memory

It’s a fairly established fact that goldfish have a poor memory and nearly all fish in general. If dolphins came to mind as smart fish, that doesn’t count as they are mammals. So, who or what gave rise to the story that they have such bad memory?

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Researchers looked into this claim and found that goldfish actually have a real good memory span. They can remember things for up to five months or more. So, as it turns out, they are smarter than we are led to believe.

Bulls don’t get angry when they see red

Bullfighting is a popular pastime in Spain. Matadors or bullfighters wave a bright red cloth in front of an aggravated bull to provoke it to strike as they try to dodge the raging bull. The question is, do bulls really get angry when they see the color red?

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In reality, the bull gets provoked when it sees the moving cloth. It has nothing to do with the color. That’s because bulls happen to be red-green colorblind. We think that this explanation would satisfy even the most hard-to-please naysayers!

Human senses isn’t limited to five, there’s more

Sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. These are the five senses of a human being. Something which we have been taught in school for as long as we can remember. But, that is not the case, as humans can’t function with just these five senses.

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There’s proprioception, which is our awareness of the position and movement of our bodies. Then there’s the sense of time and temperature. Pain is another essential sense, along with balance which helps us to stay steady. We need all of these in our day-to-day lives.

Honey isn’t a healthier substitute for processed sugar

Is there a way we can enjoy our favorite desserts without worrying about sugar? After all, the world is becoming health conscious by the day, and in that context, bee honey seems like a good alternative for sugar. Let’s have a look to see if that claim is true.

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No matter how they market it, honey is a type of sugar at the end of the day. Your body processes it like any other sugar you ingest. Sadly, it is not the shortcut you hoped for when it comes to cutting down on sugar.

Commercial vanilla extracts do not use beaver musk

Vanilla is among the most recognized flavors and additives in the world, and it is nearly everywhere. But, do all food items which have vanilla as an ingredient get it from the bean, or do they use castoreum as an alternative?

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First off, castoreum is around 85 dollars per pound. That’s the lowest grade stuff. With it being that expensive, companies try to keep the cost down by using vanilla pods as they cost less. Also, most of the major American companies don’t use it, according to the FDA.

Your knuckle cracking habit doesn’t cause arthritis

This is something our parents kept saying to get us off cracking our knuckles. Most of us didn’t know what arthritis even was when we were little. There’s no truth in this, as arthritis is caused by a whole different set of medical circumstances.

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The joints in our body have something called synovial fluid. This fluid has little gas bubbles in it. The cracking sound comes when the gas gets released from the fluid. So there you go, no need to worry!

There’s no advantage in using brown sugar over white sugar

Is brown sugar the real alternative when it comes to skipping sugar cravings? It does sound like it has an advantage over white sugar, of which everyone’s opinion is that it’s not good for your health. It’s time we understand if this is a real shortcut.

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It doesn’t matter if you eat brown or white sugar if you have diabetes. Sugar is sugar for diabetes, and it will affect you the same way. The best thing that you can do is to be careful of your intake.

Sparkling water won’t hydrate you more over regular water

Humans can survive roughly 3 days without water. That puts into perspective how much water is essential for our survival, and even the human body is made up on average of 60% water. But, there are some people who rarely drink water and prefer fizzy drinks.

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Fizzy or sparkling water is not as hydrating as normal water, and studies conducted on athletes have proven this fact. Plus, most of these carbonated drinks contain absurd amounts of processed sugar, which is unhealthy for you if you consume more than regular water.

After you die, your hair and nails do not keep growing

Quite the macabre story, but does it really have the grounding to be true? Once you pass on to the next world, all cellular functions cease, and there is no way hair and nails keep on growing. So, what was the basis for this story? Are morticians behind this rumor?

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The whole thing is nothing but nonsense. The real reason as to why it seems like hair and nails keep on growing is because after you die, your skin starts to shrink, which makes them look longer and not the dead trying to hold on to life a little longer.

Turns out that it is possible for new brain cells to grow

Most of the organs and parts in our body are capable of regenerating themselves. The liver as an organ and hair and nails are also are good examples of this. But, what about the most important organ we have, the brain?

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Your brain keeps growing new cells as you age, as you are not born with all the brain cells you will ever need. Though it can’t override serious injuries, it keeps churning out new cells, and studies are ongoing about this interesting phenomenon.