False Facts Everyone Still Believes
Let's debunk some of the most common misconceptions and false facts everyone still believes!Knowledge
It's not surprising that people tend to believe a lot of stuff that isn’t true. Everyone has places to be, work to do, and bills to pay, most folks just don’t have the time to google random facts and double-check their accuracy. Luckily for you, I have nothing but free time! Get ready to have your world rocked, because here come some false facts that you just might believe!
Everyone loves ninjas! Throughout medieval Japan these elite warriors would stalk their prey, clad entirely in black, before striking at the perfect moment and vanishing into the night. However, this image falls apart the instant you consider that it's pretty hard to be a sneaky, covert assassin if you’re wearing an obvious uniform.
In reality, ninjas would typically wear the least conspicuous clothing they could find. This meant they were much more likely to be dressed like a farmer or peasant than cloaked in a cool veil.
Disguises that concealed their faces were obviously useful though. Therefore, ninjas might’ve disguised themselves as rice paddy farmers that wore big hats, or komusou monks who wore large straw helmets called tengai as a sign of modesty.
So, where did the stereotypically slick ninja garb come from? Well, it’s an interesting story. In traditional Japanese kabuki theater, it was the job of prop handlers to assemble and remove different props and background elements mid-performance.
These prop handlers needed to work quickly and didn’t want to distract people from the play. Therefore, they would wear black pajamas, head-to-toe! Audiences suspended their disbelief and trained themselves to simply ignore anyone dressed this way.
Legend has it one director in the 1600s had a brilliantly meta idea; to have one of these prop-handlers reveal a knife mid-prop change and assassinate an important character. If this is true, it would have been a mind-blowing piece of fourth-wall breaking theater, especially for the era.
Whether this specific story is true or not, audiences still associated the uniform with deftness and sneakiness due to the nature of the job, so you can see where the ninja association comes from.
Does Wedding Rice Make Pigeons Explode?
Picture this: you’ve just gotten married. Happiest day of your life until, in the middle of cutting the cake, a pigeon explodes, all over your pristine tux or dress. The point is, a pigeon explodes and ruins the whole thing.
The myth is that hungry pigeons chow down on dry rice, which is traditionally thrown at weddings. After the bird drinks some water, the rice begins to expand in its stomach, until the poor pigeon bursts, right in the middle of the best man’s speech.
Unsurprisingly, this urban legend is completely untrue. Birds don’t explode if they eat rice, in fact, they don’t even get sick. The digestive acids inside a creature’s stomach, even a pigeon’s, break down rice far too quickly for them to absorb any other liquids.
Plus, even if it could stick around in the stomach long enough to significantly absorb liquid, rice actually expands in size less than bird seed does, and we don't see birds exploding after eating from bird feeders.
Some believe this myth was started by grumpy church practitioners after one too many people slipped on rice at weddings. However, this reasonable sounding explanation is also a myth! In reality we can thank one person for its spread; former Connecticut State Representative Mae S Schmidle.
In 1985, she introduced a bill that would fine citizens $50 for throwing rice at weddings. People told her it was bunk at the time; however, the publicity was enough to give the rumor feet. So, next time you’re at a wedding, feel free to fling that rice right into the bride’s eyes!
The Fake Unflinching Walk
Explosions are some of the coolest things in the world, so it stands to reason that walking away from them without looking makes someone super cool. This is a classic, cheesy way for a movie to let the audience know that a character is so badass, they aren’t even interested in the erupting ball of flames behind them.
In real life, this slow walk away from danger would likely be the last time you will be able to use your legs. This is because explosions aren’t just fiery, they also produce what’s called blast pressure. This is the shockwave that occurs after a loud bang, and it’s the force that throws objects around and shatters windows within the blast radius.
This means that even if you aren’t burnt by the flames, an explosion can still kill you through internal damage. A blast can be strong enough to shake and smoosh together your internal organs, and your organs aren’t up for that kind of exercise.
An explosion causes overpressure, that’s the pressure caused by a shockwave above normal atmospheric pressure. If this reaches just 3 pounds of pressure per square inch, it’s enough to demolish a residential building and produce winds of over 100 miles per hour.
If you’re too close, this can cause internal hemorrhaging, bone fractures, and the awful sounding ‘blast lung’. This is why doctors recommend you seek immediate medical attention if you’re near an explosion, regardless of whether you’re burnt or feel hurt right away. And if you’re close enough to an explosion to be flung back, your insides will probably look like Nickelodeon slime.
The Difference Between Buddha And Budai
If you’re a westerner, odds are when you think of Buddha, you imagine a jolly, laughing man made from solid gold. And while being a jolly, laughing man made from solid gold is by no means a bad thing, it also isn’t what Buddha looks like. Seriously, this isn’t Buddha!
Don’t feel bad for not knowing that, though, even Google gets this wrong if you search for any variant of smiling buddha or laughing buddha. So who exactly is behind that widely known Buddha image?
Buddhism is an old and complex religion, so to briefly summarize; his name is Budai, and he’s (sort of) from the future. Budai was a 10th Century Chinese monk who was known for traveling from town to town and giving out supplies and presents to children and the needy, a bit like Santa Claus, except he beat Santa to the punch by a thousand years.
On Budai’s deathbed, he revealed he was actually an incarnation of Maitreya. Maitreya isn’t our world’s Buddha, but the next world’s Buddha. Buddhists believe that when what we understand to be this world ends, a new one will begin.
In this new world, Maitreya will emerge to enlighten its denizens as their Buddha. So, you can think of Budai as an enlightened one from the next world who briefly stopped by this one, to see what the fuss was all about.
Remember that the Buddha of Buddhism is not actually a God, in the traditional sense. He was just a guy named Siddartha Gautama who achieved enlightenment and decided to teach his learnings to the world. Similar to how Christ isn’t the God of Christianity, Buddha isn’t the God of Buddhism.
The Myth Behind Chameleon Color Change
If you had to name one thing you know about chameleons, you’d probably say that they change color to match their surroundings. This is not exactly correct because, while chameleons can indeed change color, it’s not to blend into their environment. In reality, chameleons change color in order to regulate their body temperature.
Like most lizards, chameleons are cold-blooded, this means that their blood isn’t naturally warmed up inside their bodies like ours is. Instead, they rely on outside heat to keep their blood warm. Chameleons evolved the ability to alter the pigmentation of their skin so they can better control the amount of heat absorbed by their bodies.
This is because darker colors absorb more warmth while lighter colors reflect it, imagine putting your hand on a pitch-black car versus a white one on a warm, sunny day and you get the idea.
Additionally, some studies suggest that chameleons change color in order to communicate with one another and even depending on their mood, but never to match their environment. Temperature is still a part of their environment, but they’re not trying to blend in!
Frankenstein Isn't A Monster
Did you know that Frankenstein refers not to the Monster, but to the name of the Monster’s creator? Since Mary Shelly’s seminal work of early science fiction was released in 1818, the novel has been adapted and re-interpreted in dozens of different mediums, including movies, stage plays, and even videogames.
And while each of these adaptations is unique in their own way, something they all get wrong is the monster! Ask just about anyone to picture Frankenstein’s monster and they’ll likely imagine a hulking, mumbling, eight-foot-tall brute with bolts in his neck.
In the book, however, the monster couldn’t be more different. He's talkative, introspective, philosophical, and a good deal of the book is even narrated from his perspective. Rather than getting mad and smashing everything in sight, the monster spends most of the book feeling lonely and begging his creator for a companion.
As for his appearance, the monster is described as “tall, muscular, with lustrous flowing hair and pearly white teeth”. He's also described as having “thin, dark lips” and “yellowing, pallid skin,” but at worst that makes him an attractive goth boy! So where did the modern, monstrous Frankenstein come from?
Well, the story exploded into popular consciousness after the 1931 film, which set the standard for depictions of the monster. However, this movie wasn’t an adaptation of the book: it was a film version of Peggy Webbing’s 1927 theater adaptation. Peggy must have hated hot goth boys, because in her play, the Monster was just that, a monster.
The Colors Of Ancient Statues
For centuries now, old Greco-Roman statues have stood as beautiful glimpses into the past. An ancient time when master craftsmen turned marble slabs into delicate, incredible works of art that were solemnly appreciated by a sophisticated audience.
But believe it or not, modern examinations of many of these classical statues have revealed a faint-but-unmistakable residue of dried paint. This means it’s highly likely that, once the sculptors were done chiseling a statue, it was handed off to a painter to be decorated.
As Sarah Bond of the University of Iowa puts it; “the statue was seen as a canvas, not a finished product”. So, what did the finished product look like? Well, the residue indicated the colors were bright, garish, and gaudy, meaning these beautiful statues essentially used to look like clowns.
This may mean one of two things; either the Greco-Romans had awful taste, or the statues may have been viewed more as fun decorations than high art in their own time. One thing that is certain, however, is that this discovery ticked off some very sad, very online people.
The previously mentioned Sarah Bond received death threats from internet tough guys after writing an article on ancient statue painting. This is because there are some authoritarian-leaning people online who love to hold up ancient Greece and Rome as the pinnacles of human society. And they tend to get really annoyed when science challenges the austere, dignified version of history that exists in their heads.
Rabbits And Carrots
It might surprise you but rabbits don't love carrots. They don’t hate them or anything, but they’d much rather chow down on leafy greens or soft pumpkins. This is because carrots are much tougher, crunchier vegetables that are harder for bunnies to chew.
In fact, many pet shops will warn new owners not to feed their rabbits carrots alone, as the poor thing could die from malnutrition. You can blame this misconception on Bugs Bunny. In many old cartoons, Bugs would loudly munch down on a carrot in the middle of his antics, which eventually led the popular consciousness to internalize that bunnies love carrots.
Why does Bugs Bunny eat carrots? The carrot-chomping was a reference to an old Clark Gable movie, It Happened One Night, where the actor eats a carrot while making a fool of himself. While the film was well-received on release, it hasn’t stood the test of time as much as Bugs Bunny has to the extent most people don’t realize his carrot-chomping is even a reference to begin with.
As a bonus misconception: nimrod isn’t slang for a stupid person. Nimrod was actually an incredibly skilled hunter in the Bible. Bugs called Elmer Fudd Nimrod ironically, because Fudd was so inept. People who didn’t get the joke, however, simply assumed it was a funny insult. Turns out Bugs Bunny has shaped more of modern society than we realize.
Milk And Strong Bones
Here's a fact that may break a few hearts: mothers don’t know everything. I’m sorry, but it’s true! Carrots don’t give you night vision and, while they’re tasty, eating an apple a day won’t keep the doctor away unless you throw it at them.
Something they’re surely right about, however, is that drinking milk regularly strengthens your bones. After all, bones contain calcium, milk contains calcium, makes sense, right? Well, no. I’m sorry to blow your mind but, there is no link between bone health and milk intake!
A Harvard study examining a large sample of 72,000 women over two decades found that there was no link between milk intake and bone strength. Furthermore, milk intake didn’t reduce the rate of bone fractures or bone conditions like osteoporosis in the women.
Another study published on the National Library of Medicine following 96,000 men actually found their subjects were more likely to suffer bone fractures if they drank a lot of milk during their teens.
So, where did this myth originate? Well, sorry to blow your mind again but it's the milk industry. The origins of this belief can be traced back to schools receiving nutritional materials that boasted the milk-bone myth, and these materials were funded by the National Dairy Council.
Ten Percent Of The Brain
It’s a commonly held belief that human beings only utilize 10% of their brain’s potential, or 20%, or 5%, depending on the version of the myth you’ve heard. While it’s true that humans don’t use 100% of their brains at any given time, this is because different areas of the brain do different things.
For example, the cerebellum is in control of your balance and motor control, the broca’s area is in charge of speech, while the medulla controls your blood pressure and breathing. The brain is a highly complex piece of equipment, and because different areas do different things, not all of them are useful all of the time.
Saying a human being only uses 10% of their brain at a time is like saying a traffic light only uses a third of its lights at a time. And much like if a traffic light were using all of its lights at once, using all of your brain at once would likely mean something is very wrong. In reality, the closest humans come to using all of their brain at once is during a seizure, where an abnormal burst of electrical signals effectively overloads the brain.
Great Wall Of China From Space
If most of us had the opportunity to visit space, we'd probably spend a long time looking down on Earth to see incredible things like the Great Wall of China, the only manmade object visible from space, right?
This mighty wall was built some 2600 years ago to repel a Mongolian invasion into China, and all its sections span an absolutely mind-boggling 13,170 miles. Even though we were thought to believe that this structure is visible from space, that's not entirely correct.
The first problem is where you count outer space as actually beginning. Most scientists define space as beginning at something called the Karman line, this is the point at which most satellites comfortably orbit Earth.
The Karman Line is exactly 100 kilometers or 62 miles above sea level. And if you look at the photo below taken from the International Space Station on a 180 mm lens to mimic the view from the Karman line, the Great Wall isn’t exactly visible!
Furthermore, most space stations orbit Earth tens of miles beyond the Karman Line anyway, meaning there’s no way an astronaut would ever look down on Earth from space and admire the Great Wall.
It’s common knowledge that humans swallow between 4 and 8 spiders a year in their sleep, or around 20 in their lifetime. Whatever version of this myth you’ve heard that makes for a lot of spider-snacks. Working with 8 annually, that would mean that around 8 billion people on Earth swallow 64 billion spiders a year.
While seeing all those creepy-crawlies in the same bedroom would be nightmarish, that yearly loss would hardly impact their numbers, as there are estimated to be quadrillions of spiders on Earth. Never fear, though, this myth is still baloney.
For starters, for it to be true, the world would need to have a fairly even distribution of spiders, which just isn’t the case. Iceland has only 91 species of spider whereas Australia has over 10,000.
Secondly, spiders feed in one of two ways; by building webs to catch prey or by actively hunting. A human’s mouth is too small and difficult to build a web in, and unless there are flies in your mouth, it’s bad for hunting too.
Most spiders have tiny hairs on their legs, making them extremely sensitive to movement, which makes a breathing mouth unpleasant to them. This all combines to make a mouth a very unappealing place for a spider, despite what Billy Eilish might have you believe.
This myth was first mentioned in a folklore book back in 1954, but only spread when a journalist named Lisa Holst heard about it in 1993. She used it as an example of a clearly false urban legend that could easily spread via email and, lo and behold, she was correct. Her own example of easily spreadable misinformation ended up getting easily spread around.
Dropping A Penny From The Empire State Building
If you live in a city, you might have been told to watch out when walking at the base of a skyscraper in case someone decided to whimsically flip a penny off the top!
Though small, the speed of the penny hurtling towards the ground would turn it into a torpedo, with the force of gravity making it accelerate all the way down, until it reaches speeds that could crack open your melon!
While it certainly made me think twice about city-living, it turns out there’s no truth to this rumor whatsoever. Even if you were to drop it off the Empire State Building, a penny is too small, flat, and cushioned by air to transform into a super-aerodynamic torpedo.
Regarding the ever-accelerating force of gravity, that could theoretically happen if all the air was sucked out of New York City! Air resistance slows the penny down, so even if a penny on the heavier side were to be flipped over the edge, the air resistance and gravity would eventually match at a point known as “terminal velocity”.
This would give the coin a rough falling speed of 12 miles per hour. Hardly enough to do any serious damage. And if it did land on you, it’d just feel like you’d been flicked in the forehead.
Taste. Touch. Sight. Smell. Sound. These are the five senses through which we humans experience the world. As far as human senses go, they’re all we have, right? Well, not really!
These senses aren’t so much our only senses as they are our most popular ones. Think of them as the Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man of our sense-Avengers! The full team is pretty big, but in order to figure out just how many there are, we need to define what a sense is.
Essentially, a sense is a group of cells designed to detect an external stimuli and then respond to it in an appropriate way. With this definition, you can argue equilibrium or balance is a sense. After all, your body immediately notices and responds to being on unstable terrain.
Similarly, our abilities to sense temperature and pain are unique senses. Our proprioception, which is basically our awareness of our own bodies, aka how we know where our feet, arms, and head are even if we close our eyes, is another unique sense.
This brings us up to the conservative estimate of nine senses, but some neuroscientists think we could have as many as 53! Some argue that hunger, thirst, and even our ability to feel the passage of time each count as senses in their own right.
Other potential senses are much more specific; such as our ability to respond to airborne drugs or hormones, along with our ability to feel tension in our internal muscles. Of course, that last one could be lumped in with touch, as with several other potential senses, which is why counting the exact number is tricky.
Either way, if you had all of them turned off but five, you’d end up with limited ways of telling what’s going on around you. I hope you were amazed at these false facts everyone still believes! Thanks for reading.