Lies You Still Believe
There are lots of commonly held misconceptions that are entirely false. Let's find out about some incredible lies that you still believe.Knowledge
It’s no secret that the world is full of lies. In fact, there are tonnes of so-called ‘facts’ that almost everyone still believes about anything from ancient history to the human body, Let's debunk some of the biggest fibs around!
Wolves Howling At The Moon
When you think about wolves, what springs to mind? A full moon, perhaps? It might be time to rethink that image, because wolves don’t howl at the moon at all. The nocturnal canines do howl as a way of communicating with each other, and sometimes the moon is full but they have no business directing all that racket at the moon itself.
In fact, wolves mostly howl in complete darkness, it’s just that we can’t see them doing it. There are a couple of reasons why the whole “howling at the moon” idea might’ve stuck. Firstly, howls are more easily heard on moonlit nights because these tend to be basically windless.
Secondly, our ancestors usually ventured outside more when there was a full moon because they could navigate better in the moonlight, which is probably when they mostly stumbled across howling wolfpacks.
Waking A Sleepwalker
We’ve all heard this one before: you should never, ever wake a sleepwalker. Except you totally can. There’s practically no scientific or medical evidence to prove that giving your sleepwalking sibling a gentle shake is going to cause them to drop dead as a result of a heart attack or pure fright.
Of course, being abruptly awoken while unconsciously brushing your teeth or attempting to get into the bathtub at 3 AM is enough to spook anyone, so it’s probably not the nicest thing to do.
Sleep experts actually recommend trying to gently guide a sleepwalker back in the direction of their own bed without fully waking them. Think of it like herding sheep, except it’s your granny in her favorite nightgown.
The Left Brain Right Brain Myth
Remember that one girl in art class who could paint flawlessly while your portraiture looked more like melting waxwork? You probably brushed it off because she was just programmed to be more ‘right-brained’ than you. Meanwhile, anyone good at math or science must have a stronger left side, simple enough. Turns out that’s all lies!
It’s true that the two separate hemispheres of our brain are responsible for different functions, but the idea that someone can excel in all things creative or analytical just because they have a more ‘dominant’ side is total nonsense.
We know this because a team of neuroscientists in 2013 analyzed the work of over 1000 brains belonging to participants aged 7-29 and found no evidence that any one person relies more heavily on one side of the brain than another during daily tasks.
Both hemispheres actually work in tandem and complement each other like Yin and Yang, meaning we’re all pretty much ambidextrous when it comes to using our heads.
Goldfish 3-Second Memory
Anyone who grew up with a goldfish as a pet will know one thing: they’re not the most interesting animals. You might have even used the phrase “memory of a goldfish” before, because of how apparently sieve-like their brains are.
People often cite the common goldfish as having a minuscule 3-second memory, but they actually have more brainpower than we humans give them credit for.
Various experiments have actually proven that goldfish can have a memory of up to 5 whole months. In 2009, researchers in Israel spent a month training young fish to associate a sound played through a loudspeaker with feeding time. After being left to their own devices for 5 months the sound was played again and, sure enough, the fish returned for feeding.
Turns out, your humble goldfish isn’t actually seeing the world for the first time with every new lap of the fishbowl.
Tomato & Ketchup
Next time you reach for the ketchup, consider this: your favorite condiment originally had nothing to do with tomatoes. Back in the 17th century, there was no such thing as ketchup.
There were, however, plenty of Europeans rampaging through Asia and sampling all there was to eat and drink. When British invaders returned home from South Asia, there was a big sauce-bottle-shaped hole in their hearts: the distant memory of ketchup, or kê-tsiap, as it was known overseas.
This distinctly savory condiment was probably something along the lines of a fermented fish sauce, but no one could remember exactly what it contained. For some time, attempts to replicate ketchup included a whole cocktail of strange ingredients like walnuts, mushrooms, fish brine, garlic, anchovies, and kidney beans.
Tomatoes were only eventually thrown into the mix in an 1801 recipe book by Sandy Addison. All that was left was to butcher the name and wait for Heinz to begin mass-producing the adulterated sauce in 1869, and voilà, ketchup was born.
You’ve likely heard at some point in your life that shaving unwanted body or facial hair will only make it grow back 10 times thicker, but those are just the words of someone trying to sabotage you before a first date.
Shaving has no real effect on the thickness, color, or rate of hair regrowth. Although it may seem like you’ve made a grave error the day after finally deciding to shave that irksome patch of hair on your forearm, there’s really no need to panic.
The reason hair might seem more visible as it starts growing back is simply that shaving gives hair a blunt tip, which feels coarser and can initially look thicker or darker. If hair is sprouting exponentially every time you shave, you might just be a werewolf.
On the topic of regrowth, your fingernails don’t all grow at the same rate either. If you’ve ever noticed that a couple of nails seem longer than others despite cutting them all at the same time, you’ll probably know this already. Each nail grows at its own pace, and nails on longer fingers like the index or middle grow far quicker than those on your thumbs.
For the very same reason, toenails grow about 3 times slower than fingernails, so you can slack off a little longer before you start looking like The Gruffalo. Scientists actually think blood flow is what stimulates nail growth, so you might also notice that the nails on your dominant hand need trimming more often.
Dropping A Penny From A Skyscraper
Picture this: you’ve just climbed to the top of the Empire State building. As you watch the people below scurrying around like tiny ants, you take out your wallet and wonder; if I dropped a penny right now, would it kill someone?
Sorry to burst your psychopathic bubble, but no, it wouldn’t. Despite what people say, a penny is too small and flat and cushioned by air to become a lethal weapon, even when dropped from the top of the Empire State.
As the penny falls it collides with air molecules causing something called ‘drag force’ which counteracts the force of gravity and slows down its acceleration. When the two forces balance out, the penny reaches what’s known as ‘terminal velocity’ and will basically flutter to the ground like a leaf.
Being struck would feel like a mere flick on the forehead. Just ask psychiatrist Louis Bloomfield; in 2012 he allowed himself to be struck by pennies dispensed from floating helium balloons to replicate the effect of a penny falling from a skyscraper and said it didn’t hurt at all.
Swallowing Spiders In Our Sleep
There’s nothing quite as terrifying as the well-known “fact” that the average person consumes 8 spiders in their sleep each year. Not only is this statement false, but it’s also built on a total web of lies.
Firstly, logical reasoning shows that spiders are in no habit of confidently wandering into human mouths. Most people don’t even sleep with their mouths open, and if they did a wet and windy cave is hardly the first place a spider wants to be. We also sleep so restlessly that any small movement would be like an earthquake for a tiny arachnid.
So, where did the myth originate from? Most sources refer to an article published in 1993 by journalist Lisa Birgit Holst, who cited the “fact” in a list of urban legends. People started misquoting the article as truth, despite Holst clearly stating it was a myth, and the rest is history.
But, that’s not all. No amount of digging will turn up this article, nor the journalist who wrote it. In fact, the name ‘Lisa Birgit Holst’ is a perfect anagram for the phrase “This is a Big Troll”.
Bulls And The Red Color
Here’s a familiar image: a matador waves his red cape and before you know it, steam is coming from an angry bull's ears and it’s ready to charge. Why the hate, though? Do all bulls have a vendetta against the color red?
Quite the opposite, actually. They can’t even see it, because they don’t possess the necessary red ‘cone’ in their retina like us humans do. The reason for their aggravation is simply the fact that someone is repeatedly waving a piece of fabric in their face, which frankly would be enough to irritate anyone.
Still, one question remains: why red? Traditionally, the cape would be used to hide the matador's sword, which he would use to pierce the bull as it charges past. Red was selected because it was the best color to mask the ensuing bloodstains; and to save on dry cleaning, presumably.
The March Of Progress
Isn’t it amazing how chimpanzees gradually straightened up and progressed through various hominid forms before arriving at the modern human we know today? It would be, if that’s how the evolution happened.
I know what you’re thinking: “but Darwin said that’s what went down”. While it’s true that Darwin explained our close relation to primates in his ground-breaking book ‘The Origin of the Species’ in 1859, he never actually claimed that we descended directly from the treetop-dwelling creatures.
Darwin may not have proposed such a linear progression, but he did emphasize that humans and primates both evolved from a common ape-like ancestor that lived millions of years ago, before it diverged into two separate species.
Of course, tacky bumper stickers, T-shirts and memes just wouldn’t be the same without the over-simplified monkey-to-man progression we’re so used to seeing.
Peeing On A Jellyfish Sting
If you’ve been stung by a jellyfish on vacation, everyone knows that there’s only one thing to do: unzip your pants and pee on the sucker.
Unfortunately, research from 2017 shows that this drastic action will do nothing besides attracting some unwanted attention on the beach. In fact, it could make things worse. Jellyfish tentacles have millions of tiny lances embedded inside something called ‘nematocysts’ which launch stingers into your skin and let loose a stream of venom.
Contrary to popular belief, urine is too diluted to have any effect on removing tentacles properly, and trying to scrape them off afterwards will only cause them to become embedded further.
There’s only one saving grace in all this doom-and-gloom: vinegar. The highly-concentrated stuff is the only real thing proven to deactivate the jelly’s nematocysts so you can safely remove the tentacles; if you remembered to pack some in your beach bag, that is.
Who Built the Pyramids?
If you try to cast your mind back to the construction of the great pyramids of Giza in around 2530 BC, you’ll probably conjure images of slaves working tirelessly in the hot sun and carrying more weight in stone than their backs can bear.
According to Egyptologists, though, this scenario has been wrongly popularized by Hollywood movies and isn’t at all historically accurate.
In 1990, a tourist happened across the well-preserved tombs of those who labored on the monumental construction project. Archeological analysis revealed that around 10,000 poor builders from the north and south of Egypt banded together out of basic loyalty to their Pharaohs.
Although they were free men the work was still extremely grueling, and it likely took around 30 years to complete 1 pyramid. The fact that those who died during construction were buried in the tombs near the Pharaoh's sacred pyramids also proves that they were well-respected.
False Forbidden Fruit
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’ll tell you that the taboo snack that caused Adam and Eve to be eternally banished from the garden of Eden was anything other than an apple. Nowhere in the Bible is the forbidden fruit officially identified, though, so how did such a humble fruit gain a reputation for bringing death and disease upon the human race?
In short, a good old Latin pun. When the Bible was originally translated from Hebrew into Latin some time in the 4th century AD, the word ‘mali’ – meaning ‘evil’ – was used to describe ‘the Tree of Good and Evil’. This closely resembles the words ‘mala’ or ‘malum’ which can both be translated to mean ‘apple’.
In the original scripture, though, the words aren’t even close. The word for ‘evil’ in Genesis 2:17 is ‘rah’, while the word used for ‘apples’ in Proverbs 25:11 and Song of Solomon 2:3 is ‘tappuwach’. This means that the serpent basically could’ve offered up anything from figs to pomegranates or avocados (what a millennial twist that would be).
Now that your eyes have been opened, I hope you no longer fall for these lies. If you were amazed at these debunked lies, you might want to read this article about the lies you were told by the history books. Thanks for reading!