Monday, June 11, 2012

Top 10 Widely Believed Myths

10. Pigeons blow up if you feed them uncooked rice

Wedding guests are often told to refrain from throwing uncooked rice because of the explosive consequences that it can have on birds, especially pigeons. Ann Landers and The Simpsons both warned us about it, so it must be true.

  If rice hurts their insides, then birds are pretty dumb. Did you know that birds eat rice grains during the cold months to maintain a healthy body mass? No bird explosions due to rice have ever been documented. The fact is that birds don't drink enough water to cause any significant stomach swelling due to rice. The no-rice wedding rule really exists to keep guests from taking a tumble.

9. Napoleon was short

Napoleon’s nickname may have been "Le Petit Caporal," drawings may depict him standing among much taller soldiers and he may have had an inferiority condition named after him (the Napoleon complex), but the truth is Napoleon Bonaparte wasn't short. Napoleon's height was measured in French feet, which listed him as being 5 foot 2 inches. That's short, but using the Imperial system, Napoleon stood at 5 foot 6 inches, an average height for men in his country. What about the nickname? Napoleon was given the "Petit" tag because of his friendly and respectful nature toward his soldiers; and since most of them were above 6-feet tall, that's why he seemed small by comparison.

8. If you shave your hair, it returns thicker and faster

Despite studies from the 1920s showing the opposite, many men believe that shaving, waxing and cutting hair can accelerate its growth and that the hair will return  thicker and darker. In reality, it's one big special effect.

For one thing, the hair that we touch, see and style isn't alive. Living hair lies under the skin and scalp, so cutting it won't change the texture or speed that it grows. The fact is you're merely seeing your hair at a different stage. Cutting your hair doesn't change the color either: Since the sun naturally lightens hair, new growth looks darker, but it all evens out in the end.

7.The Salem witches were burned

In February of 1692, an investigation was launched into alleged witchcraft among citizens in colonial Massachusetts. Over the next year, some 150 people were arrested and 20 of those convicted were executed. Contrary to popular belief, however, the accused “witches” were not burned. 

While some European laws encouraged burning after death as a way to "cleanse" witchcraft, it was forbidden in Massachusetts -- this ruling was because the judicial system was operating under English law. As a result, the "witches" all died through hanging, except for one: Giles Corey, who was crushed to death for refusing to enter a plea.

6. Space has no gravity

Since astronauts appear to be "weightless" in space, there is an assumption that space is a place with zero gravity. While there is less gravity in space, the idea that there is none is factually incorrect.

There isn't just gravity on Earth, on the moon or even on the sun -- it's all around us.  Gravity is responsible for keeping our feet planted on the ground and it's also the way that planets and satellites maintain an orbit. The reason why space allows humans to be weightless is because they are gravitating toward the Earth at the same rate as their ships.

5. Marie Antoinette said, "Let them eat cake"

“S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”
- Marie Antoinette?

Translated to "If they have no bread, let them eat [cake]," this cruel statement is mistakenly linked to Queen Marie Antoinette. As evidence of its true origin, historians point to two other sources instead: One is 18th-century author Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote of an arrogant princess suggesting brioche for the poor if they didn't have bread. The other potential source for the quote is Marie-Therese of Spain, who allegedly uttered the quote.

4. The only visible man-made structure from space is the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of Earth's architectural wonders. Historians like Richard Halliburton boldly proclaimed that it could be seen from the moon. NASA's Lunar launch proved Halliburton wrong, but the belief remains that from a close orbit, the Great Wall is the only man-made structure visible on Earth.

Ironically, the Great Wall isn't very easy to spot from a close orbit of 180 miles -- it's large enough, but its colors don't distinguish it from its natural surroundings. Furthermore, astronaut descriptions and photographs have shown that airports and highways can be seen from orbit as well.

3. The inventor of the lightbulb was Thomas Edison

Calling Thomas Edison the "inventor" of the lightbulb is false. Although instrumental in developing a commercially successful lightbulb, he did not create it. A closer examination takes us to 1809, when Englishman Humphry Davy created an arc lamp. A decade later, Warren De la Rue built the first sealed lightbulb and in 1840, William Robert Grove lit an entire room of lamps. Unfortunately, the products were expensive with questionable durability. Eight scientists and three patents later, Edison expanded on these ideas to create a longer-lasting, cheaper product. The rest is history, but it wasn't Edison's to begin with.

2. Humans only use 10% their brains

In the 1800s, scientists debated the overall function of the brain. Out of these debates, William James later wrote about humans only using a small percentage of their brains and the 10% myth was born.

Although simple tasks require specific brain areas, anything complicated requires far more than 10% of the brain; magnetic imaging has documented this and scientists are basically in agreement about brain functions. Unfortunately, many psychics still use the 10% myth to promote the idea that they are using more brain power than others. Psychics might be intrinsically connected to some topics, but brain science isn't one of them.

1. Men think about sex every seven seconds

The belief persists that a new sexual thought enters the male mind every seven seconds. While this statement is commonly mentioned, where science is concerned, it has no factual basis. 

Many people point to Alfred Kinsey as the origin of this "fact," but even he didn't get that specific. Kinsey concluded in one study that 97% of men thought about sex between a few times a day and a few times per month, with 54% falling into the daily category. While we can debate whether men are more sexually driven than women, the "seven-second" rule is pure fiction.

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