65 things we believe but which are not true

  1. The common cold is not caused by being cold or wet. It is caused by a virus of the rhinovirus family. Being cold or wet may weaken your immune system, making it easier to succumb to the virus.[citation needed]
  2. Different tastes can be detected on all parts of the tongue,[35] with slightly increased sensitivities in different locations depending on the person, contrary to the popular belief that specific tastes only correspond to specific mapped sites on the tongue.[36] The original "tongue map" was based on a mistranslation by a Harvard psychologist of a discredited German paper[37] that was written in 1901.
  3. People do not use only ten percent of their brains. This myth is thought by some to have emerged after the discovery of glial cells in the brain, or it could have been the result of some other misunderstood or misinterpreted legitimate scientific findings, or even been the result of speculation by self-help gurus.[38]
  4. Shaving does not cause hair to grow back thicker or coarser or darker. This belief is due to the fact that hair that has never been cut has a tapered end, whereas, after cutting, there is no taper. Thus, it appears thicker, and feels coarser due to the sharper, unworn edges.[40] Hair can also appear darker after it grows back because hair that has never been cut is often lighter due to sun exposure.
  5. Hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after a person dies. Rather, the skin dries and shrinks away from the bases of hairs and nails, giving the appearance of growth.[41]
  6. There is no cure for split ends or damaged hair. Shampoos and conditioners that advertise themselves as being able to reverse damage or reduce split ends are incorrect. Scientifically, the only way to cure split ends is by a simple haircut. Once the cuticle of the hair shaft is split, it can often still grow split, but can never be mended. Haircare products can be used to soften the texture by using fillers that attach to the hair shaft, making the hair appear healthier.[citation needed]
  7. In spite of reports of successful non-surgical techniques for penis enlargement, there is no known scientific study that has demonstrated the efficacy of such techniques, other than surgery.
  8. The indigenous people of North America can grow facial hair, contrary to the misconception that they cannot.
  9. Some bats use echolocation to navigate while flying in darkness. Bats are not blind, however. Their eyes are small and poorly developed, but they are still capable of sight, particularly long-range, and in fact can be severely disoriented by excessive light.
  10. Christopher Columbus‘s efforts to obtain support for his voyages were not hampered by a European belief in a flat Earth.[3] In fact, sailors and navigators of the time knew that the Earth was spherical, but (correctly) disagreed with Columbus’ estimates of the distance to India (see Flat Earth). If the Americas did not exist, and Columbus had continued to India (even putting aside the threat of mutiny he was under) he would have run out of supplies before reaching them at the rate he was traveling. The intellectual class had known that the earth was spherical since Ancient Greece.[4]
  11. Napoleon Bonaparte (pictured) was not especially short. After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in modern international feet, or 1.686 metres,[8] making him slightly taller than an average Frenchman of the 19th century.[9]
  12. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini did not make the trains run on time. Much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the Fascists came to power in 1922. Accounts from the era also suggest that the Italian railways’ legendary adherence to timetables was more myth than reality.[11]
  13. Al Gore never said he invented the Internet, though he did state that "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet"(emphasis added).[18] However, Gore was the original drafter of the High Performance Computing Act of 1991, which provided significant funding for supercomputing centers, and this in turn led to upgrades of the Internet’s precursor, the NSFNet and development of NCSA Mosaic, later renamed to Netscape Navigator
  14. Unopened mussels are not bad for your health.[23]
  15. When cooking with alcoholic beverages, the alcohol does not completely evaporate (or ‘burn off’ in common terminology); the amount remaining depends upon the cooking method used.[24]
  16. While in a low orbit (an altitude of about 185 km), a viewer of good eyesight can see portions of the Great Wall of China (pictured here in a satellite image) from space. It isn’t, however, unique in that regard. From such a height, a multitude of land features and man-made objects are visible, including: highways, ships at sea, dams, railroads, cities, fields of crops, airports, and even some individual buildings. As to the claim that it is the only man-made object visible from the Moon, this is completely false. None of the Apollo astronauts reported seeing any man-made object from the Moon, and certainly not the Great Wall.
  17. When a meteor lands on Earth (after which it is termed a meteorite), it is not usually hot. In fact, many are found with frost on them.
  18. The human body can briefly survive the hard vacuum of space unprotected, despite contrary depictions in much popular science fiction.
  19. The notion that goldfish have a memory of only three seconds is completely false. They have been trained to navigate mazes and can recognize their owners after an exposure of a few months.[46][47]
  20. Lemmings do not engage in suicidal dives off cliffs when migrating. They will, however, occasionally, and unintentionally fall off cliffs when venturing into unknown territory, with no knowledge of the boundaries of the environment. The misconception is due largely to the Disney film White Wilderness, which shot many of the migration scenes (also staged by using multiple shots of different groups of lemmings) on a large, snow-covered turntable in a studio. Photographers later pushed the lemmings off a cliff.[48]
  21. An earthworm does not become two worms when cut in half. An earthworm can survive being bisected, but only the front half of the worm (where the mouth is located) can survive, while the other half dries out or starves to death.
  22. According to urban myth, the Daddy Long-Legs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides) is the most venomous spider in the world, but it is harmless to humans because its fangs cannot penetrate human skin. This is false as Pholcus phalangioides can pierce human skin, however, the toxicity of this spider’s venom has just a weak effect on insects, let alone humans.[51] It is likely this myth arose because some pholcidae actually prey upon and eat other spiders, including the black widow spider.
  23. It is sometimes claimed that half, or more than half, of all humans who were ever born are alive today. The claim itself is poorly defined, as there is no definite starting point for the human species. However, even adopting conservative values regarding the origins of humanity, a significantly lower proportion of the human population is currently alive.[53] See also World population: Number of humans who have ever lived.
  24. Chameleons do not change color to match their surroundings. They are naturally camouflaged and, although they can change their skin color into a variety of different colors, these changes are caused by temperature or interaction with predators or other Chameleons.
  25. It is not true that air takes the same time to travel above and below an aircraft’s wing.[58] This misconception, illustrated at right, is widespread among textbooks and non-technical reference books, and even appears in pilot training materials, and is based on the Bernoulli effect. If this were truly the case, there would be no lift generated by the wings and the plane wouldn’t fly.
  26. Airplanes flying long distances between two places usually take less time flying west-to-east than east-to-west, not because of the earth’s rotation directly, but because airplanes at higher altitudes tend to benefit from natural air currents called jet streams.
  27. Some textbooks state that electricity within wires flows at nearly (or even exactly) the speed of light, which can give the impression that electrons themselves move almost instantly through a circuit. The electrons in a typical wire actually move on the order of centimeters per hour (much slower than a snail).
  28. The blue color of lakes and oceans is not only a reflection of the blue sky. Water looks blue because water is blue;
  29. When floating ice melts, it does not raise the water level (Archimedes’ principle). However ice such as glaciers rests on rock, and is held above water: releasing it, or melting raises the level of the water that it is dropped in. The predicted threat of rising sea levels due to global warming is mainly due to the detachment or melting of inland ice, such as that on Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in Antarctica, the melting of glaciers, and the thermal expansion of seawater. Melting of sea ice in the Arctic makes a tiny contribution, by lowering the global average salinity (and therefore the density) of seawater.
  30. It is not true that a nozzle (or a person’s thumb) on the end of a garden hose makes the water squirt farther because the same amount of water gets forced through a smaller opening.
  31. It is not true that a mirror reverses left and right. It actually inverts front and back.
  32. Biological evolution does not address the origin of life; for that, see abiogenesis. The two are commonly and mistakenly conflated. Evolution describes the changes in gene frequencies that occur in populations of living organisms over time, and thus, presupposes that life already exists. Evolution likewise says nothing about cosmology, the Big Bang, or the origins of the universe, galaxy, solar system, or Earth, although the term ‘evolution’ in the sense of a slow unfolding is used to describe such processes, e.g. Stellar Evolution, Cosmic Evolution.
  33. The word "theory" in "the theory of evolution" does not imply doubt in mainstream science regarding its validity; the words "theory" and "hypothesis" are not the same in a scientific context (see Evolution as theory and fact). While "theory" in conventional usage tends to denote a "hunch" or conjecture, a scientific theory is a set of principles which, via logical induction, explains the observations in nature. The same inductive inferences can be made to predict observations before they are made. Evolution is a theory in the same sense as the theory of gravity or the theory of relativity.
  34. Humans did not evolve from monkeys or from any current non-human apes.[64] Rather, humans and other modern simianschimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, baboons, etc.—all share a common early ancestor. It is believed that humans are more closely related to modern fellow apes than to monkeys, and humans and other apes share a later common ancestor that lived around 7 million years ago in the late Miocene epoch.[65][66] However, fossil discoveries of "recently" (as in, only millions of years ago) extinct species are, in the experience of paleontologists, rarely direct ancestors of living species (cf. missing link).
  35. The process of biological evolution is not necessarily slow. Millions of years are not necessarily required to see speciation (a change in characteristics of a kind of organism, typically rendering offspring infertile with the previous species). Indeed, it has been observed multiple times under both controlled laboratory conditions and in nature.[67]
  36. Organisms cannot pass on acquired traits to their offspring; a bodybuilder’s children are not born with bigger muscles (but see epigenetics).
  37. The claim that evolution makes no meaningful predictions is not true—for example the discovery of the relationship between chromosome 2 and chimpanzee chromosomes at the end of the completion of the human and chimp genome projects was predicted, and makes meaningful sense as evidence of a common ancestor.
  38. The characterization of evolution as the "survival of the fittest" (in the sense of "only the fittest organisms will prevail", a view common in social Darwinism) is not consistent with the actual theory of evolution. Any organism which is capable of reproducing itself before dying is considered "fit". If the organism is able to do so on an ongoing basis, it will survive as a species. A more accurate characterization of evolution would be "survival of the fit enough".[73][74]
  39. The Sahara is the world’s largest hot desert, but it is not the world’s largest desert (arid land). Antarctica has almost no liquid precipitation (rain) and is thus a desert
  40. Claims that the number and intensity of earthquakes are increasing are unfounded.[77][78][79] The number and intensity of earthquakes vary from year to year but there is no increasing trend.[80][81]
  41. The Inuit do not have a large number of words for snow. One Eskimo-Aleut language studied had four unrelated root words, but because it is a polysynthetic language, in which sentences are formed by compounding words, one can use these roots to create an infinite number of "words" about snow.[citation needed] By comparison, English has many unrelated root words for snow as well: snow, sleet, powder, flurry, drift, avalanche and blizzard.
  42. Albert Einstein did not believe in God in a "personal" sense and discounted the existence of a creator. Einstein was, in fact, a rationalistic pantheist and follower of Baruch Spinoza. Many people misinterpreted his words in public, to which Einstein himself responded by saying: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."[82]
  43. In the book of Genesis, the serpent in the Garden of Eden is not explicitly identified as being Satan. This is teaching made by later Christians. Additionally, Satan is never explicitly given the name Lucifer ("light bearer") in the Bible. That name comes from the Vulgate (Latin translation) of a prophecy in Isaiah 14:12, which some Christians interpret as referring to the fall of Satan from heaven.
  44. The term Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus‘s conception by the Virgin Mary (see Virgin Birth of Jesus), but rather to the Roman Catholic teaching that Mary herself was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. (See also Blessed Virgin Mary.)
  45. Nowhere in the Bible is Mary Magdalene ever referred to as a prostitute. Before her seeing the risen Jesus, the only other mention besides the listing of her name is the mentioning in Luke 8:2[85] that she had been possessed by seven demons. In fact there are several sinful women mentioned in the gospels, one of whom is "caught in adultery." Pope Gregory conflated this woman with Mary Magdalene in one of his sermons and thus propagated this mistaken[citation needed] idea. This misconception may be caused by the fact that Magdala, where Mary Magdalene hailed from, was infamous for prostitution.
  46. Nowhere in the Bible does it say exactly three wise men came from afar on camels to visit "Baby Jesus"[86] It was assumed that there were three of them because three gifts are described. The Greek word "magos" could mean wise men or sorcerers, but not kings.
  47. Hinduism is considered a family of religions and as such has no concept of God universal to all astika sects. Hinduism is thus not strictly polytheistic across all sampradyas (traditions), but can be pantheistic or panentheistic, or be distinctly henotheistic or monotheistic.
  48. The Qur’an does not actually promise that martyrs are awarded 72 virgins in heaven. The misconception most likely stems from a Hadith that’s been attributed to Muhammad via an unreliable[90] chain of narrators, stating:

    "It was mentioned by Daraj Ibn Abi Hatim, that Abu al-Haytham ‘Adullah Ibn Wahb narrated from Abu Sa’id al-Khudhri, who heard the Prophet Muhammad saying, ‘The smallest reward for the people of Heaven is an abode where there are eighty thousand servants and seventy-two houri, over which stands a dome decorated with pearls, aquamarine and ruby, as wide as the distance from al-Jabiyyah to San’a."[91]

  49. The Niqāb veil (and by extension, Burqa) is not considered by most[92] Islamic scholars to be obligatory, but rather a voluntary show of piety, and is never mentioned specifically in the Qu’ran. The Qu’ran instructs to women to "…not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to…"[93]
  50. Allah does not refer to a Muslim, as opposed to a Christian, God. It is simply Arabic for "God". Arab speaking Christians also refer to God as Allah. Islam, Christianity and Judaism share a belief in "one god", the Abrahamic God.
  51. Jihad is not an "Islamic war on the western world" but rather a verb meaning to struggle or to strive. One can have an internal jihad, family jihad, or religious jihad, which may or may not include violence towards non Muslims.[94] A comparison may be made with the term "crusade", which is sometimes considered by Muslims to mean Western violence against Islam, when it is more often used as a metaphorical struggle; for example, "a crusade against drugs".[95] However, Jihad can refer to a holy war, in the sense that it is ordained by God and is the only kind of warfare not considered a sin in Islam. The aim of Jihad is not to convert non-Muslims to Islam but rather to defend the Islamic state.
  52. A fatwā is a religious opinion on Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar, not a death sentence. The popular misconception likely stems from the death sentence pronounced as a fatwā on the author Salman Rushdie in 1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran.
  53. Paganism is an umbrella term like ChristianityLutherans, Catholics, and Protestants are all Christians just like Wiccans, Druids, and Shamans are all Pagans.[96]
  54. Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet,[99] Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb,[100] and Henry Ford did not invent the automobile or the internal combustion engine.[101] In all three cases, their contributions were in the area of improving and popularizing the devices in question.Neither did Guglielmo Marconi invent the radio, a patent was filed before him by Nikola Tesla, a claim that was ratified by the US Supreme Court in 1943 in Tesla’s favor.[103]
  55. ENIAC was not the first digital computer; rather, it was the first general-purpose all-electronic computer. The Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) was the first digital electronic and general-purpose computer (link to court paper to be added). The partly-electromechanical Z3 was also among the earliest digital and general-purpose computers. The Colossus computer was invented about the same time with Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) but was not general-purpose, being designed for only particular applications.
  56. The .tv domain is not the domain code for television or broadcast. .tv is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the island nation of Tuvalu. Tuvalu created a licensing agreement with a large tech company to on-sell the domain code to consumers.
  57. Pong was not the first video game. In fact, Tennis for Two, created in 1958, was one of the first electronic games to use a graphical display.[104] The first commercially sold coin-operated video game, Computer Space, was created in 1971 by the future founders of Atari. Fearing that Computer Space had not been popular because of its complexity, Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn created Pong in 1972 after Bushnell had seen a similar game at a trade show.[105]
  58. Charles Lindbergh was not the first man to fly the Atlantic Ocean, although he was the first to have flown across it solo.
  59. The first heavier-than-air craft was not flown by the Wright brothers.
  60. The United States Interstate Highway System was not designed with airplane landings in mind. A common urban legend states that one out of every five (or ten) miles of highway must be straight and flat to allow emergency (or military) airplane landings, but this is not the case.[108][109]
  61. The German Autobahn wasn’t designed by Adolf Hitler or the Third Reich cabinet. It came into design 20 years before Hitler’s reign, and was first implemented a year before he came to power.[111]
  62. Toilet waste is not dumped overboard in aircraft. All waste is collected in tanks which are emptied on the ground by special toilet waste vehicles. A vacuum is used to allow the toilet to be flushed with less water and because plumbing cannot rely on gravity alone in an aircraft in motion.[112]
  63. The colored belt ranking system in martial arts is not based on an ancient practice of students starting with a white belt and gaining a black belt or brown belt through accumulated dirt, sweat, and blood on an unwashed belt. This practice would actually contradict Asian (especially Japanese) culture’s strict preoccupation regarding cleanliness. The colored belt ranking system is a relatively modern conception that started in the early 20th century.
  64. There is no reliable scientific evidence that installing security lighting in outdoor areas actually deters crime; it may actually make crime easier to conceal. For instance, a burglar who is forced to use a flashlight is more easily spotted than one who can see by existing light.[113]

And…. MUCH more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_misconceptions

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