When things are repeated often enough, it is considered to be the ultimate truth. This is human nature and for most of us, the “truth” is nothing more than some tell-tale stories that have been passed on from one generation to another. As we grow older however, we come to realize that these so called “facts” were just old wives tales or something our grandparents cooked up. From the Great Wall of China to your split ends, here are 10 common facts you consider to be true but are completely false.
1. The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure that is visible from space.
Fact: There’s no way you can see this structure from space. In fact, you can’t even see the Great Wall from low orbit.
The Great Wall has been part of a myth for decades. According to the popular belief, not only is the Great Wall of China visible from space, but there are also other man-made objects that can be seen by astronauts aboard the ISS. While this myth certainly sounds interesting and even though the Great Wall is, admittedly, pretty big (running over 1,500 miles), there’s no way you can see this structure from space. In fact, in low-orbit, it’s next to impossible to see the structure with the naked eye.
The reason why this myth has existed for decades is because of two reasons. One, before the space-age, no one knew enough to understand how things worked or was seen from space. And the second is the Great Wall’s ginormous length. Since it spans more than 1,500 miles, people simply assumed that it was visible from space. Until today, no astronauts have reported seeing human-made objects from space. However, things such as city lights can be clearly seen at night. (source)
2. Camels store water in their humps.
Fact: Some camels have one hump while others have two. Regardless of the quantity, they all serve the same purpose — to store fat.
This is one of the most popular myths that are taught in schools. Despite the popular belief that camels store water in their humps, it’s simply not true. The hump or humps, have one sole purpose, that is to store fat. Camels are creatures who can survive in the arid desert lands for days or even weeks. So, when they are traveling long distances with limited available resources, the fat serves as a substitute for food. According to Animal Planet, a camel can use the fat as an energy source to replace approximately three weeks of food.
Animal planet also reports that it’s the animals red blood cells that allow it to go as long as one week without water. Unlike other animals, camels also have oval-shaped blood cells that enable them to store large portions of water. (source 1, 2)
3. Milk is good for you.
Fact: While no one disputes that milk contains essential nutrients to help little ones grow, studies show that there’s actually no evidence that it does any good for adults.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average person drinks 18 gallons of milk a year. During the 1970’s, the number was more than 30 gallons. While the number has certainly decreased, the United States still consumes more milk than many other countries. The reason why many people consume milk is because they believe that it has many health benefits. While it certainly does contains essential nutrients to help the young ones, there’s no evidence that shows it does any good for adults. In fact, the reason why many adults think that way is because of an enormously successful advertising campaign from big dairy companies and the US Department of Agriculture.
Today, the US Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines recommend three servings of dairy a day, despite the fact that one in four Americans can’t digest milk. Also, humans are the only mammals who consume milk during adulthood. If you are looking to provide your body with the much needed calcium, potassium, and protein, they can be found in foods like broccoli, kale, and black beans. (source 1, 2)
4. Commercial hair products have the ability to repair split ends and damaged hair.
Fact: Commercial hair products do not have such abilities and the only thing they do is act as glue to temporarily join the split ends together.
No matter the color, texture or length of a person’s hair, they are still susceptible to split ends. Leaving them untreated for a long time can generally cause more frustration since it can affect a person’s style or how they look. Split ends can occur naturally by everyday wear and tear, or when the hair is subjected to repeated heat styling or chemical processes. This causes the protective outer layer of your hair, the cuticle, to become damaged and worn, causing the inner core of your hair to become exposed. The inner layer is easily susceptible to splitting and breakage, so, the process is an irreversible one.
Many commercial hair products advertise that they can repair the damage and bring your hair back to its original form. This is in fact a lie since split ends cannot be fixed. The only thing hair products do is act as glue to stick the split ends together. The effect can last for a few days or even weeks but it is only temporary. (source)
5. Bees defy all known laws of aviation since there is no way that their large bodies can be carried by the tiny wings. The bee, of course, flies anyway because they don’t care what humans think is impossible.
Fact: Honeybees fly by basically flapping their wings really, really fast; which is also the most efficient type of flapping to carry heavy loads.
As the myth goes, bees are too big for their wings but despite that, they defy all known laws of aviation to prove us wrong. This myth has existed for decades and it’s explanation is that no matter what humans think is impossible, bees don’t care and fly anyway. The myth even made it to the 2007 animation movie, the Bee Movie. Here are the opening words to the film:
“According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its big little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyways. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.”
While the idea sounds nice, in reality, bees do not disobey any laws of physics. The myth dates back to the 1930’s, when the French entomologist August Magnan noted that a bee’s flight should be impossible, because of the haphazard way their wings flapped around. According to a 2005 study, honeybees flap their wings 230 times per second whereas fruit flies flap their wings 200 times per second. Another study from 2005, by biology professor Michael Dickinson from the University of Washington, also concluded that bees flap their wings back and forth, not up and down.
So the next time someone tells you a bee shouldn’t be able to fly, you should inform them that this is nothing more than a myth perpetuated by popular culture. (source)
6. Albert Einstein failed math in school and was a terrible student.
Fact: Einstein wasn’t a late bloomer. In fact, he was an excellent student in math and everything else for that matter.
The idea that Einstein was a late bloomer might seem ideal or even inspirational for some. While many people use this myth to inspire young ones, in reality, it’s nothing more than a myth. The truth is that Einstein was an excellent student, who was good at everything. The myth stating that he failed in math class probably originated from when he failed the entrance exam to the Zurich Polytechnic. This was before he graduated high school and besides, the exam was given in French, a language young Einstein was not familiar with at the time. Despite this, he passed the mathematics section, but failed the language, botany, and zoology sections.
Another popular myth surrounding Einstein is that he had a learning disability, which mean that he learned to read late in life. According to historians, there is no such record and in fact, Einstein learned to read early in life. (source)
7. It’s never a good idea to wake sleepwalkers.
Fact: Unlike represented in various TV shows and films, waking sleepwalkers does not have any negative effects, except for the fact that they will be confused as to what is happening.
Movies often portray sleepwalking as an unusual behavior and waking someone while they are sleepwalking to have serious consequences. Scientists and doctors however, would disagree on the Hollywood drama since waking a sleepwalker has no such effect. When you wake up a sleepwalker, since they are dreaming, they would be momentarily confused or disoriented. It may take them a minute or two to understand what’s going on, but despite that, there’s no hidden danger. In fact, if you wake up a sleepwalker, you would probably be doing them a favor since you are protecting them from putting themselves in potentially serious situations. (source)
8. Dairy increases the production of mucus.
Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support this myth and is nothing more than make belief.
We have probably heard this thousands of times from our parents or grandparents, that we should avoid dairy products when we are sick. While the myth has existed for decades, scientists have yet to make a correlation between the two. Studies show that there’s no connection between consuming dairy products and the amount of mucus a person’s body creates. According to Business Insider, this is psychosomatic, as people associate drinking milk with a similar-feeling coating of the tongue and throat. (source)
9. Citronella candles will completely protect you from mosquitos.
Fact: Citronella candles cover up or mask the chemicals that humans secrete. However, if a mosquito is within close proximity to detect the sweet scent of humans, they will find you whether there’s citronella candles or not.
Mosquitos use the scents we secrete to find us no matter where we are. Citronella is an ingredient that works by covering up or masking the chemicals produced by humans. According to experts, it doesn’t work as much as we think it does. The candles are only mildly effective, which means that if there’s a mosquito within close proximity to you, they will be able to find you. When burned, the candles might keep mosquitoes away from the area, but if there are a few that are already present next to you, it will be ineffective. According to experts, they are mostly effective when used in enclosed patios and least effective if the wind is blowing strong. (source)
10. Toilet doors/handles are a hotbed for germs.
Fact: The reason why toilet doors/handles are made of brass is because the metal has the ability to clean themselves. In a given amount of time, the metal is able to sterilize itself.
Doorknobs are probably the most touched objects in a public restroom. They are also considered to harbor an incredible amount of sickness causing germs, thanks to the thousands of unclean hands. Yet, you don’t often get sick after touching them because doorknobs are normally made of brass. Brass and a couple of other metals have an ability to clean themselves, which means that in a given amount of time, they will sterilize themselves. This is called the Oligodynamic effect. It has been tested and found that brass is able to sterilize itself in the span of eight hours. (source)