Since the invention of the first wheel, mankind has come a long way. Today, our inventions are scouring galaxies light years away, and cancer related fatalities have decreased by 25%. We didn’t achieve all of this overnight, though. It took brilliant men and women years, and in some cases, decades, to accomplish such feats. As we made progress throughout history, our ancestors used to believe in a lot of things; which sadly weren’t true. It’s no surprise that myths can easily be perpetuated, since one man’s curiosity and beliefs can easily spread like wildfire.
For instance, in medieval Britain, it was thought that teeny tiny evil demons hid between the leaves of sprouts and cabbages. Of course, this belief could have been perpetuated by some youngster who hated vegetables. Here, we have collected some of the wildest things us humans used to believe.
1. When trains were introduced in the US, many people believed that “women’s bodies were not designed to go 50 miles an hour”, and that their “uteruses would fly out of [their] bodies if they were accelerated to that speed”.
It’s not unusual for people to panic when new technology is introduced. Humans are creatures of habit and when something new alters their routine, it can sometimes cause moral panic. Today, our biggest fear in life is Artificial Intelligence having a mind of their own or our phones being hacked. When the early steam-spewing locomotives were introduced, it was believed that “women’s bodies were not designed to go 50 miles an hour,” and many were worried that “[female passengers’] uteruses would fly out of [their] bodies as they were accelerated to that speed”.
Meanwhile, there were others who believed that no human body was designed to go at those speeds. According to WSJ, this type of “moral panic” is experienced by society when particularly revelatory technological advances show up—specifically, ones which interfere with or alter our relationships with time, space, and each other. (source)
2. Sugar makes children hyperactive.
Almost all of us have believed that sugar plays an important role when it comes to hyperactivity in youngsters, however, there’s no evidence that shows the correlation between sugar and hyperactivity. The so-called “sugar buzz” is non-existent and children being hyperactive during birthday parties or other occasions could simply be excitement over getting a treat or being around other kids.
It is also possible that caffeine plays a role in the foods they consume. Though moderate consumption is good for your health, (especially among kids) too much consumption is associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, hypertension, and even an increased risk for certain cancers. (source)
3. Dropping a penny from a tall building can cause serious damage.
For decades, people have believed that dropping a penny from the top of a building, especially the Empire State Building, can cause serious damage to those on the ground. In 2015, the Mythbusters put this to the test and found it to be false. To test the theory, the Mythbusters created equipment that was capable of firing a penny at 64.4 miles per hour — the same speed at which a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building would hit the ground.
The machine was then used to eject the penny at 64.4 miles per hour, towards a ballistics dummy. Their test found that it only caused a little damage, that would probably sting someone, but was not enough to cause serious harm. A penny just can’t gather enough velocity from the top of the Empire State Building to do any real harm. (source)
4. That tiny demons lived in the leaves of leafy vegetables like lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
In medieval Britain, it was thought that teeny tiny evil demons hid between the leaves of sprouts and cabbages. Those who consumed them believed that they also swallowed a spirit, and would become ill, or at least give them stomach ache. In order to rid the veggies of any “spirits”, tiny crosses were cut into them before they were cooked. Interestingly, some people still follow this unusual belief, with no valid reason. Today, many online recipes falsely claim that cutting a cross on Brussels sprouts will make them cook evenly. This is in fact a myth, too, which originated during the medieval times. (source)
5. That redheads would turn into vampires.
Only about 1-2% of the world’s population is redheaded. Although there are many truths about redheaded people, such as they require more anesthesia, there are also some that are myths. According to Greek Mythology, redheads turn into vampires after death. We can laugh at that, but redheads do tend to avoid the sunlight as much as vampires do, so perhaps there’s some truth in it. (source)
6. That brown cows produced chocolate milk.
Surprisingly, for decades, many men, women and children have believed that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Even today, 7% of Americans believe the same; according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy. The Washington Post reports that the amount of people who strongly believe this myth comes to a staggering 16.4 million; which is the equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania.
Observers in agriculture, nutrition and education explain that this is because many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate; which basically means they have no idea of how food is grown, how it gets to stores — or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it. Another study during the 1990’s, commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. (source)
7. That California was an island.
Spanning 163,694.7 sq. miles, California is the third largest state in the United States. It’s hard to imagine the US without California, but more than five hundred years ago, nobody even thought that California was part of North America. When European settlers first started exploring, California was very hard to find, since prevailing winds often pushed explorers’ ships off shore. However, by the end of the 1530’s, Spanish navigators had discovered the mouth of the Colorado River at the northern end of the Gulf of California.
Just thirty years before America was born, California was still an island. Most mapmakers continued to draw California as an island for over two hundred years, since sailors claimed that they had sailed around it. The representation of California as an island was present on a few Asian maps even into the 1860’s. (source)
8. That our eyes shoot out beams of invisible light.
Long before mankind had any understanding of how our eyes worked, many philosophers came up with theories to explain the science behind it. One of the earliest ideas by ancient Greek philosopher Plato, was that our eyes emitted invisible beams of light, that deflected surrounding objects and passed information back to our eyes. When Plato first described his theory, he faced backlash over his claims, and other philosophers disputed his theory for centuries. More than 2,000 years later, it was disproved, as people got a better understanding of how the eyes worked. (source)
9. That people only use 10% of their brains.
For decades, it was believed that the average human being only uses around 10% of the brain. Although there’s a great deal we don’t know about the brain, one thing we are sure of is the fact that we use our entire brain. The brain only weighs a couple of pounds but is also the most energetically demanding and complex organ in the human body. It requires about 20% of all of the oxygen and glucose brought into the body.
Additionally, there’s no evidence that someone was ever diagnosed with a brain tumor but was told: “Great news! The tumor is in a part of the brain that you don’t use!”. While we might not be using every bit of the brain at the same time, we do use the entire brain over the course of the day. (source)
10. That hair and fingernails continue growing after death.
Hair and fingernails require nutrients and cellular process to grow. If a person is not eating and their digestive system is not producing nutrients, then there’s no production of keratin in order to make hair and fingernails. Once the heart stops pumping oxygen around the body in the blood, the energy supply dries up, and so does the cell division that drives hair growth. (source)