Monday, July 14, 2014

10 Common Science Myths That Most People Believe (Part 1)

There are a number of old wives’ tales out there regarding some basic scientific principles. Though most of them were refuted years ago, these rumors just won’t go away. Here are some of the top myths floating around out there that just aren’t true:

1. We only use 10% of our brains.
It's true that there’s a great deal we don’t know about the brain, but we certainly do know that we use our entire brain. Even if we didn’t have a wealth of data from brain scans to show this 10% figure is completely false (we do), it doesn’t even make sense using basic logic. Though the brain only weighs a couple of pounds, it is incredibly energetically demanding, requiring about 20% of all of the oxygen and glucose brought into the body. It is extremely unlikely that the brain would have evolved as it did if it were mostly useless. 
Additionally, there is no evidence that someone was ever diagnosed with a brain tumor but was told: “Great news! The tumor is in a part that you don’t use!” Trauma to the brain would also rarely have devastating results if it were mostly unused, but very few survive gunshot wounds to the head, and it isn’t without some serious side effects. 
While you might not be using every bit of your brain at all times, but you do use the entire brain over the course of the day. Feeling like someone isn’t living up to his or her full potential is a different matter, but that still doesn’t mean they aren’t using their entire brain each day.

2. There is a dark side of the moon.
Oh, Pink Floyd, how you have led us all astray. 
From our perspective on Earth, we are able to view about 59% of the moon’s surface (though not all at the same time). The remaining 41% is completely hidden from this vantage point. That 41% must be shrouded in freezing darkness, never to feel the Sun’s warmth, right? No.
This confusion is due to tidal locking, which makes it seem as if the moon isn’t rotating. The moon actually is spinning quite slowly, completing a rotation in about the amount of time it takes it to make a revolution around Earth. While one side (more or less) is forever shielded from Earth, that has nothing to do with the amount of sunlight it receives. After all, we do have different phases of the moon
Except in the case of a lunar eclipse, sunlight falls on half of the moon (exactly how half of Earth receives daylight at once) all of the time. While the Sun fully illuminates the side of the moon we can see, we appropriately call it the full moon. When parts or all of the moon appear to be missing, some or all of the sunlight is falling on the side of the moon we can’t see. While there is most definitely a region we could refer to as “the far side of the moon” it is no more or less dark than the side we can see.

3. The full moon affects behavior.
It has been a longstanding myth, particularly among individuals working with the elderly or those with mental disabilities, that the full moon draws out strange behavior in people. This myth has a wide variety of supposed causes, including that the water in the brain is affected by tidal forces of the moon. Many people claim that violent crime increases during this time, and even police stations in the UK once increased staffing for a full moon to prepare for the influx of crime and accidents.
The topic has been studied many times over, and there is very limited correlation between the full moon and increased erratic behavior and certainly no causation discovered. While a few studies have indeed shown a spike in crime and the full moon, it was typically explained by falling on a holiday or weekend. Once that was taken into account, the connection crumbled. There is nothing to fear about erratic behavior and the full moon, unless, of course, you are a werewolf.

4. Sugar makes children hyperactive.
Attending any child’s birthday party where cake, ice cream, and sugary drinks about would make just about anyone a believer that sugar influences hyperactivity. There has not been much evidence to suggest that the so-called “sugar buzz” is actually real for children (aside from a small subset with an insulin disorder coupled with certain psychiatric disorders). The ramped-up energy seen following birthday parties or Halloween could be excitement over getting a treat or being around other kids. It is also possible that other ingredients, such as caffeine, are to blame. 
That’s not to say that sugar intake shouldn’t be limited. The average American consumes 156 pounds of sugar every year. As a comparison, Americans 200 years ago consumed about 3-5 pounds per year. Too much sugar is associated with weight gaininsulin resistancehypertension, and even an increased risk for certain cancers.

5. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
“Lightning never strikes the same place twice” is a common idiom used say that something bad happened once, but it can’t happen again. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with actual lightning strikes.
Lightning is a huge electrostatic discharge searching for a way down, and it isn’t particularly interested in whether or not it has been hit before. Taller objects, such as trees and skyscrapers, are usually choice targets because there is a shorter distance between that and the origin of the lightning. The tallest tree in a forest can get struck several times until the storm passes. In fact, lightning strikes the Empire State Building around 100 times per year.
NASA released a study in 2003 involving 386 cloud-to-ground strikes and found that over a third of the strikes branched and hit multiple locations at once. Not only does lightning strike twice, but it can also strike two places at the same time!

article taken from Business Insider (original link)



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