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 Post subject: Scientific Myths
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 1:11 am 
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PITA Old Fart

Joined: Thu May 22, 2003 8:33 am
Posts: 2286
It takes seven years to digest gum:

While it may prove a bit more difficult to break down than organic foodstuffs, chewing gum gets no special treatment from the digestive system. Doctors figure this old wives' tale was invented to prevent kids from swallowing the rubbery substance.


Water drains backwards in the Southern Hemisphere due to the Earth's rotation:


Not only is the Earth's rotation too weak to affect the direction of water flowing in a drain, tests you can easily perform in a few washrooms will show that water whirlpools both ways depending on the sink's structure, not the hemisphere.


The Great Wall of China is the only manmade structure visible from space:


There are several variations on this folkloric statement, and they're all quantifiably false. Astronauts can spot the Great Wall from low-Earth orbit, along with plenty of other things like the Giza pyramids and even airport runways. But they can't see the Wall from the Moon.


Seasons are caused by the Earth's proximity to the sun:

The Earth's distance from the sun during its yearly elliptical orbit actually has little effect on temperature. It's the angle of the Earth's tilt—toward the sun in the summer for the Northern Hemisphere and away in the winter—that dictates climate.


Animals can predict natural disasters:

There is no evidence that animals possess a mysterious sixth-sense allowing them to predict natural disasters. Their keen senses of smell, hearing, and sharp instincts alone are enough to send them scattering for the hillsides during a hurricane or tsunami. And even so, animals often die during natural disasters, so if they do have some sort of sixth sense, it's not worth much.


Hair and fingernails continue growing after death:


Though hair and fingernails appear to keep growing after death, this is merely a morbid optical illusion at work. In death the human body dehydrates severely, retracting enough skin to expose more nail and hair.


Lightning never strikes the same place twice:

In fact lightning favors certain spots, particularly high locations. The Empire State Building is struck about 25 times every year. Ben Franklin grasped the concept long ago and mounted a metal rod atop the roof of his home, then ran a wire to the ground, thereby inventing the lightning rod.


There is no gravity in space:

Blame the term "zero-gravity" for this common misconception. Gravity is everywhere, even in space. Astronauts look weightless because they are in continuous freefall towards the Earth, staying aloft because of their horizontal motion. The effect of gravity diminishes with distance, but it never truly goes away. Oh, and while we're at it, it's also untrue that space is a vacuum. There are all kinds of atoms out there, albeit sometimes far apart (and this thin gas adds to the collective gravity budget, too!)


A penny dropped from the top of a tall building could kill a pedestrian:

A penny isn't the most aerodynamic of weapons. A combination of its shape and wind friction means that, tossed even from the 1,250-foot Empire State Building, it would travel fast enough merely to sting an unlucky pedestrian.


Humans use only 10 percent of their brains:

This media darling has been around for at least a century. Fortunately, it's just not true. MRI imaging clearly demonstrates—with fancy colors no less—that humans put most of their cerebral cortex to good use, even while dozing.


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