Whether it’s a misunderstanding or something that’s been repeated so many times it’s become accepted as fact, many of the things we hold true are simply not correct.
From school-yard legends to wartime propaganda, here are six of the most popular ‘facts’ that have no basis in reality.
We only use 10% of our brains
This is a popular ‘fact’ among psychics used to explain their special ‘powers’, but it’s also turned up in adverts and even a recent film starring Scarlett Johansson. The truth is, while we might only use small parts of our grey matter for certain functions, imaging techniques have proven that over the course of a day the whole of the brain is used.
Coca-Cola invented the modern image of Santa
This one pops up regularly around Christmas time due to Old Saint Nick appearing in adverts for the soft drink company while wearing the corporate colours of red and white. While it might be tempting to use this ‘fact’ as more proof of the commercialisation of Christmas, the rotund, bearded red and white Santa was a common figure long before he appeared in his first Coca-Cola advert in 1931.
Carrots help you see in the dark
A classic piece of parental wisdom still to this day, which unfortunately has no basis in science. This one started as a bit of World War II propaganda invented to explain the RAF’s increased success against German bombers, which was, in reality, down to a new radar system. To keep the new technology secret from the enemy, British Intelligence came up with a story claiming that RAF pilots had been eating vast numbers of carrots, which had improved their eyesight to help them see German bombers in the dark.
The tongue taste map
Generations of school-children have been taught that different areas of the tongue are responsible for different tastes - sweet, salty etc. Some of you reading this might even have taken part in classroom experiments to prove this ‘fact’, but the truth is all taste sensations come from all areas of the tongue. The falsehood started with a mistranslated German paper which was written in 1901, which has since been proven wrong.
The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the Moon
This popular misconception was started long before humans even made it to the moon, and once we got there it was quickly disproven. According to Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, the only things on Earth visible from the Moon are clouds, oceans, deserts and vegetation. While the Great Wall is visible from low Earth orbit (an altitude of between 99 and 1,200 miles), so are many other man-made objects including airport runways, bridges and dams.
Chewing gum takes seven years to digest
Most people have heard this school-yard classic, but the reality is chewing-gum is no more dangerous to swallow than any other type of food. While it may contain ingredients that are hard for the stomach to digest, they move through the human body without any problem unless eaten in vast quantities. And it goes without saying, chewing gum doesn’t wrap round your heart, either.