You know how knowledge just sometimes seems to filter into your mind, almost as if through osmosis? Like, one day you go to sleep, and the next day, you think that eating lots of carrots can make your night vision sharper?
Yeah, well. That’s not how learning works.
Myth 1: Eating carrots improves your eyesight.
If this were true, why would people be walking around with glasses on their faces? You could just eat carrots and have super-vision – seems like a pretty good deal to me.
Actually, though, the carrot/vision connection is (largely) a myth, and we happen to know exactly how it started. The carrot fallacy dates back to World War 2, specifically to a (very successful) propaganda campaign waged by the British against the Germans.
During the 1940 Blitzkrieg, the German air force regularly crossed the English channel to bomb London. In response, the city would turn off power to make it harder for enemy pilots to see what they were bombing. But the English had a secret weapon – a new radar technology, called the Airborne Interception Radar, which was installed in the Royal Air Force’s planes and could detect German bombers before they’d even crossed the channel.
To keep their pilot’s methods secret, the English put it out that the reason they could see so well at night was that they’d figured out that eating loads of carrots gives you superhuman night vision. And a myth was born!
That being said, the science is settled that Vitamin A (which carrots contain) is important for your eyes. If you spend several months not eating any Vitamin A, your vision, especially your night vision, does get worse. But eating mega-doses of Vitamin A does not make your vision improve beyond normal.
Myth #2: Incoming American presidents have to swear the oath of office on the Bible.
Just because most of them do doesn’t mean that they have to. In fact, no elected official has to swear their oath of office on a bible – or on anything. They can use a religious text, if they want, but they could also swear on a photo album, or their favorite novel. In fact, John Quincy Adams chose to swear on a book of law, and Teddy Roosevelt was sworn in so fast after President McKinley was killed, that he didn’t even have time to find a bible.
Myth #3: There are no words in English that rhyme with orange or silver.
I mean, there are no easy words that rhyme with orange or silver, but that’s not the myth, now is it? Orange has three rhymes that are technically part of the English language: sporange, a botany term meaning ‘a sac where spores are made’, Gorringe, a rare English surname, and Blorenge, which is the name of a mountain in Wales. Silver actually only has one true rhyme in English, and that is the rare word chilver, which the OED defines as ‘a ewe-lamb’.
Like I said, no easy words.
Myth #4: President Taft was so fat he got stuck in the White House bathtub.
This myth first arose around twenty years after Taft left office, written in a 1934 memoir, 42 Years in the White House, by Ike Hoover, a White House usher.
But because Taft was definitely the largest US president ever (he weighed in at 350 lbs.), a specially crafted tub was installed in the White House just for him – one so big, it was impossible for him to get stuck inside. The tub had to be specially ordered and made – it was at the time the largest porcelain tub ever made for anyone – because there was no commercially available basin that fit him comfortably. It ended up being over 7 feet long, over 3 feet wide, and it weighed an actual ton.
Myth #5: You can sink all the way under in quicksand.
Given how often movies of the 80s and 90s featured quicksand, it certainly seemed like it would be more of a hazard than it is.
Because it’s really not all that dangerous, if you know how to deal with it (plus, its pretty uncommon). Quicksand is a mixture of water and sand that acts as a fluid – but because of the combination of the two, it is significantly more dense than water alone. Twice as dense, in fact. And since you are less dense than that, most of you will float.
It is pretty easy to get trapped in it once you’ve entered, and the mixtures liquifies more if it gets disturbed more violently, so if you ever do get caught (you almost certainly won’t), just stay calm and move slowly. The most you’ll sink in is about half your body length, and you can slowly lie on your back (to spread the pressure of your weight) and maneuver yourself out with your arms.
Myth #6: Your brain doesn’t start getting old until you do.
Well, I suppose it depends what you think of as “old” because your brain actually starts to slow down around the time you turn 24. At that point scientists begin to see small declines in peoples’ reaction times. It doesn’t mean you’re getting dumber, though, because your brain then begins to compensate by relying on experience and mental shortcuts – so your thought process actually becomes more efficient…just a little slower, too.
Myth #7: Your mean friends aren’t worth keeping in your life.
There’s a little interpretive wiggle-room here, that I just want to get out of the way – we are definitely not saying that you should keep hanging around people who are mean to the point of abusive. To be clear.
Studies do show that people who intentionally make others experience negative emotions often do it because they believe the impact of those emotions will benefit them in the long run. So when it comes to your close friends, those who are harsh and honest probably just want what’s best for you – in fact, your meanest friends may be the ones who love you the most.