Here, the world’s most contagious myths and misconceptions – debunked.
1. Napoleon was short
A tall tale. At five six, he was actually slightly above average height for a Frenchman of the time.
Just as his military genius has been studied throughout the years, we’ve also been fascinated with the life – and quirks – of the first emperor of France.
2. Don’t eat and swim
This doesn’t increase the risk of cramps; alcohol is the biggest risk increaser. But a full stomach will make you short of breath.
A grumbly tummy can help you make better decisions or improve your sex life, but an empty stomach is not so helpful for shopping or exercise.
3. Salty water boils quicker
Adding a sprinkle of salt to water makes no difference.
It can actually make boiling take longer.
It is important for dishes that need to cook for a long time, that your pot or pan has a good-quality heavy base to distribute the heat evenly. So which pot should you use to cook?
4. Oil stops stuck pasta
Nope. It’ll only make it greasy. Stirring prevents sticking.
Did you know floating a few tablespoons of vegetable oil on the surface of the water of a bird bath will help keep mosquitoes from using it?
5. Left and right brain
There’s no solid division between the talents of each hemisphere; the left brain can learn “right-brain skills” and vice versa.
Trying to give your brain a bit of exercise? Here’s 6 simple games to build a happy and healthy brain.
6. Dropped coins kill
Terminal velocity of a standard penny is 18 to 30 kilometres per hour. Not fast enough to kill – but it sure would sting.
Back in the day, putting a coin or other hard, flat object on a baby’s belly to help to heal an umbilical hernia was a common practice. Take a look at these other home remedies that will only make you worse.
7. Three wise men
Nowhere in the Bible does it specify that there were three.
Want to know something freaky? In the Bible, it is significant that Noah led seven pairs of all clean animals, one pair of every unclean animal and seven pairs of birds into the ark.
When the flood subsided, God, who had created the world in seven days, sent a redeeming rainbow with seven colours.
Here’s some other origins of superstitions and lucky charms.
9. Dogs sweat by salivating
No—they regulate temperature through panting. They actually sweat through their footpads.
And if you’ve ever wondered which is the best dog breed in the world, you’ll surely find out here.
10. Great Wall of China
It’s not visible from space. No single human structure is visible from orbit, but you can see cities at night.
11. Water rotation
A flushed toilet does not rotate the other way in the Southern Hemisphere. The Coriolis effect doesn’t alter water in toilets.
12. Einstein failed math
Nope. He failed an entrance exam for a school but still excelled in math. Now meet these 8 people who are smarter than the great man himself.
13. Humans and dinosaurs
Despite the famous stat going around that 41 per cent of American adults believe dinosaurs and humans coexisted, we actually missed each other by 64 million years.
14. Black holes
Not really “holes,” but rather hugely dense objects with massive gravitational pull. Here are 15 more scientific mysteries that the world’s boffins still can’t figure out.
15. We have only five senses
Some scientists insist on 21, including balance, pain and temperature.
16. Vaccines cause autism
Groundless fears based on fraudulent research that’s been shown to have been manipulated.
17. Don’t touch baby birds
Most birds have a limited sense of smell, so they won’t abandon babies who “smell” of humans.
18. Alcohol kills brain cells
Even in heavy users and alcoholics, brain cells aren’t killed, only damaged.
19. Missing-persons report
Police don’t require a 24-hour waiting period before accepting a missing-persons report.
20. Different tongue parts
There are not different sections of the tongue for each taste: bitter, sour, salt, sweet and umami (savoury/meaty).
21. Only 10 per cent of the brain is used
The proportion of the brain “firing” at any one time is task dependent, but ultimately, every region is used almost every day.
22. Iron Maidens
These were never medieval torture devices, but 18th-century fakes were created for sensational circuses.
23. Body heat and the head
Only in infants is most heat lost through the head (unless the head is the only uncovered part of the body).
24. Wake sleepwalkers?
They’ll be really confused, but it’s OK. They’re more likely to hurt themselves if they’re not awoken.
25. Bananas grow on trees
Actually, they grow on massive herbs that just resemble trees.
26. Milk increases mucus
Nope, it doesn’t. There’s no need to avoid dairy if you have a cold.
27. Bats are blind
Not only can bats see, but they also use echolocation.
28. Caffeine dehydrates you
Not really. The diuretic effect of caffeine is offset by the amount of water in a caffeinated drink.
29. Goldfish’s three-second memory
While not the smartest creatures, goldfish boast a memory span of three months.
30. Shaving thickens hair
Regrown hair isn’t thicker, coarser, or darker; it just appears so because it grows back with a blunt tip.
31. Seven years to digest gum
The chewy base of gum is indigestible and passes straight through. The remainder is absorbed.
32. Vikings’ horns
The helmets were created by a costume designer for a 19th-century Wagner opera.
33. Alcohol keeps you warm
It merely dilates warm blood vessels near the skin, creating the impression of warmth. It can actually drop core body temperature.
34. The Vomitorium
Not a room Romans used for Bacchanalian binges, but the name for the entrance to a stadium.
35. Sugar = Hyperactivity
Studies have disproved this. Poor or rowdy behaviours still occur in children with sugar-free diets.
36. Bulls hate red
Bulls are colour-blind. They actually perceive the motions of the bullfighter’s cloth as a threat.
37. Bagpipes are Scottish
Sorry, Braveheart fans: they were prevalent in the Middle East centuries before Western Europe.
38. Your hair and nails keep growing after death
Wrong – but your skin tissue does recede, making them appear longer.
39. Toads cause warts
Humans can catch warts only from other humans. Those bumps on toads are just their skin glands.
40. SOS = “Save Our Ship”
It doesn’t stand for anything. SOS became a Morse code distress signal because it’s so easy to transmit: three dots, three dashes, three dots.
41. Adam and Eve ate an apple
They ate the forbidden “fruit” of the tree of knowledge – nowhere in Genesis does it say it was an apple.
42. Celebrities die in threes
Of the celebs who have died since 1990, only in seven cases did three die in the same five-day period, according to data from the New York Times.
43. Sleepers swallow eight spiders per year
Spiders usually don’t crawl into beds during nighttime wanderings because they offer no prey. You probably swallow zero spiders per year.
44. Everest is the tallest mountain
Only above sea level. If you measure Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano from its underwater base, it stands more than 33,000 feet tall—4,000 above Everest.
45. Van Gogh cut off his ear for a lover
It was just a small piece of lobe, and he did it during a violent spat with Pat Gauguin. Whether Van Gogh then gave it to a local girl remains unknown.
46. The Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock
They landed in what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, and signed the Mayflower Compact there. Plymouth came five weeks later.
47. A story can “break” the internet
“The Internet is a very resilient system,” says Web pioneer Vint Cerf.
“Shutting the whole thing down has not happened [since] it has been in operation.”
48. Slaves built the Pyramids
Egyptologists say this ancient construction job was a great honour granted only to respected labourers who remain entombed near the site today.
49. Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to represent America
While designing a national seal, Franklin proposed an image of Moses, not a wild turkey, to represent America.
50. All your fingernails grow at the same rate
Because blood flow stimulates nail growth, the nails on your dominant hand actually grow faster.
51. Ninjas wore black
This “uniform” comes from years of fiction and folklore. Real ninjas wore anything that would help them blend into daily life.
This article originally appeared on RD.com.