Skye Gould/Tech InsiderWho hasn't shared an amazing science fact only to feel embarrassed later on, when you find out the information was wrong?
It's time to put an end to the most alluring science myths, misconceptions, and inaccuracies passed down through the ages.
To help the cause we've rounded up and corrected dozens of the most shocking science "facts" that are bizarrely wrong about food, animals, the Earth, biology, space, alcohol, and health. (Click a link to skip to that section.)
Have any favorites we missed? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Loria, Lauren Friedman, and Kelly Dickerson contributed to this post. Robert Ferris contributed to a previous version.
MYTH: There are bugs in your strawberry Frappuccino.
This one is no longer true.
Before April 2012, Starbucks' strawberry Frappucino contained a dye made from the ground-up bodies of thousands of tiny insects, called cochineal bugs (or Dactylopius coccus).
Farmers in South and Central America make a living harvesting — and smashing — the bugs that go into the dye. Their crushed bodies produce a deep red ink that is used as a natural food coloring, which was "called cochineal" red but is now called "carmine color."
Starbucks stopped using carmine color in their strawberry Frappucinos in 2012. But the dye is still used in thousands of other food products — from Nerds candies to grapefruit juice. Not to mention cosmetics, like lovely shades of red lipstick.
Sources: Business Insider, CHR Hansen, AmericanSweets.co.uk, FoodFacts.com, LA Times
MYTH: Eating food within 5 seconds of dropping it on the floor is safe.
Flickr / Rubbermaid Products
It's the worst when something you really wanted to eat falls on the floor. But if you grab it in five seconds, it's ok, right?
The five-second-rule isn't a real thing. Bacteria can contaminate a food within milliseconds.
Mythbusting tests show that moist foods attract more bacteria than dry foods, but there's no "safe duration." Instead, safety depends on how clean the surface you dropped the food on is.
Whether you eat it or not after that is up to you, but if the people that walk on that floor are also walking around New York City, for example, we wouldn't recommend it.
Sources: Business Insider, Discovery.com
MYTH: The chemical tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy.
Who doesn't love the post-Thanksgiving nap? After all, turkey contains tryptophan — an amino acid that is a component of some of the brain chemicals that help you relax.
But plenty of foods contain tryptophan. Cheddar cheese has even more than turkey, yet cheddar is never pointed out as a sleep inducing food.
Experts say that instead, the carbs, alcohol, and general size of the turkey-day feast are the cause of those delicious holiday siestas.
Sources: Business Insider, LiveScience
MYTH: There's beaver butt secretions in your vanilla ice cream.
You've probably heard that a secretion called castoreum, isolated from the anal gland of a beaver, is used in flavorings and perfumes.
But castoreum is so expensive, at up to $70 per pound of anal gland (the cost to humanely milk castoreum from a beaver is likely even higher), that it's unlikely to show up in anything you eat.
In 2011, the Vegetarian Resource Group wrote to five major companies that produce vanilla flavoring and asked if they use castoreum. The answer: According to the Federal Code of Regulations, they can't. (The FDA highly regulates what goes into vanilla flavoring and extracts.)
It's equally unlikely you'll find castoreum in mass-marketed goods, either.
Sources: Business Insider, Vegetarian Resource Group, FDA, NY Trappers Forum
MYTH: Eating chocolate gives you acne.
For one month, scientists fed dozens of people candy bars containing 10 times the usual amount of chocolate, and dozens of others fake chocolate bars.
When they counted the zits before and after each diet, there was "no difference" between the two groups. Neither the chocolate nor the fat seemed to have any effect on acne.
MYTH: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Apples are packed with vitamin C and fiber, both of which are important to long-term health, but they aren't all you need.
And if certain viruses or bacteria get into your system, an apple will unfortunately do nothing to protect you.
Go ahead and get that flu shot, even if you eat apples.
Source: Business Insider
MYTH: Organic food is pesticide-free and more nutritious.
Organic food isn't free of pesticides and it isn't necessarily better for you.
Farmers who grow organic produce are permitted to use chemicals that are naturally derived — and in some cases are actually worse for the environment than their synthetic counterparts. However, pesticide levels on both organic and non-organic foods are so low that they aren't of concern for consumption, according to the USDA.
Eating organic food also doesn't come with any nutritional benefits over non-organic food, according to a review of 98,727 potentially relevant studies.
Sources: University of California - Berkeley, Annals of Internal Medicine, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
MYTH: Natural sugar like honey is better for you than processed sugar.
A granola bar made with honey instead of high-fructose corn syrup is not better for you.
That's because sugar in natural products like fruit and synthetic products like candy is the same: "Scientists would be surprised to hear about the 'clear superiority' of honey, since there is a near unanimous consensus that the biological effect of high-fructose corn syrup are essentially the same as those of honey," professor Alan Levinovitz told Business Insider.
The problem is that candy and other related products typically contain more sugar per serving, which means more calories — a difference you should actually be watching out for.
Sources: Business Insider, SciShow, Dr. Joy Dubost/Huffington Post
MYTH: Milk does a body good!
This is an incredibly successful bit of advertising that has wormed its way into our brains and policies to make milk seem magical.
The US Department of Agriculture tells us that adults should drink three cups of milk a day, mostly for calcium and vitamin D.
However, multiple studies show that there isn't an association between drinking more milk (or taking calcium and vitamin D supplements) and having fewer bone fractures.
Some studies have even shown an association with higher overall mortality, and while that doesn't mean that milk consumption itself was responsible, it's certainly not an endorsement.
Sources: Business Insider, NYTimes, Journal of Bone Mineral Research, JAMA Pediatrics, The Lancet, British Medical Journal
MYTH: Coffee stunts your growth.
Most research finds no correlation between caffeine consumption and bone growth in kids.
In adults, researchers have seen that increased caffeine consumption can very slightly limit calcium absorption, but the impact is so small that a tablespoon of milk will more than adequately offset the effects of a cup of coffee.
Advertising seems to be largely responsible for this myth: Cereal manufacturer named C.W. Post was trying to market a morning beverage called "Postum" as an alternative to coffee, so he ran ads on the "evils" of Americans' favorite hot beverage, calling it a "nerve poison" that should never be served to children.
Sources: Business Insider (1, 2), Smithsonian Magazine
MYTH: Eating ice cream will make your cold worse.
If you're home sick with a cold, you can totally go ahead and comfort yourself with some ice cream.
The idea that dairy increases mucous production is very fortunately not true, according to researchers and a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, who says "in fact, frozen dairy products can soothe a sore throat and provide calories when you otherwise may not eat."
Sources: Business Insider, American Review of Respiratory Disease, Mayo Clinic
MYTH: Sugar is as addictive as heroin.
In the 2009 book "Fat Chance," the author, Dr. Robert Lustig, claims that sugar stimulates the brain's reward system the same way that tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, and even heroin does, and therefore must be equally addictive. Lustig even cites studies that show parts of our brain that light-up from a sugary reward are the same parts that get excited for many types of enjoyable activities, from drinking alcohol to having sex.
The problem, however, with these types of scientific studies of the brain is that "In neuroimaging, there is no clear-cut sign of addiction," Hisham Ziaudden, an eating behavioral specialist, told Levinovitz.
So, scientists don't know what addiction in the brain looks like, yet, and until that mystery is solved we should not be living in fear from something as fanciful as sugar addiction.
Source: Business Insider (1, 2), "Fat Chance"
MYTH: Sugar and chocolates are aphrodisiacs.
In the mid 19th century — before sugar purportedly caused diabetes or hyperactivity — sugar was thought to ignite sexual desire in women, children, and, more controversially, the poor.
One vintage Kellogg advertisement even claimed "Candies, spices, cinnamon, cloves, peppermint, and all strong essences powerfully excited the genital organs and lead to the [solitary vice]."
So don't get worked up over sugar. There's little to no evidence to support the notion that it — or any food, including chocolates — stimulates sexual desire.
Sources: Business Insider, Mayo Clinic
MYTH: Sugar causes hyperactivity in children.
Numerous scientific studies have tried and failed to find any evidence that supports this off-the-wall notion.
The myth probably emerged in 1974, when Dr. William Crook wrote a letter to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published it. "Only in the past three years have I become aware that sugar ... is a leading cause of hyperactivity," the letter stated.
A letter does not include the rigorous scientific research that a paper does, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health: "The idea that refined sugar causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse is popular, but more research discounts this theory than supports it."
Sources: University of Arkansas for Medial Sciences, Business Insider, NIH
MYTH: Twinkies and McDonald's burgers last forever.
Any food that has moisture and isn't frozen can grow microbes that break the food down, packaging or not.
Twinkies are less than optimal to eat after about 25 days on a shelf, and burgers go bad within a day. However, cooked meat patties (McDonald's or otherwise) are less likely to rot outright if conditions are abnormally dry or cold. But who would eat a weeks-old burger?
Sources: Business Insider, Tech Insider, Washington Post
MYTH: Dogs and cats are colorblind.
Dogs and cats have much better color vision than we thought.
Both dogs and cats can see in blue and green, and they also have more rods — the light-sensing cells in the eye — than humans do, so they can see better in low-light situations.
This myth probably comes about because each animal sees colors differently than humans.
Reds and pinks may appear more green to cats, while purple may look like another shade of blue. Dogs, meanwhile, have fewer cones — the color-sensing cells in the eye — so scientists estimated that their color vision is only about 1/7th as vibrant as ours.
Sources: Today I Found Out, Business Insider
MYTH: Lemmings jump off cliffs in mass suicides.
Lemmings do not commit mass suicide.
During their migrations they sometimes do fall off cliffs, or if they wander into an area they are unfamiliar with.
Source: Alaska Department Of Fish And Game
MYTH: Sharks don't get cancer.
Back in 2013, researchers reported a huge tumor growing out of the mouth of a great white shark, and another on the head of a bronze whaler shark.
And those aren't the only cases of shark cancers. Other scientists have reported tumors in dozens of different shark species.
The myth that sharks don't get cancer was created by I. William Lane to sell shark cartilage as a cancer treatment.
Sources: Journal Of Cancer Research, LiveScience
MYTH: Ostriches hide by putting their heads in the sand.
Ostriches do not stick their heads in the sand when threatened. In fact, they don't bury their heads at all.
When threatened, ostriches sometimes flop on the ground and play dead.
Source: San Diego Zoo
MYTH: People get warts from frogs and toads.
Frogs or toads won't give you warts, but shaking hands with someone who has warts can.
The human papillomavirus is what gives people warts, and it is unique to humans.
MYTH: This dinosaur is called a Brontosaurus.
Many people would call this dinosaur a Brontosaurus — even Michael Crichton did in "Jurassic Park."
It is actually called the Apatosaurus. The myth emerged some 130 years ago during a feud between two paleontologists.
MYTH: Sharks can smell a drop of blood from miles away.
This one is a big exaggeration. Jaws is not coming for you from across the ocean if you bleed in the water.
Shark have a highly enlarged brain region for smelling odors, allowing some of the fish to detect as little as 1 part blood per 10 billion parts water — roughly a drop in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
But it the ocean is much, much, much bigger and it takes awhile for odor molecules to drift. On a very good day when the currents are favorable, a shark can smell its prey from a few football fields away — not miles.
Source: American Museum of Natural History
MYTH: Bats are blind.
DeeAnn Reeder/Bucknell University
Being "blind as a bat" means not being blind at all.
While many use echolocation to navigate, all of them can see.
Source: USA Today
MYTH: Goldfish can't remember anything for longer than a second.
Goldfish actually have pretty good memories.
They can remember things for months, not seconds like many people say.
Source: ABC News
MYTH: Giraffes sleep for only 30 minutes a day.
Giraffes have fairly typical sleeping patterns.
To debunk this one, researchers closely monitored a herd of five adult and three young giraffes for 152 days, counting all of their naps and deep sleeps.
The animals typically slept overnight and napped in the afternoon (sound familiar?).
In total, each giraffe slept about 4.6 hours every day.
Source: European Sleep Research Society
MYTH: Sharks die if they stop swimming.
You often hear sharks can breathe only when swimming pushes water over their gills.
That's true of some sharks, but many others — like bottom-dwelling nurse sharks — can pump oxygen-rich water over their gills without swimming.
All sharks lack swim bladders, however, so if they stop swimming they will sink to the bottom. Luckily a shark's body is incompressible and rapid descents or ascents don't harm them.
Source: American Museum of Natural History
MYTH: Poinsettias contain deadly poison.
Poinsettias won't kill you or your pets, though you still shouldn't eat them.
The flowers might make you a bit sick with some gastrointestinal issues.
Source: The New York Botanical Garden
MYTH: Humans got HIV because someone had sex with a monkey.
HIV probably didn't jump to humans through human-monkey sex.
It probably jumped to humans through hunting of monkeys for bushmeat food, which led to blood-to-blood contact.
Source: Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives In Medicine
MYTH: Humans evolved from chimpanzees.
Alain Houle/BMC Ecology Image Competition
Chimps and humans share uncanny similarities, not the least of which is our DNA — about 98.8% is identical.
However, evolution works by incremental genetic changes adding up through many, many generations. Chimps and humans did share a common ancestor between 6 and 8 million years ago but a lot has changed since then.
Modern chimps evolved into a separate (though close) branch of the ape family tree.
Sources: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History
MYTH: Dropping a penny from the Empire State building could kill someone.
Dropping a penny from the Empire State building is very unlikely to maim anyone.
A penny weighs roughly 1/11th of an ounce and tops out at 50 mph in freefall, which isn't fast enough to kill. It'd hurt like heck, though.
Sources: Today I Found Out, US Mint
MYTH: The great wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from space.
The Great Wall of China isn't the only man-made structure visible from space. It all depends on where you believe space begins above Earth.
From the International Space Station 250 miles up, you can see the wall and many other man-made structures. From the moon, you can't see any structures at all — only a dim glow of city lights.
MYTH: The moon's gravity pulling on water causes the tides.
This is only half true.
On the side of Earth that's facing the moon, the moon's gravity does indeed pull water toward it to cause tides.
On the other side of Earth, however, gravity is weaker (from the moon's pull on the other side) and it's the inertia of water from the Earth's rotation at work: spinning at about 1,040 mph flings ocean water into a slight bulge we recognize as the tide.
Sources: NOAA, NASA
MYTH: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Lightning does strike twice.
Some places, like the Empire State Building, get struck up to 100 times a year.
MYTH: The Earth is a perfect sphere.
NASA (illustration by Tech Insider)
The Earth rotates at about 1,040 mph. That's about 60% the speed of your typical bullet after it shoots out of the muzzle.
This inertia slightly flattens the planet's poles and causes a bulge of rock around the equator.
Due to global warming and the melting of glaciers (and less weight pushing down on the crust), scientists think that bulge is now growing.
Sources: StarrySkies.com, MythBusters the Exhibition
MYTH: Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth.
The world's tallest mountain technically is not Mount Everest.
Mount Everest is the tallest mountain above sea level, but if we're talking mountain base-to-summit height, then the tallest is the island of Hawaii that peaks as Mauna Kea.
Everest stands 29,035 feet above sea level. Mauna Kea only stands 13,796 feet above seal level, but the mountain extends about 19,700 feet below the Pacific Ocean. Over half of it is submerged.
That puts the total height of Mauna Kea at about 33,500 feet — nearly a mile taller than Everest.
Source: Tech Insider
MYTH: Water conducts electricity.
Pure or distilled water doesn't conduct electricity well at all.
The reason we can get shocked when standing in electrified water is because water we come across will be contaminated by minerals, dirt, and other things that will conduct electricity.
MYTH: There was a global warming pause.
Earth's average surface temperature hasn't really budged since the start of the 21st century, but 70% of the planet is covered in water — and that's where 90% of heat trapped by global warming ends up.
In fact, warming of the oceans has caused them to thermally expand, creating a huge share of the sea level rise that scientists see today.
Sources: Scientific American/Climate Wire, Tech Insider
MYTH: Tectonic plates move because volcanism pushes them apart.
Older edges of a tectonic plate are cooler and denser, causing them to sink into the mantle where they're recycled. Where two plates are being yanked apart by this sinking, ocean ridges appear.
That's where the tectonic plate is being built — by hot, buoyant rock that convects upward and emerges from the stretched-out weak point. The resulting volcanism isn't what pulls two plates apart.
MYTH: The Sahara is the biggest desert on Earth.
Not all deserts are hot and full of sand. They need only be dry and inhospitable.
Antarctica fits the bill, since it receives only two inches of precipitation a year and has few land animals.
At 5.4 million square miles compared to the Sahara's 3.6 million square miles, the Bottom of the World is a vastly larger desert.
Sourcse: USGS (1, 2), NASA, Encyclopedia of Earth (1, 2)
MYTH: Diamonds come from coal.
Most diamonds aren't formed from compressed coal.
Instead, they're carbon that is compressed and heated 90 miles below the surface of the Earth. Coal is found about 2 miles down.
MYTH: People in the Middle Ages thought the Earth was flat.
During the early Middle Ages, almost every scholar thought the Earth was round, not flat.
This myth picked up steam in the 1800s, right around the same time the idea of evolution was rising in prominence — and religious and scientific interests clashed.
Sources: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Patheos
MYTH: Summer is warm because you are closer to the sun.
The northern hemisphere of the Earth is not closer to the sun when it is summer, nor is the southern hemisphere during its summer.
It is always warmer during the summer because Earth is tilted; during its year-long orbit, our home planet's tilt allows the sun's energy to hit us more directly.
MYTH: Lightning causes thunder.
Getty Images/Ethan Miller
A scientific and philosophical nitpick here, but lightning is just a stream of electrons zapping from cloud to cloud or ground to cloud. This in turn heats air into a tube of plasma that's three times hotter than the surface of our sun.
That tube violently expands and contracts nearby air, creating an unmistakable crack and rumble — not the flow of electrons itself.
Source: Scientific American
MYTH: Your blood turns blue when it's out of oxygen.
Your blood is never blue: It turns dark red when it's not carrying oxygen.
Blood only looks blue because you are seeing it through several layers of tissue, which filters the color.
Source: UCSB ScienceLine
MYTH: Every gene in your DNA codes for exactly one protein.
Getty Images/William Thomas Cain
One gene does not equal one protein.
Many genes make multiple different proteins, depending on how the mRNA from the gene is sequenced and cut up in the cell. And many other genes don't make proteins at all.
Source: Annual Reviews Of Biochemistry
MYTH: Humans have five senses.
Sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch are just the beginning.
Don't forget about balance, temperature, and time, as well as proprioception — the body awareness that helps us not walk into things all the time — and nociception, our sense of pain.
Source: Business Insider
MYTH: The hymen is a sheet of tissue that blocks a women's vagina.
Guys, the hymen is a thin membrane that only partially blocks the vaginal opening — if a woman is born with one at all.
Also, plenty of activities other than sex can stretch or damage the hymen, including exercise or inserting a tampon.
Sources: Columbia University, College Humor
MYTH: Eating a lot of carrots gives you great night vision.
Vitamin A is a major nutrient found in carrots, and it is good for the health of your eyes — especially those with poor vision. But eating a bunch of the vegetables won't give your all-seeing superpowers.
The myth is thought to have started during as a piece of British propaganda during World War II. That government wanted to secret the existence of a radar technology that allowed its bomber pilots to attack in the night.
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
MYTH: Blonde and red hair colors are going extinct.
Blondes and redheads are not "going extinct."
Genes rarely die out, and recessive genes, like those that lead to red or blonde hair color, can be carried from generation to generation without creating the hair color. (As much as 40% of some populations, for example, carry a gene that leads to red hair color.)
When two people with the correct recessive genes have a baby, there's a good chance the kid will have red or blonde hair color — even if the parents don't have red or blonde hair themselves.
Sources: John McDonald/University of Delaware, BritainsDNA
MYTH: Pregnancy gives you "baby brain" and makes you dumb.
Studies on this turn up mixed results, at best.
Some studies on changes to working memory during pregnancy do show a small effect on the brain, though other studies show no negative impacts whatsoever.
There's actually growing evidence that being pregnant makes women more organized and smarter, at least, according to a study on rats.
It makes sense, though, since pregnant women and new mothers have a lot more to worry about and think about — for their brains to keep up they may even be getting a boost.
Sources: Dr. Myra Wick/Mayo Clinic, New Scientist
MYTH: Hair and nails keep growing after death.
Hair and fingernails do not keep growing once someone dies.
Instead, the skin dries out and shrinks, giving the appearance of further growth.
Sources: Lecture Notes: Dermatology, Tech Insider
MYTH: Humans can't grow new brain cells.
You are not born with all of the brain cells you will ever have.
There is plenty of evidence that the brain continues to produce new cells in at least a few brain regions well into adulthood, through a process called neurogenesis.
Source: The Scientist
MYTH: Some people have photographic memories.
There's actually no such thing as a "photographic" memory — only very good memories.
Even people with exceptional or autobiographic memories don't recall events with visual details precise enough to mimic the fidelity of film or a camera sensor.
Source: Moments of Science
MYTH: People only use 10% of their brain.
This myth has been debunked over and over again, but it just won't die.
Just because you're not doing math equations and juggling while you write a sonnet doesn't mean you aren't using all the parts of your brain at once.
You can use your entire brain, and you do — the brain is 3% of the body's mass but uses 20% of its energy.
Source: Scientific American
MYTH: "Left-brained" people are creative. "Right-brained" people are analytical.
It's a common old canard: Creative people are right-brained, while the logically-minded are left-brained. False.
It's true that different hemispheres of your brain are more engaged in certain tasks (the left side is dominant in language, for example), but studies have never found overall left- or right-brain dominance in individuals.
Sources: Business Insider, Psychology Today
MYTH: The bigger your brain is, the smarter you are.
Sperm whales have the largest brain of all animals — significantly larger than a human's — but they aren't the smartest creature on Earth.
Humans don't even have a particularly impressive brain-to-body-mass ratio.
The winner in that category among mammals is the humble tree shrew, though that's largely because its body is so tiny.
Sources: Business Insider, Scientific American, Washington University
MYTH: It takes 7 years for gum to digest if you swallow it.
flickr user: sembrandogirasoles
Gum is mostly indigestible, but the occasional swallowed piece will pass through your intestines and exit the other side, just like anything else you eat that your body doesn't need and can't digest.
The only cases where swallowed gum has caused a problem is when that gum is swallowed along with other things that shouldn't be in your stomach.
Scientific American cites a case where a 4-year-old girl suffered a gastrointestinal blockage — from a wad of gum with four coins inside of it.
Sources: Business Insider, Scientific American
MYTH: Your microwave can give you cancer and disrupt your pacemaker.
Microwave radiation won't cause cancer, it just heats food up.
Only a few types of radiation cause cancer, and these depend on the dose. Radiation from the sun can cause skin cancer, for example, but just enough helps your body make Vitamin D, too.
Microwaves also won't disrupt a pacemaker. However, things like anti-theft systems, metal detectors, powerful refrigerator magnets, mobile phones, and even headphones can mess with the heartbeat-keeping devices.
Sources: Cancer Research UK, American Heart Association
MYTH: Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker.
Shaving your hair doesn't make it thicker, it just makes it feel coarser for a time.
That's because the ends of the hairs are sharp and stubbly instead of smooth.
Source: Mayo Clinic
MYTH: Drugs make "holes" in your brain.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
That doesn't mean drugs are good for your brain.
Many drugs (illicit and otherwise) can significantly alter your brain's structure and disrupt its function. But none will turn a healthy brain into a stack of Swiss cheese.
Sources: Business Insider, Scientific American
MYTH: Humans have 100 billion brain cells.
A neuron, connected to many others.Flickr/ZEISS Microscopy
In 2009, scientists found that you actually have more like 86 billion brain cells.
It's tempting to round up, but this difference is significant when you consider the fact that 14 billion neurons might represent the entire brain of another creature.
Sources: Business Insider, The Journal of Comparative Neurology
MYTH: You need to wait an hour after eating to swim or you can cramp and drown.
REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud
The theory behind this seems to be that digesting food will draw blood to your stomach, meaning that less blood is available for your muscles, making them more likely to cramp.
But there's no evidence to support this claim.
In fact, many sources say there are no documented cases of anyone ever drowning because they've had a cramp related to swimming with a full stomach.
Cramps do happen frequently when swimming, but they aren't caused by what's in your stomach. If you do get one, the best policy is to float for a minute and let it pass.
Sources: Business Insider, Washington Post, TodayIFoundOut.com
MYTH: Taking your vitamins will keep you healthy.
Vitamins sound like a great idea: One pill that can provide you everything you need to be healthy!
If only they worked.
Decades of research on vitamins hasn't found any justification for our multivitamin habit, and in some cases, vitamins have actually been associated with an increased risk of various cancers.
Sources: Business Insider, Scientific American
MYTH: Everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day.
Hydration is very important, but the idea that eight glasses of water is essential is a strange one.
In healthy people, researchers have not found any connection between fluid intake and kidney disease, heart disease, sodium levels, or skin quality.
But water is a calorie-free alternative to other beverages (especially sugary ones like soda or sports drinks), and people who drink water instead of those beverages consume fewer calories overall.
A good rule is to drink when you're thirsty — you don't need to count the glasses.
Source: Business Insider, FiveThirtyEight, Nutrition Reviews
MYTH: Carbonated water isn't as hydrating as flat water.
Just because water is fizzy and refreshing doesn't mean it's bad for you.
In one of many studies that bust this myth, researchers made men bike on several occasions until they sweated off 4% of their body weight — then immediately handed them a drink.
One time the cyclists got flat water, another time carbonated water, yet another sugar water, and during a final trial everyone drank carbonated sugar water.
The results? Carbonation did not make any difference when it came to rehydrating.
Source: International Journal of Sports Medicine
MYTH: Yogurt will help put your digestive system back in order.
Yogurt is often marketed as helping digestion and slimming our figure because of probiotics — the idea that "good bacteria" living in the yogurt will shack up in our guts.
Bacteria are well-connected to our metabolism and obesity rates, among other things, so the connection seems logical.
However, we don't yet understand how the millions of bacteria already in our bodies work together, let alone when yogurt is added into the mix.
This is not to say that yogurt is unhealthy, just that its benefits are oversold. Keep in mind, though, that a lot of yogurt is packed with sugar, which we do know contributes to obesity and other problems — so if you enjoy the dairy product, find some that isn't full of empty calories.
Sources: Business Insider, Tech Insider
MYTH: You lose 90% of your body heat through your head.
You lose body heat through anything that's uncovered, and your head is more likely to be exposed than other areas of your body.
"Most of the time when we're outside in the cold, we're clothed," Dr. Richard Ingebretsen told WebMD Magazine. "If you don't have a hat on, you lose heat through your head, just as you would lose heat through your legs if you were wearing shorts."
Sources: Business Insider,"Don't Swallow Your Gum!: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health," WedMD Magazine
MYTH: The sun is yellow.
If you wince and look at the afternoon sun, it might look yellow — but the light it gives off is actually white in color.
The Earth's atmosphere between your eyes and the sun is what makes the star appear yellow.
The gases bend the light in an effect called Rayleigh scattering, which is what also makes the sky blue and causes sunsets to blaze into brilliant oranges and reds.
Not helping matters is that astronomers classify the sun as a main-sequence G-type star, or the misnomer "yellow dwarf."
Sources: NASA, NOAA, Washington University, University College London
MYTH: Nothing can go faster than light.
Blue Cherenkov radiation in a nuclear reactor, where neutrons travel faster than light through the surrounding water.Argonne National Laboratory
Wrong on a few levels.
While light can move unimpeded at 299,792,458 meters per second in a vacuum, it slows down when it travels through different substances. For example, light moves 25% slower through water and 59% slower through diamond.
Particles like an electron, neutron, or neutrino can outpace photons of light in such media — though they have to bleed off energy as radiation when they do.
What about light in a vacuum? Even then, the expanding fabric of space once exceeded light-speed during the Big Bang, and physicists think wormholes and quantum entanglement might be able to "move" faster as well.
Sources: Georgia State University, Tech Insider
MYTH: The Asteroid Belt is dangerous.
Movie scenes of spaceships flying through a dense field of tumbling, colliding rocks are imaginary.
The Asteroid Belt — a zone between 200 and 300 million miles from the sun — is an incredibly lonely and desolate void.
In fact, if you pulled all the asteroids together they'd only weigh about 4% the mass of Earth's moon.
This is why NASA gets really excited when it catches so much as one asteroid colliding with another.
Sources: NASA, TodayIFoundOut.com
MYTH: Going past the edge of space makes you weightless.
Most scientists agree space begins 62 miles up, where the Earth's atmosphere is more or less a vacuum.
Yet going past this line does not magically make you weightless; if you're in an accelerating rocket, you will feel many times Earth's gravity. It's only when you start falling that you feel weightless.
This is what it means to orbit something: to seemingly fall forever around that object. The moon around the Earth, the Earth around the sun, the solar system around the Milky Way Galaxy ... They're all falling into one another in a crazy cosmic dance.
If you're 250 miles above the Earth, you have to travel 17,500 mph around the planet to experience continuous freefall — precisely the speed of the International Space Station and its astronauts.
Sources: FAI, NASA
MYTH: The moon is very close to the Earth.
A photo of Earth and the moon from space. That tiny speck at the bottom left is the moon.JAXA
The moon sometimes looks so close you could reach up and up and grab it.
In reality, the moon orbits at a distance of about 239,000 miles from Earth. If you could somehow hop in a Boeing 747 and cruise to the moon at full speed, the journey would take about 17 days.
The moon is far, far away.
Sources: Tech Insider, Boeing
MYTH: You can only balance an egg during the Spring Equinox.
flickr user: Christopher Hsia
It's possible to stand an egg on its head on any day of the year — not just on the Spring Equinox.
The trick just requires a well-textured egg shell and a skilled hand.
Source: Business Insider
MYTH: A nuclear weapon could destroy an asteroid.
Nuking an asteroid would not vaporize every single bit of rock.
Most asteroids are heaps of rubble to begin with, so a powerful blast would probably just break everything apart further (a bad idea if you're trying to save the planet).
However, some researchers think a well-directed, smartly designed nuclear attack could irradiate an asteroid's surface, vaporize some of the rock, and shoot off gases that'd push an asteroid on off-course.
Source: National Geographic
MYTH: When you call someone, the signal goes through a satellite.
This is true of satellite phones, which the military uses every day, but your mobile phone works in a much different way.
Mobile phones broadcast a wireless radio signal and constantly look for, ping, and relay data to and from land-based cellular towers. When you make a call, the nearest tower connects you to another phone via a vast network of tower-to-tower connections and buried cables.
At best, a satellite might be involved in a call around the globe — but 99% of communications data travels through undersea cables.
Source: Global Data Systems, Tech Insider
MYTH: There's a dark side of the moon.
It's easy to think this, since we never see it, but the far side of the moon isn't always dark. It goes through the same lunar phases as the near side, which faces the Earth, but in reverse.
When there's a new (and very dark) moon on the near side, for example, that means there's a full moon on the far side. We just can't see it from our earthbound vantage point.
Sources: NASA (1, 2)
MYTH: The vacuum of space is cold.
If you're in total darkness at the coldest spot in the known universe, the vacuum of space can get down to minus-454 degrees Fahrenheit. Brr!
But in sunlight near Earth, temperatures can swing to a boiling 250 F. That's why astronauts wear reflective white spacesuits.
Source: NASA (1, 2)
MYTH: Enrico Fermi developed the "Fermi paradox" about aliens.
Physicist Enrico Fermi once famously asked "where is everybody?" after seeing a New Yorker cartoon featuring a flying saucer.
But Fermi was questioning the feasibility of travel between stars — not the actual existence of aliens.
The "Fermi" paradox, which explores the contradiction that intelligent aliens are inevitable but we haven't seen them, does question alien existence. And Fermi didn't do that work.
Astronomer Michael Hart and physicist Frank Tipler were the ones who actually fleshed out the idea in the 1970s and 1980s.
"The Fermi paradox might be more accurately called the 'Hart-Tipler argument against the existence of technological extraterrestrials,' which does not sound quite as authoritative as the old name, but seems fairer to everybody," astronomer Robert H. Gray wrote for Scientific American.
Sources: Tech Insider, Scientific American
MYTH: There are only 3 phases of matter: Solid, liquid, and gas.
You forgot a big one: Plasma.
It's easy to assume solids are the most abundant form of matter in the cosmos, since we all live on a giant rock. But plasma is vastly more abundant; stars, including the sun, are gigantic orbs of glowing plasma.
There are other sub-phases of matter, but solid, liquid, gas, and plasma are the main ones.
Sources: NASA, Southwest Research Institute
MYTH: Breaking the seal means you'll have to pee more all night.
Alcohol is a diuretic, so it's already going to make you pee a lot.
"Breaking the seal" the first time will not increase the amount of times you have to go to the bathroom — but drinking lots of alcohol will.
Source: Business Insider
MYTH: You can cure a hangover by drinking more.
The "hair of the dog" is a myth — a mimosa or Bloody Mary in the morning won't make you feel better. At best, you're just prolonging the hangover.
Same goes for coffee after a night of drinking. Like alcohol, coffee is a diuretic, so it will dehydrate your body even more and likely prolong the hangover.
Source: Business Insider
MYTH: Drinking alcohol kills your brain cells.
Excessive drinking can damage the connections between brain cells, but won't actually zap any of your neurons.
That said, children with fetal alcohol syndrome often have fewer brain cells, and excessive drinking over long periods of time can indeed damage the brain — just not in the way you may think.
Sources: Business Insider, NIH, New York Times
MYTH: Tequila makes our clothes come off and wine makes us sleepy.
Experts say this is bunk. "Alcohol is alcohol whichever way you slice it," pharmacologist Paul Clayton told The Guardian.
So why do people insist that tequila makes them crazy? Scientific research going back to the 1960s shows that we "learn" how to behave while drunk, and that our actual drunken behavior is a direct reflection of our expectations.
Many people may become violent while intoxicated, but people who have never associated drunkenness with conflict don't show the same behavior.
By that same token, if we expect that vodka will make us want to sing karaoke, we can perhaps turn that into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Sources: Business Insider, The Atlantic, The Guardian, "Drunken Comportment," Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research
MYTH: Eating before drinking keeps you sober.
Eating before drinking does help your body absorb alcohol, but it only delays the alcohol entering your bloodstream, it doesn't restrict it.
Your body absorbs the alcohol more slowly after a big meal, so eating before drinking can help limit the severity of your hangover. Eating a lot after drinking, however, won't do much to help your hangover.
Source: Business Insider
MYTH: Mixing energy drinks with alcohol makes you drunker.
Turns out it just energizes you.
The problem is the extra shot of energy can make you feel less intoxicated than you actually are, which might lead you to drink more alcohol than normal.
Sources: Business Insider, California State University
MYTH: Beer before liquor, never sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.
Alcohol is alcohol, and too much of it will make anyone feel sick.
"There is no evidence that drinking in a particular order alters how sick you get," Julia Chester, a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue, told NBC.
However, people who switch from beer to mixed drinks (with senses and judgment already dulled) may be less likely likely to monitor their alcohol consumption and thus drink more.
This may be because your body metabolizes beer and mixed drinks faster than higher-concentration alcohol (like a shot of whiskey). Adding liquor to a stomach-full of beer could, in theory, create a sort of mixed drink that would metabolize faster than one or the other on its own.
But while "liquor before beer" seems partly true, we'll mostly chalk up "never sicker" to bad decision-making.
Sources: Business Insider, NBC News, Gizmodo
MYTH: Memories lost during alcohol-induced blackouts can be remembered.
If you wake up fuzzy on the details from the night before, you probably shouldn't even bother trying to remember: It's impossible. When we drink too much the part of our brain that encodes memories actually switches off.
People claiming they remember what happened after they blacked out are probably having what are called false memories.
Sources: Business Insider, Memory
MYTH: The lines on a solo cup are for measuring alcohol.
While the lines on a solo cup do come close to matching up with alcohol measurements (the bottom for liquor, the middle line for wine, etc.) the Solo company has said repeatedly the lines on the cup do not exist for that purpose.
Solo even went to the trouble of making a graphic on their Facebook page illustrating their point.
Sources: Business Insider, Solo/Facebook
MYTH: Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar.
Sugar that's the color of dirt doesn't make it more "natural" or healthier than its white counterpart. The color comes from a common residual sticky syrup, called molasses.
Brown sugar retains some of that molasses. In fact, brown sugar is mostly white sugar with some molasses — so refining it further would give you white table sugar.
While molasses contains some vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium, there is not enough in your standard brown sugar packet that should make you reach for it if you're trying to eat healthier.
As far as your body is concerned, white and brown sugar are one and the same.
Sources: Business Insider,"The dispensatory of the United States of America," Self Nutrition Data
MYTH: Sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyes.
The most this will do is give you a headache from eye fatigue.
This rumor probably started with old TVs, which produced some X-rays, but newer ones don't.
Source:New York Times
MYTH: Vaccines cause autism.
If you decide to wade into this one at the dinner table, we'd recommend calmly explaining that this idea started with a now thoroughly-debunked — and retracted — study of only 12 children that appeared in 1998 in The Lancet, which claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
That study was not only flawed, but it also sneaked in false information to try and make its point.
Since then, numerous studies that have analyzed data from more than a million children have shown that there's no connection between vaccines and autism.
Fears about that connection persist because of public figures making (unknowingly or otherwise) false claims about vaccines. This has led to scary diseases like measles coming back and to vaccination rates in some wealthy Los Angeles neighborhoods that are similar to those in Chad or the South Sudan.
Sources: Business Insider (1, 2, 3), PBS, The Lancet
MYTH: Sugar causes diabetes.
Eating sugar in moderation won't give you diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association, while it recommends that people avoid soda and sports drinks, is quick to point out that diabetes is a complex disease, and there's not enough evidence to say that eating sugar is the direct cause.
However, both weight gain and consuming sugary drinks are associated with a heightened risk, and (large) portion size seems to be most crucial when it comes to sugar and diabetes.
Sources: Business Insider, Tech Insider, American Diabetes Association, PLoS ONE
MYTH: Chinese food with MSG will make you sick.
The myth that MSG (monosodium glutamate) is bad for you comes from a letter a doctor wrote to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968, where he coined the phrase "Chinese restaurant syndrome" and blamed a variety of symptoms including numbness and general weakness on MSG.
Further research has not backed him up.
The scientific consensus according the American Chemical Society is that "MSG can temporarily affect a select few when consumed in huge quantities on an empty stomach, but it's perfectly safe for the vast majority of people."
MSG is nothing more than a common amino acid with a sodium atom added. Eating a ton of food or tablespoons full of the salt could cause the general malaise attributed to the flavor enhancer, and the placebo effect is more than strong enough to account for the negative effects sometimes associated with MSG.
Sources: Business Insider (1, 2), Tech Insider
MYTH: Children who drink soda are at a greater risk of becoming obese.
In "Fed Up," a documentary film that probes the supposed causes of America's obesity epidemic, you hear the alarming statistic that "One soda a day increases a child's chance of obesity by 60%."
Authors of the study this statistic comes from note their findings "cannot prove causality" — but that's not what sugar-shaming movie producers would have you think.
Drinking too much calorie-loaded soda is likely unhealthy, but it's not the sole factor driving a rise in childhood obesity.
The CDC advises parents to do what they can to protect against obesity by encouraging healthy lifestyle habits that include healthy eating and exercise, both of which will likely do more for a child's waistline than trying to completely cut sugar.
Sources: Business Insider. "Fed Up," The Lancet, CDC
MYTH: Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis.
Fortunately, this isn't true either.
Cracking your knuckles may annoy the people around you, but even people who have done it frequently for many years are not more likely to develop arthritis than those who don't.
Sources: Business Insider, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine
MYTH: Starve a fever, feed a cold.
A tiny and largely misinterpreted study in 2002 recently fanned the flames of this myth, but limiting your caloric consumption may actually hurt your immune system more than helping it — it would certainly be a bad idea to not eat during the six- to eight-day duration of a cold.
Instead, doctors say to go ahead and eat if you can. The more accurate expression would be "feed a cold, feed a fever." And make sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Sources: Business Insider, BBC, Scientific American
MYTH: A juice cleanse will detoxify you after an eating binge.
Your body naturally removes harmful chemicals through the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract — there's nothing about juice that will hurry that process along.
Juicing mainly just removes digestion-aiding fiber from fruits and vegetables. Also consider that many sugary fruit juices are as bad for you as sodas.
And while some juices are just fine, they don't provide anything that you wouldn't get by eating the whole components instead.
Sources: Business Insider (1, 2, 3)
MYTH: All people with Tourette's syndrome yell swear words.
Only a small percentage of people with Tourette syndrome randomly yell out swear words.
It actually encompasses a lot more than that, including involuntary movements and different sound tics.
The swearing tic is called coprolalia.
Source: Child Mind Institute
MYTH: Being cold can give you a cold.
There's no evidence that going outside with wet hair when it's freezing will make you sick — provided you avoid hypothermia.
But there is a scientifically sound explanation for why people catch more colds in winter: We spend more time in close quarters indoors, it is more likely that we'll cross paths with a cold-causing virus spread from another person during the winter.
Sources: Business Insider, LiveScience, CNN
MYTH: Being stressed will give you high blood pressure.
Stress doesn't play a large role in chronic high blood pressure.
Acute stress can temporarily increase blood pressure, but overall it's not a main cause of hypertension. Things like genetics, smoking, and a bad diet are much bigger factors.
Source: British Medical Journal