Common Misconceptions

This comic from xkcd gave me an idea for a good post...


I had never known there was such an article on wikipedia-- so, I compiled a list of some of the most interesting misconceptions.





In ancient Rome, Romans did not build rooms called vomitoria in which to purge themselves after a meal.Vomitoria were the entranceways through which crowds entered and exited a stadium. 


There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets.


There is no evidence that iron maidens were invented in the Middle Ages or even used for torture, despite being shown so in some media, but instead were pieced together in the 18th century from several artifacts found in museums in order to create spectacular objects intended for (commercial) exhibition.


Christopher Columbus's efforts to obtain support for his voyages were not hampered by a European belief in a flat Earth. Sailors and navigators of the time knew that the Earth was spherical, but (correctly) disagreed with Columbus' estimate of the distance to India, which was approximately 1⁄6th of the actual distance. If the Americas did not exist, and had Columbus continued to India, he would have run out of supplies before reaching it at the rate he was traveling. Without the ability to determine longitude at sea, he could not have corrected his error. This problem remained unsolved until the 18th century, when the lunar distance method emerged in parallel with efforts by inventor John Harrison to create the first marine chronometers. The intellectual class had known that the Earth was spherical since the works of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Eratosthenes made a very good estimate of the Earth's diameter in the third century BC.


Contrary to the popular image of the Pilgrim Fathers, the early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, did not dress in black, wear buckles, or wear black steeple hats. According to Plimoth Plantation historian James W. Baker, this image was formed in the 19th century when buckles were a kind of emblem of quaintness. This is also the reason illustrators gave Santa Claus buckles. But not the meaning behind the clothing store Buckle, in which it is a symbol for rhinestones and MMA.


Marie Antoinette did not actually use the phrase "let them eat cake" when she heard that the French peasantry was starving due to a dearth of bread. The phrase was first published in Rousseau's Confessions when Marie was only 10 years old and most scholars believe that Rousseau coined it himself, or that it was said by Maria-Theresa, the wife of Louis XIV. Even Rousseau (or Maria-Theresa) did not use the exact words but actually "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" ("Let them eat brioche [a rich type of bread]"). Marie Antoinette was a very unpopular ruler and many people therefore attribute the phrase "let them eat cake" to her, in keeping with her reputation as being hard-hearted and disconnected from her subjects. I wonder if they discuss this in the recent movie. 


George Washington did not have wooden teeth. According to a study of Washington's four known dentures by a forensic anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh (in collaboration with the National Museum of Dentistry, itself associated with the Smithsonian Museum), the dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth). Just as awesome in my opinion.


It is a common misconception that the signing of the Declaration of Independence occurred on July 4, 1776. The final language of the document was approved by the Second Continental Congress on that date, it was printed and distributed on July 4 and 5, but the actual signing occurred on August 2, 1776.


Napoleon Bonaparte (pictured) was not particularly short, and did not have a Napoleon complex. After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in modern international feet, or 1.686 metres. There are competing explanations for why he was nicknamed le Petit Caporal (The Little Corporal), but few modern scholars believe it referred to his physical stature. Another explanation is that Napoleon was often seen with his Imperial Guard, which contributed to the perception of him being short because the Imperial Guards were above average height. Still doesn't sound quite so tall to me, though I guess average height has increased since then.


John F. Kennedy's words "Ich bin ein Berliner" are standard German for "I am a Berliner".An urban legend has it that due to his use of the indefinite article ein, Berliner is translated as jam doughnut, and that the population of Berlin was amused by the supposed mistake. The word Berliner is not commonly used in Berlin to refer to the Berliner Pfannkuchen; they are simply called Pfannkuchen. In other parts of Germany, though, the term "Berliner" actually also is used for the product in question, so there is a grain of truth in the myth, but of course no Berliner assumed a mistake in the quote.


Entrapment law in the United States does not require police officers to identify themselves as police in the case of a sting or other undercover work. The law is specifically concerned with enticing people to commit crimes they would not have considered in the normal course of events. So undercover hooker police CAN exist...


Some cooks believe that food items cooked with wine or liquor will be non-alcoholic, because alcohol's low boiling point causes it to evaporate quickly when heated. However, a study found that much of the alcohol remains: 25% after 1 hour of baking or simmering, and 10% after 2 hours. Which is why everyone in Wisconsin loves beer cheese soup.




Sushi does not mean "raw fish", and not all sushi includes raw fish.The name sushi refers to the vinegared rice used in it. Sushi is made with sumeshi, rice which has been gently folded with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar dressing. The rice is traditionally topped by raw fish, cooked seafood, fish roe, egg, and/or vegetables such as cucumber, daikon radish, and avocado. The related Japanese term, sashimi, is closer in definition to "raw fish", but still not quite accurate: Sashimi can also refer to any uncooked meat or vegetable, and usually refers more to the dish's presentation than to its ingredients. The dish consisted of sushi rice and other fillings wrapped in seaweed is called makizushi, and includes both "long rolls" and "hand rolls".


Microwave ovens do not cook food from the inside out. Microwave radiation penetrates food and causes direct heating only a short distance from the surface. This distance is called the skin depth. As an example, lean muscle tissue (meat), has a skin depth of only about 1 cm at microwave oven frequencies.


Placing metal inside a microwave oven does not damage the oven's electronics. There are, however, other safety-related issues: Electrical arcing may occur on pieces of metal not designed for use in a microwave oven, and metal objects may become hot enough to damage food, skin, or the interior of the microwave oven. Metallic objects that are designed for microwave use can be used in a microwave with no danger; examples include the metalized surfaces used in browning sleeves and pizza-cooking platforms. Look up some videos of CDs in microwaves; that gets intense.


Swallowed chewing gum does not take seven years to digest. In fact, chewing gum is mostly indigestible, but passes through the digestive system at the same rate as other matter.


It is commonly claimed that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the Moon. This is false. None of the Apollo astronauts reported seeing any specific man-made object from the Moon, and even earth-orbiting astronauts can barely see it, but city lights are easily visible on the night side of Earth from orbit. The misconception is believed to have been popularized by Richard Halliburton decades before the first moon landing. Shuttle astronaut Jay Apt has been quoted as saying "…the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles up."

Black holes, unlike their common image, do not act as "cosmic vacuum cleaners" any more than other stars.The collapse of a star into a black hole is an explosive process, which means, according to Mass–energy equivalence, that the resulting black hole would be of lower mass than its parent object, and actually have a weaker gravitational pull. The source of the confusion comes from the fact that a black hole exists in a space much smaller but orders of magnitude more dense than a star, causing its gravitational pull to be much stronger closer to its surface. But, as an example, were the Sun to be replaced by a black hole of the same mass, the orbits of all the planets surrounding it would be unaffected. This one blew my mind a bit.


The claim that a duck's quack does not echo is false, although the echo may be difficult to hear for humans under some circumstances.


The notion that goldfish have a memory of only three seconds is false.


Lemmings do not engage in mass suicidal dives off cliffs when migrating. They will, however, occasionally, and unintentionally fall off cliffs when venturing into unknown territory, with no knowledge of the boundaries of the environment. The misconception is due largely to the Disney film White Wilderness, which shot many of the migration scenes (also staged by using multiple shots of different groups of lemmings) on a large, snow-covered turntable in a studio. Photographers later pushed the lemmings off a cliff. The misconception itself is much older, dating back to at least the late nineteenth century.


Bats are not blind. While most bat species do use echolocation to augment their vision, all bat species have eyes and are capable of sight.  Maybe I should do a post on echolocation sometime. I learned some in-depth neuro in echolocation and it's intensely awesome.


It's a common myth that an earthworm becomes two worms when cut in half. However, only a limited number of earthworm species are capable of anterior regeneration. When most earthworms are bisected, only the front half of the worm (where the mouth is located) can survive, while the other half dies. Also, species of the planaria family of flatworms actuallydo become two new planaria when bisected or split down the middle.


According to urban myth, the daddy longlegs spider (Pholcus phalangioides) is the most venomous spider in the world, but the shape of their mandibles leaves them unable to bite humans, rendering them harmless to our species. In reality, they can indeed pierce human skin, though the tiny amount of venom they carry causes only a mild burning sensation for a few seconds. In addition, there is also confusion regarding the use of the name daddy longlegs, because harvestmen (order Opiliones, which are not spiders) and crane flies (which are insects) are also known as daddy longlegs, and share (also incorrectly) the myth of being venomous. I just heard this a year ago and... did anyone ever really believe this?


Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. This tale originates from the fact that the male ostrich will dig a large hole (up to 6 to 8 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep) in the sand for the eggs. Predators cannot see the eggs across the countryside which gives the nest some measure of protection. The female and male take turns sitting on the eggs and, because of the indention in the ground, usually just blend into the horizon. All birds turn their eggs (with their beak) several times a day during the incubation period. From a distance it may appear as though the bird has its head in the sand.


Sharks can actually suffer from cancer. The myth that sharks do not get cancer was spread by the 1992 book Sharks Don't Get Cancer by I. William Lane and used to sell extracts of shark cartilage as cancer prevention treatments. Reports of carcinomas in sharks exist, and current data do not allow any speculation about the incidence of tumors in sharks. It makes me sad that this asshole made money off such a ridiculous idea.


It is not harmful to baby birds to pick them up and return them to their nests, despite the common belief that doing so will cause the mother to reject it.

Bulls are not enraged by the color red, used in capes by professional matadors. Cattle are color-blind. It is not the color of the cape that angers the bull, but rather the movement of the fabric that irritates the bull and incites it to charge.

The word theory in the theory of evolution does not imply doubt from mainstream science regarding its validity; the concepts of theory andhypothesis have specific meanings in a scientific context. While theory in colloquial usage may denote a hunch or conjecture, a scientific theory is a set of principles that explains observable phenomena in natural terms.Evolution is a theory in the same sense as germ theory, gravitation, or plate tectonics. If you have ever used the "it's just a theory" argument against an evolutionist, shame on you.


Evolution does not claim humans evolved from monkeys, chimpanzees or any other modern-day primates. Instead, humans and monkeys share a common ancestor that lived about 40 million years ago. This common ancestor diverged into separate lineages, one evolving into so-called New World monkeys and the other into Old World monkeys and apes. Humans are included in the Hominidae family, which also includes chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Similarly, the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, which lived between 5 and 8 million years ago, evolved into two lineages, one eventually becoming modern humans and the two extant species of chimpanzee.


Evolution is not a progression from inferior to superior organisms, and it also does not necessarily result in an increase in complexity.


Evolution does not violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. A common argument against evolution is that entropy, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, increases over time, and thus evolution could not produce increased complexity. However, the law only applies to closed systems, which the Earth is not as it absorbs and radiates the Sun's energy.


Glass is not a high-viscosity liquid at room temperature: it is an amorphous solid, although it does have some chemical properties normally associated with liquids. Panes of stained glass windows often have thicker glass at the bottom than at the top, and this has been cited as an example of the slow flow of glass over centuries. However, this unevenness is due to the window manufacturing processes used in earlier eras, which produced glass panes that were unevenly thick at the time of their installation. Normally the thick end of glass would be installed at the bottom of the frame, but it is also common to find old windows where the thicker end has been installed to the sides or the top. In fact, the lead frames of the windows are less viscous than the panes, and if glass was indeed a slow moving liquid, the panes would warp at a higher degree.




I think that's enough for one post-- I'll post the rest later. If you want to check out the list for yourself, here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_misconceptions.

34 comments:

Literature and Stuff said...

Oh, man, this is so cool. I'm gonna hit that misconceptions page up myself now. Oh and props on xkcd, I've always loved that comic. Great post!

MRanthrope said...

yeah I read up until the black holes post....really fascinating but a little too much info for one blog. ha

brotosterone said...

Better entitled "use less facts" :p lol ♥

brotosterone.blogspot.com

thenitefalls said...

I thought some of these things were true! But thanks for pointing out these misconceptions!

Rawr said...

interesting post :D

StockGuy said...

Interesting, you really got me thinking.

I like your blog, I'll be following.

NooG said...

That's a crazy list man. Didn't know the ones about Marie Antoinette, Columbus, and Napoleon!

forkfantasy said...

saw that a couple weeks ago. :)

Doo said...

Many of them are quite interesting! Thanks!

Snuggs said...

Wow, there are a lot of misconceptions. Great find!

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Natural Peanut Butter said...

Yes! One of my favorite wikipedia articles ever. Though, come to think of it, I really can't say I have a lot of favorite wikipedia articles. Nonetheless, that article is amazing.

Bobby said...

Long post but good read.

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Dwrek said...

Thank you for having a quality blog with some depth. It's nice to come by a website and have something to actually read that is interesting.


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Tango Anglo said...

Everything I KNOW IS A LIE! *gunshot*

Anonymous said...

Life is full of these misconceptions

Auto Tuned Soul said...

I'm legitimately shocked to read some of these. Very interesting post. Keep up the good work!

And check out my blog as well.

The Latest Movie Trailers said...

very nice post

Come At Me Bro said...

Great info!

Marduk said...

I have never heard of said "Beer and Cheese soup" and I live in Wisconsin although the combination of the two does sound a bit disgusting.

dubstep said...

cool post


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S1N1337 said...

Nice to know, but I already knew everything in your list.

J-G-B said...

Good article.

Following and supporting.

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jonwinters said...

someone thought he was smarter than me by saying that glass is a highly viscous liquid. i'm glad i have an argument against that guy, though i haven't seen him for years. thanks :)

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Leo said...

Way too many misconceptions.
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Stock Investing and Trading said...

Hello~! Thanks for sharing these misconceptions. I actually learned some stuff from your post! Awesome XD

I have followed your blog.

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The Wyrdrem said...

I knew most of these, but they are quite interesting nonetheless. I haven't checked xkcd for a while. Followed.

Laughing Vault said...

haha those are really cool information :D thank you :) i think im gonna visit that site :)

whytheface said...

lol great find.words alittle small

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DSonora said...

Very interesting read. I assure you, I read the whole thing.

Im Just Sayin said...

i know the ownder of xkcd :D

Mister King said...

cool comic, and great misconceptions. The one about humans and chimps was interesting...

FIAIN said...

Ive been lied to my entire life!

Candlej- said...

my favorite one is about entrapment and the police. a lot of kids around my age (22) think otherwise and that they know the law.. how pretentious

http://randomramblingggg.blogspot.com/

Tenko said...

Very interesting. Read through the whole wiki article. Found some things I didn't know about.

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