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Thread: Bad Truisms (what "everybody knows" and is wrong)

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    Bad Truisms (what "everybody knows" and is wrong)

    Thousands, if not millions bits of information comprise "common knowldege" -- things everybody knows (or at least supposed to know). People use this common knowledge almost without thinking, often to support more complicated positions, and it is almost never questioned. Trouble is, some of that "common knowledge" is wrong. Can you come up with some bits of conventional wisdom which so pervaded the collective consciousness that non-specialists quote them without even thinking - except that they happen to be false?

    Here are some:

    Humans use only 10% of their brains. Any neurologist will tell you this is nonsense. It originated with 1950's motivational speakers -- "You will unleash the FULL potential of your brain!"

    Plutonium is the most dangerous substance known to mankind. Ralph Nader tossed it off, and gullible public ate it up.

    Wars are good for the economy. World War II happened to be good for American economy. It still boggles my mind how that very unusual case became a universal rule. To see just how silly it is, all one had to do was look what WWII did to German or British economy. (To forestall criticism -- wars are frequently good for technological progress, but that is not the same thing.)

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    Porcupines shoot their quills.
    Hummingbirds migrate south on the backs of geese.
    Lemmings run of of cliffs during mating season.
    Bears can not run down hills.
    A wolf can not turn it's head.
    Giraffes are mute.

    Men are stupid.
    Ditto a blonde.

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    Myths I have heard;

    The Pole Star is the brightest star in the sky;
    Water goes down the drain in different directions in the North and South hemispheres;
    Carrots make you see in the dark;
    You can never see the Dark Side of the Moon...

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    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45
    Carrots make you see in the dark;
    Not entirely a myth - vitamin A deficiency does destroy your night vision, and carrots are a good source of vitamin A. However, if you already have normal human night vision, no amount of carrots would turn you into a cat.

    You can never see the Dark Side of the Moon...
    Of course you can't! Look up during night of the New Moon and tell me if you see it!

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    "Spinach has an insane amount of iron in it compared to other foods" is my favorite. In actuality it just came out when they did the study that someone misplaced a decimal place so spinach got ten times more iron then the other vegetables tested.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowcelt
    Porcupines shoot their quills.
    Hummingbirds migrate south on the backs of geese.
    Lemmings run of of cliffs during mating season.
    Bears can not run down hills.
    A wolf can not turn it's head.
    Giraffes are mute.
    Except for lemmings and porcupines, I would not call these "common knowledge". At least I never heard the hummingbird, bear and wolf stories; very vaguely may have heard about giraffes being mute.

    But yes, lemmings run off the cliffs is a good example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowcelt
    Bears can not run down hills.
    I actually had someone try to tell me this a few days ago. He thought that running down a hill would be a good way to avoid a bear attack. #-o

    I hope I convinced him that playing dead and covering your head with your hands was a better idea.

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    Columbus had to convince 15th century scholars that the Earth was round.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilya
    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45
    Carrots make you see in the dark;
    Not entirely a myth - vitamin A deficiency does destroy your night vision, and carrots are a good source of vitamin A. However, if you already have normal human night vision, no amount of carrots would turn you into a cat.
    This myth was spread about during the Second World War in England to explain the accuracy of the fighters operating with the aid of Radar, which was supposedly secret. A good myth, becuase it had some basis in fact.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ilya
    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45
    You can never see the Dark Side of the Moon...
    Of course you can't! Look up during night of the New Moon and tell me if you see it!
    I saw it a couple of months ago, thanks to Earthshine; if the Bright side of the moon hadn't been right next to it, the Dark side would have been the brightest thing in the sky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Laser Jock
    Quote Originally Posted by snowcelt
    Bears can not run down hills.
    I actually had someone try to tell me this a few days ago. He thought that running down a hill would be a good way to avoid a bear attack. #-o

    I hope I convinced him that playing dead and covering your head with your hands was a better idea.
    Why go through all the trouble of playign dead? Just tell him to make sure he can run faster than his hiking partner. :-P




    Hmm.. This is turning inot a myth thread, but oh well. Ones that are common and anoy me alont with commonly heald beliefs.:

    -Columbus "Discovered" america
    -Lightning never strikes the same place twice (tell that to those who live in Florida. Or even easier. If they have a lgithning rod ask them to take it down saince once the rod is hit they must know then with their belief that their house will never be hit again. :-P)
    -Diet Soda gives you cancer. We proved this wrong in the other thread, yet every time i go out somebody in my party has to mention this.
    -You cant teach a old dog new tricks.

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    From the religious world (A seasonal one)

    Three kings visited the infant Jesus....
    Actualy the New Testament account does not mention the number of "magi" only three types of gift. It does not even say they were kings, let alone give them their names [-X

    on the twelth night in the stable
    Actually if you read the account in the gospel of Matthew (Chapter 2 Verse 11), they came to them in a house. The comand for all baby boys two years and under to be killed, implies they took a lot longer than twelve days. The twelf night comes from the twelve days of the feast of Saturnali, a pagan festival that was "christianised" by the early church.

    I will leave you to fight it out about the "star of Bethlehem"

    A poor drummer boy beat out a tune for the infant Jesus
    Wrong - no mention of this in the gospel account. It was a syrupy song by Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone

    It all happened on 25 December
    Wrong time of year, as the reference to the shepherds reveals. Again this was another pagan festival hijacked by the early church. Speculation puts Jesus actual birdate around either the spring or for Jewish significance around the beginning of October (1st of Tishri)

    This all happened around 1 CE
    Again, slight problem here as according to archeaological evidence, Herod the Great died in 4 BCE (Someone made a slight error in the 6th Century on the dating front :P )

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humphrey
    Columbus "Discovered" america
    Is that because he thought he discovered India? Was he the first European to go to the New World?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent Knight
    Quote Originally Posted by Humphrey
    Columbus "Discovered" america
    Is that because he thought he discovered India? Was he the first European to go to the New World?
    He was looking for a faster way to the pacific islands. GHe landed in the Carribean, not America as we know it. And Finally its been shown that the Vikings were the first Europeans to land in North America.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent Knight
    Quote Originally Posted by Humphrey
    Columbus "Discovered" america
    Is that because he thought he discovered India? Was he the first European to go to the New World?
    No, but I'd say he did discover america. Why? Because he didn't know it was there. I've discovered lots of things in my life that other people knew well before me.
    Oh, and to the animal thing: ostriches sticking their heads in the sand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silent Knight
    Quote Originally Posted by Humphrey
    Columbus "Discovered" america
    Is that because he thought he discovered India? Was he the first European to go to the New World?
    Really, WHY does Humphrey think it is a myth? True, Columbus never realized he found "New World" and yes, Vikings had reached America earlier, but Columbus certainly discovered America in the sense of making its existence known to the European community as a whole (which Vikings did not).

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    Myth: Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the globe

    Technically his expedition circumnavigated the globe. Magellan died part way (in the Phillipines) but a remnant of the expedition did manage to complete the voyage. I think he started with five ships but only one, with 18 crew, made it back.

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    Any accident in a nuclear power station is a Chernobyl.

    Apocalyptic anthropogenic global warming is a certainty. The way the BBC carries on, you can't blame readers from believing it. Every week they have a report from some interest group about the impending disaster based on evidence used in affirmed consequents and dodgy IPCC climate models.

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    That ostrich one reminded me of misconceptions about elephants:

    a) largest animal (no, that's whales)

    b) they never forget

    c) they are afraid of mice

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilya
    Quote Originally Posted by Silent Knight
    Quote Originally Posted by Humphrey
    Columbus "Discovered" america
    Is that because he thought he discovered India? Was he the first European to go to the New World?
    Really, WHY does Humphrey think it is a myth? True, Columbus never realized he found "New World" and yes, Vikings had reached America earlier, but Columbus certainly discovered America in the sense of making its existence known to the European community as a whole (which Vikings did not).
    O.K. I accept your claim to his discovery. He did land in the Carribean first, but if i remember right he did come onto the Florida coast. And he did popularize the idea of its discovery.
    But the way its thought of in most American minds is still a incorrect myth.

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    You can sit in kangaroo's poches

    Its got a lot more muces than on T.V

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    Quote Originally Posted by mickal555
    You can sit in kangaroo's poches

    Its got a lot more muces than on T.V
    Does that happen a lot on australian tv? aside from some pretty silly cartoons, I can't think of ever seeing that here in the States

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    Quote Originally Posted by TriangleMan
    Myth: Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the globe

    Technically his expedition circumnavigated the globe. Magellan died part way (in the Phillipines) but a remnant of the expedition did manage to complete the voyage. I think he started with five ships but only one, with 18 crew, made it back.
    I know that he died part way through, but I cannot remember was he buried along the way, or did his body finish the journey so it could be buried at home?

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    He was killed by a bunch of natives and there's a fair amount of distance between the Phillipines and Europe. If they'd've kept his body it'd probably have decayed by return.
    Though there's probably a ceremonial gravesite somewhere in his hometown...

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    "You can't teach cats tricks."

    I have two that will roll over on request* (most of the time).

    *With cats, it is never a "command". [-(
    I may have many faults, but being wrong ain't one of them. - Jimmy Hoffa

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    A couple from the world of entertainment:

    Humphrey Bogart never said 'Play it again, Sam' in Casablanca.
    Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes never said 'Elementary, my dear Watson'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Careless
    Quote Originally Posted by mickal555
    You can sit in kangaroo's poches

    Its got a lot more muces than on T.V
    Does that happen a lot on australian tv? aside from some pretty silly cartoons, I can't think of ever seeing that here in the States
    No, I dunno its just one came inside and I thought I'd try it but yer......

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    One of the stupidest:

    You fall in love with / marry the only person in the world for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TriangleMan
    That ostrich one reminded me of misconceptions about elephants:

    c) they are afraid of mice
    They don't seem to like high-frequency sounds, such as mice squeaking. Though pig squeals are much louder and work better, as the Romans found out. (And setting fire to the pigs makes them squeal... ewww)

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    Pigs on fire,
    Rolling down the road.
    There's no my next of kin,
    This pig shall explode!

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    Quote Originally Posted by NASA Fan
    I know that he died part way through, but I cannot remember was he buried along the way, or did his body finish the journey so it could be buried at home?
    FindaGrave has no location for the body, I assume it was left behind in the Phillipines. There is an official account of the expedition by Pigaletta (who survivied) so if Magellan was buried in the Phillipines then Pigaletta's account should mention it.

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