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Fascinating and Strange Facts About Evolution and Early Humans
The brain of the "newer" Homosapiens was larger and more complex than its predecessor; his face was shorter and he developed a chin, making it possible to speak a more complex language than before. Millions of years have passed since our ancestors roamed this earth and were able to draw conclusions from archeological and anthropological discoveries. But what other factors have affected our evolution and adaptation? Here are some surprising insights into the lives of early humans.
We Used to Be Hunting Hobbits (Sort of)
Evidence from an ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows that early man was capable of ambushing herds of animals up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought. Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest, and other large animals at least two million years ago.
And, a hobbit-like species of humans lived approximately 18,000 years ago, according to Australian and Indonesian researchers. The species lived among pygmy elephants, 10-foot lizards, and were no taller than the average 3-year-old.
Early Humans Left Africa Over 1 Million Years Ago
Homo sapiens, the ancestors of modern man, originated in Africa. The “Out of Africa” theory suggests that our ancestors left the continent and migrated to Europe and Asia. In doing so, they began replacing earlier examples of the human species - the Homo Erectus.
This migration took place approximately 80,000 years ago. What is interesting to note is that the Homo erectus (upright human) had actually followed the exact same route (from Africa to Eurasia) - over 1 million years ago. Looks like Homo sapiens weren't the first to get this idea.
Our Ancestors Were More Developed Than You Expect
During this time our ancestors were small-brained apemen that many assumed survived off what they could find.
And what they could find was thought to be food that the land produced or the meat that came from animals that had already died from natural causes or had been left behind by other larger predators. But the discovery of hunting and eating tools suggests our ancestors maybe have been more intellectually developed than originally thought.
While exact dates are always difficult to come by, studies have found out when our human-like ancestors began using the skin of animals to keep them warm. The need to do so may have arisen sometime after losing a large portion of body hair.
Scientists estimate the time at which humans began wearing “clothes” at around 1 million years ago. This time frame was decided by examining factors such as the genetic skin coloration of our ancestors at around this time.
Why Do We Have Goose Bumps?
Researchers have discovered that many human traits, including organs and behaviors, have lost most of their original function due to evolution. These include organs like the appendix, wisdom teeth, and the tailbone and also behavioral reflexes, such as the formation of goosebumps under the skin. The exact reason isn't known for sure, but there is an interesting hypothesis.
Scientists have suggested that a possible function was to raise the body's hair, making our ancestors appear larger to scare off predators. Raising the hair may also have been used to trap an extra layer of air, keeping an animal warm. We used to have thick hair, which stood on heads not so unlike the hair on the back of your neck now. Only, we lost that thick hair over time. But the physiologic response stayed.
There are some scientists that believe that communication traits and the use of language arose from a common dialect spoken by our ancestors when they were all still in Africa. This language may have been made up of sounds and grunts as opposed to formal words, but were certainly used as a means for instruction and expression.
With over 5000 different languages spoken in the world today, this concept is highly likely. Linguists and anthropologists suggest that human language probably started to develop around 100,000 years ago.
Homo Sapiens Have Only Had a Culture for Less than 50,000 Years
Many anthropologists now believe that early humans probably did not develop a culture until around that time. When we consider that the "mitochondrial Eve" theory suggests that we are all descended from one East African woman who lived about 150,000-200,000 years ago, It is shocking.
The theory suggests that Homo sapiens evolved over 150,000 years ago, around the time of mitochondrial Eve - the most recent common maternal ancestor of people currently on Earth. This means our species hung around for a really long time before we developed art, symbolic communication, ornaments, and bone tools. Pre-cultural humans did have sophisticated toolkits and fire, but anthropologists believe that they didn't invent language until a cultural explosion.
The creation and use of stone tools by our ancestors is estimated at about 2.6 million years ago.
In Dikika, Ethiopia, however, researchers have found fossil animal bones with possible butchery marks from up to 3.4 million years ago. This discovery could show that early humans used naturally sharp rocks on the bones of antelope-sized animals as a means of killing and cutting their food.
Humans Navigated The Indian Ocean In Boats 50,000 Years Ago
It appears as though travel and navigation were pretty commonplace for our ancestors, but this discovery was a pretty incredible feat.
There is no evidence that Homo sapiens travelled to Australia 50,000 years ago and they did so without maps, travel navigation - or any sea travel experience for that matter!
Our Fists Have Constantly Evolved to Give Punches
Considering our faces have evolved in order to receive a punch to the face - it makes sense that the part of our body used for delivering the punch would have had to evolve as well. The notion that evolution shaped our hands, not for dexterity, but to form fists, recently emerged from a study of anatomical changes in humans.
The study suggests that at about the same time we started walking upright, our hands became short and square with opposable thumbs. This change has always been recognized as a means for tool manipulation, but recent studies suggest the ability to form a fist was actually an evolutionary step to help to deliver a punch when fighting.
Aliens Among Us
Long-skulled geniuses may have walked the earth before us.
In 1913, scientists uncovered strange-looking skull fragments that were later determined to sit behind childlike faces. This combination naturally led to conversations about aliens, but keep in mind: We survived, and they didn’t. So how smart could they be?
Our Tooth Size Decreased While Brain Size Increased
One of the most noticeable change in our own evolution and adaptation was the increase in the size of the human brain with the simultaneous decrease in the size of our teeth. This evolutionary trait came as a surprise to scientists who noticed the opposite trend in other animals whose brains and teeth grew in conjunction with each other.
One speculation regarding the decrease in tooth size might be that humans had started to cook food over a fire which made chewing and digestion easier, and subsequently saving time and energy - that our ancestors would have spent on digestion, therefore large teeth wouldn't have been needed for the acquisition of additional nutrient for brain growth.
As we know, there are a few things that set us apart from our animal counterparts - these include walking on two legs, creating and using stone tools, and being able to manage the natural element of fire.
Evidence of fire being used as a tool came from archaeologists’ discovery of Stone Age flint tools, which were used to both create fire and for scraping and cutting meat.
Different Types of Food Allowed Us to Evolve
One of the primary factors of evolution is the food we consume. In the past, after traveling far distances and adapting to new locations, our ancestor’s diets changed according to what food was available to them. Their diet initially consisted of nuts, seeds, fish, insects, and small animals - providing the foundation that helped evolve our brains, and develop our intelligence. This resulted in early human’s creating advanced tools and using fire, which helped the evolution train keep on chugging.
A new study that was published in the scientific journal PNAS in 2018, claims that this diversity in the homo-sapiens diet is what allowed us to evolve over the neanderthals that consumed mainly meat. When the ice age made herds of animals fleet, the neanderthals starved while the homo-sapiens could nourish from other sources. The diet was perfected throughout the years and in the last few thousand of years, it is known as the Mediterranian diet. People who keep this diet to this day are known to live longer than others.
Homo Sapiens Always Evolve
Human evolution is the extended process of change that suggests humans originated from apelike ancestors. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people stemmed from these ancestors and evolved over an extended period of time.
Our species, as suggested by many, will continue to evolve in response to our living conditions - different food, geographical and environmental changes, the advent of modern technology, and of course the amalgamation of our different races.
The Human Population Decreased 80,000 Years Ago
About 80,000 years ago there was a drastic reduction in the size of the human population. Archeologists are still not 100% sure what caused the decline, but it definitely wasn't pretty.
Some say there may have been a massive volcanic eruption that filled the sky with millions of particles of ash, blocking the sun’s heat for many years and in so doing creating freezing temperatures that would have severely affected life and population growth on earth at the time.
We May Have Neanderthal Genes
Neanderthals are our closest extinct human relatives. Our well-known, but often misunderstood ancestors lived in Europe and Asia as early as 200,000 years ago until about 30,000 years ago.
While the Neanderthals’ appearance was slightly similar to ours, they were shorter and stockier with angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses. These qualities were important for survival in Europe’s cold climate and in order to hunt big animals for food. Though sometimes thought of as barbarians, scientists have discovered that Neanderthals in fact used tools, buried their dead and had control over fire.
Early Humans Have Incredibly Low Genetic Diversity
Despite having found a large variety of different human species, the discoveries don’t differ too much in terms of their genetic make up. The scientific reasoning lies in the fact that we (and all of our ancestors) come from the same location in East Africa, where it is assumed all of our human-ape ancestors lived.
Population geneticists describe genetic diversity with a measure called "effective population size." Basically, effective population size is how many people you would need to reproduce the genetic diversity of our full population. For humans, this number is really low and hovers at around 15,000 individuals. It is kind of crazy when you consider that the actual population size is 7 billion. If compared to mice, some species of them have an effective population size of 733,000.
Human Longevity May Be Caused By a Slow Metabolism
In today's diet and our health-obsessed world, we are often told to eat many small meals a day in order to increase our metabolism in order to lose weight. The scientific truth is that a slow metabolism very well is the key to our living longer than other animals.
The faster your metabolism, the more energy you need. The more energy you use the faster your body will wear out. If we were to compare humans rate of metabolism with that of other mammals, we would find that our metabolic rate is substantially lower, sometimes up to 50%.
An Important Evolutionary Protein
DUF 1220 is a protein that may be essential in the development and evolution of the human brain evolution. This notion comes from the understanding that human beings have in excess 270 copies of DUF1220 in their brains, whereas our primate cousins, like chimpanzees and gorillas have slightly less copies of the protein in their brains.
With further research we have no doubt scientists will link human intelligence to the protein itself, accounting for the disparity between us and animals. However, some of us still have some muscles our ancestors used to use, while some nine percent of people are missing the muscle in their foot that allows them to grip objects like our primitive ancestors. (Might as well bend down, anyway, right?)
A Population Explosion May Be Upon Us - Or Not
It took 100,000 years for the population to reach one billion people. It took only 133 years for it to reach its second billion, and 44 after that to double again. Ecologists predict the world population will hit eight billion people by 2025.
A mysterious illness (probably tuberculosis) is thought to have wiped out all but 2,000 of our early ancestors around 70,000 BC — putting us shoulder-to-shoulder with black rhinos and giant pandas on the endangered species list - so who really knows what lies ahead for us?
Terrifying Science Facts That Shine Light On A World Unknown
The world in which we live is more amazing than we can even imagine. From the microscopic to the galactic, science has shown us parts of the natural world that boggle the mind. Insects that torture other beings in horrifying ways, giant stars that eventually become black holes, and the incredible variety of critters that live in and on our bodies are just some of the fascinating subjects upon which science has shone its light of observation. The world of science has illuminated dark corners of the universe that are scary, repulsive, and downright shocking.
Yet somehow, even knowledge about such repugnant things has expanded our understanding of the universe and our place in it. Some of these phenomena may be difficult to face, but their presence in our world, combined with the human need to learn and grow, demands that we study even the most objectionable and frightening subjects. Here are some scary science facts that you might not want to know about, but probably should.
Bamboo Will Grow Right Through A Human Being
Bamboo is a popular and versatile plant used by various cultures for thousands of years. Indigenous to Asia, it tends to grow in or near water sources all over the continent, from India to Japan. It’s been used to make tools and weapons, and the fiber harvested from bamboo has even been used to make fabric and clothing. It’s also the fastest-growing plant in the world, sometimes growing as much as 36 inches in a single day.
Because of this, and the cruelty of men, bamboo has also been used as a torture device. Victims were tied in place on top of a bamboo shoot, and left alone for a few days. The plant would simply grow right through them. The pain is indescribable as the bamboo inexorably pushes through flesh, bone, and blood. It is said that this torture technique was used on American servicemen during the Vietnam War.
The Government Decides How Many Body Parts You Can Eat
Much of our food comes processed from factories, and these factories are inspected by the US government. Specifically, it is the Food Safety and Inspection Service which does this work. They are an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture and are responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation’s meat, poultry, and dairy products. But you might be surprised at what kinds of things are allowed in our food supply. In chocolate, for example, up to 70 insect parts per 125 grams of chocolate are perfectly legal.
In the dairy industry, a certain amount of blood and pus is legally permissible in milk. Dairy is, of course, organic, and as such, milk contains small amounts of other bodily fluids. However, milk is pasteurized, which removes all harmful microbes, so even if we’re ingesting small amounts of blood and pus with our morning coffee, it shouldn’t cause much harm.
Thousands of Mites Live on Your Face
The human body is the perfect environment for scores of microscopic creatures. All kinds of microbes, from bacteria to viruses to fungi to tiny insects, make a home out of human bodies, living in our digestive systems, on our skin, and in our hair. On our eyelashes alone, two species of mites live. They hang out in the hair follicles and eat dead skin. At any one time, there may be as many as 2000 little critters inhabiting our eyelashes.
They eat, mate, produce waste, and reproduce, right on our faces. They go through their entire life spans living on our faces, without even bothering to pay rent. Face mites are microscopic, so they can’t be seen, and we don’t feel them, but if you were to look under a microscope, you’d see them, happily living their lives with us as hosts. And no, water does not wash them away.
Your Body is Just Like the Ship of Theseus
The Ship of Theseus is an ancient thought experiment that explores the issues of identity. What makes us who we are? Over the years, every plank of wood, every sail, every nail on the ship has to be replaced. The question is, is it the same ship if all the parts of it have changed? The same question holds true about the human body. It’s well known that every seven years, all the cells of our bodies are exchanged for new ones.
Every day, we lose billions of cells which leave our body as dead skin. Furthermore, the individual atoms that make up our cells are also being continuously swapped out. Due to chemistry and quantum physics, it takes about a year for every one of the seven octillion atoms that make up our bodies to change into another atom of the same kind. So are we still ourselves?
Stomach Acid is Strong Enough to Dissolve the Human Body, but Fortunately, It Doesn't
Stomach acid, also called gastric acid, is a powerful chemical that our bodies use to dissolve difficult-to-digest foods like meat and fiber. Its main component is the industrial-strength solvent hydrochloric acid. The strength of an acid like HCl is measured on the pH scale. The scale ranges from zero to thirteen, and the lower the pH, the stronger the acid. Stomach acid lies at a pH of between 1 and 2, strong enough to dissolve stainless steel.
If it touched our skin, there would be immediate damage, but this just shows how amazing the human body is. Stomach acid is produced by cells in the lining of the stomach, and these cells also produce a protective mucus. Inside the stomach, the mucosal lining protects the rest of the body from the strong gastric acids, so that stomach acid can focus on its job of digesting our food.
Your Toothbrush Is Probably Disgusting
The coronavirus is not the only dangerous substance spread through the air on tiny droplets that can contaminate surfaces and cause disease. You may not want to hear about this, but if you keep your toothbrush in your bathroom, as millions of Americans do, then every time you flush you are contaminating it. Flushing produces a lot of force, and some of the swirling water becomes aerosolized into tiny droplets and floats through the air.
If your toothbrush is nearby, some of those droplets will invariably land on it. The next time you brush your teeth, you put the same toothbrush in your mouth, ingesting what was floating through the air. Usually, your immune system is strong enough to deal with the disgusting material, but it’s still quite unpleasant to think about. Make sure you close the toilet lid and keep your toothbrush inside a cabinet to avoid such unpleasantries.
Fleas Are Faster Than The Eye Can See
Fleas are incredible creatures. Not only can they be taught to perform tricks in traveling flea circuses, but they also execute amazing feats of strength without even trying. Fleas have been measured jumping up to three inches in a mere thousandth of a second. That’s incredible when you consider the size of their bodies, and even more incredible if you do the math and calculate the acceleration such a jump produces.
Acceleration can be measured in G-forces. One G is the normal pull we feel from gravity. Roller coasters (and the Space Shuttle) can temporarily put us through forces up to five G, whereas some fighter planes can pull as many as 10Gs. Fleas generate up to 100Gs of acceleration when they jump. To humans, it would be like weighing a ton or more. They accomplish this amazing feat via a system of coiled proteins that can be suddenly released like a spring.
Mount Everest Is Littered With the Bodies of Failed Climbers
Climbing Mount Everest can be a lifelong dream for some people. The highest mountain in the world peaks at just over 29,000 ft, and climbing it is by no means easy. As many as 300 people have died attempting to climb Everest, and up to half of those are still up on the mountain, buried in the snow. Some were caught in avalanches, some slipped and fell, and some went mad due to low oxygen levels and simply froze to death.
Out of respect for the dead, and because it would be too dangerous to attempt to recover them, the bodies are left on the mountain, perpetually frozen. Some are buried deep enough that they are never seen again, but some are close enough to the surface to become visible each spring, as a deadly reminder to each season’s crop of climbers of how dangerous the mountain truly is.
It's Ok, Insects Are Mostly Protein
Chocolate is not the only food that is legally allowed to contain insects. In fact, insects can be found in much of the food eaten in the US, from fruits and vegetables to packaged cereals or soup. A recent study has found that Americans eat insect pieces as many as 140,000 times every year, albeit most of those are microscopic. Still, there are some foods that are more likely to contain insects than others, and there are different regulations about how much is allowed.
Ground cinnamon is legally allowed to contain as much as 400 insect fragments per 50 grams, and oregano is even worse, being allowed to contain as much as 1,250 insect fragments for every ten grams. Most of the insect material in our foods, however, comes from produce, where little critters can hide in spinach or corn until we discover them at the dinner table.
Atoms Are Really Really Really Small
We know that all matter is made up of atoms and that atoms are impossibly small, but we have a hard time getting a sense of what that really means. It may be surprising to learn that there are more atoms in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the sea, but a little number crunching can easily prove this statement to be true. Let’s look at the details.
In one 200-milliliter glass of water, there are approximately 6.6855 x 10 to the 24th power (or 6.6855*1024) molecules of H₂O. That is more than the number of stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beaches. Meanwhile, if you divide all the ocean water on Earth into 200ml glasses, you’d end up with 6.67 x 10 to the 21st power (6.67*1021) glasses of water, which is about 1000 times smaller.
Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right, But Three Rights Make a Left
This next interesting fact might come in handy if you find yourself lost in a big city somewhere in the world. All over the world, cities can be difficult to navigate. Even with GPS technology, it’s not always easy to find your way around an unfamiliar urban area. In many cities where traffic is on the right side of the road, making a left turn on a busy street is illegal.
It’s understandable why they would have this law. Making a left turn in front of oncoming traffic can be dangerous, and it can create traffic jams. However, making three right turns in a row will accomplish the same thing as making one left. If you turn right, turn right again, and turn right once more, you will be going in the same direction as if you’ve made a left. So remember this helpful tip if you ever need to.
Our Cornea is Not Connected to Our Blood Supply
The human immune system is a complex array of hormones and defensive cells that is designed to respond to any outside threat the human body may encounter. In most cases, immune system cells travel through the bloodstream to any area of the body that needs them. But there’s one part of the body that has no blood supply, and therefore no access to the body’s primary immune system.
The cornea, the transparent outer surface of the eye, has no direct blood supply. No blood vessels flow into it or through it. It gets oxygen directly from the air. This allows for the transparency necessary for vision, but it means the cornea is on its own for defense. Lashes and tears provide the main defense. In conditions, blood does enter the cornea, and that can ironically lead to infection and, in some cases, blindness. Fortunately, this is an exceedingly rare condition.
Incompetence Can Lead to Overconfidence
Sometimes, the people who seem to be the most confident about a particular subject or idea are the ones who actually know the least about it. This phenomenon has been described as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and can actually explain why mediocrity can sometimes be more commonplace than excellence. The Dunning-Kruger Effect states that the more knowledgeable someone is, the more unsure they can be about their knowledge.
But people who know very little about something tend to be more sure that they know most of what there is to be known. Basically, they don’t know how much there is to know. The unknowledgeable are overconfident about what they know, and the knowledgable are under-confident about what they know. This can lead to some very bad group decisions being made as people that should speak up end up doubting themselves, while people that should be quiet end up being the loudest.
You Are More Bacteria Than Human
If you could count the number of bacteria in your body and compare them with the number of your own cells, you’d find that you are actually made up of more bacterial cells than humans cells. According to Dr. Carolyn Bohach, the University of Idaho microbiologist, there are about ten times as many bacterial cells in our bodies as there are our own cells. Of course, most of the bacteria are much smaller than our cells, and the bacteria that do live among us usually exist peacefully.
In fact, many of the bacteria in our digestive system and on our skin are actually beneficial to our health. Digestive bacteria produce enzymes that help us better digest our food, and other bacteria in our system produce vitamins or provide energy to our cells. We have truly learned to live in harmony with our bacterial cousins, and we now depend on each other for survival.
Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!
Betelgeuse is a supergiant star found in the constellation Orion and is the tenth-brightest star in the sky. A supergiant is a star close to the end of its lifespan. A supergiant starts, like all stars, as a blob of interstellar gas and dust. Gradually, gravity brings the dust together and when it is dense enough, the star ignites its nuclear fuel. Because it’s so large, the core burns through its main fuel, hydrogen, and starts fusing atomic nuclei together to make helium.
Eventually, even the helium gets processed into Iron, carbon, and other heavier elements. At that point, the star becomes a red supergiant. Eventually, supergiants like Betelgeuse explode and become neutron stars or even black holes. As this happens, they become many times brighter. This could happen with Betelgeuse at any time, and it will light up the night sky for months when it does.
The Taste Of Human Flesh
In most cultures, cannibalism is taboo. Humans eat all kinds of animals, but generally, it’s not considered acceptable to dine on the flesh of fellow human beings. There are certainly some famous cases; usually, it happens when people are stranded somewhere. In the 1840s, the Donner Party got lost in the mountains and ate each other. It also happened after a plane crash in 1972. But it’s not something most people do every day.
However, many may wonder what human meat would taste like if they were to try it. The few people who have tried it say that it tastes very much like pork. Pigs are like humans in other ways. In fact, their skin and circulatory systems are similar enough to be used in medical trials. But it’s a bit disconcerting to discover that pork chops taste just like Aunt Marge would, if it ever came to that.
The Horrifying World of Insect Reproduction
The insect world is ruthless. Some species will do the most heinous things to each other in the name of survival and reproduction. Perhaps the most horrifying examples are wasps. The Tarantula Hawk, a kind of spider wasp, reproduces by paralyzing a tarantula and laying its eggs inside the spider’s body. The eggs hatch, and they slowly eat the spider from the inside out until the spider is gone.
The Jewel Wasp is even worse. Amazingly, it can sting a cockroach in the precise spot needed to paralyze its front legs, and then sting the roach again at the spot in the brain that controls its escape reflex. So the cockroach stays conscious, but doesn’t run away. Again, the wasp’s eggs hatch inside the roach, and the larvae eat their way out, avoiding vital organs in order to keep the roach alive as long as possible. What an absolute nightmare.
Whose Skin Will You Be Wearing This Season?
Another taboo found across most cultures is using parts of the human body to make household items. But during the French Revolution, the cities were littered with corpses, and they didn’t know what to do with them. Some were victims of the guillotine, some died of disease or foul play, and some lucky souls died of natural causes. Because of the revolution, supplies of many items were low. One scarce material was leather, and with the abundance of human bodies around, people started using human flesh to make leather goods.
The human skins would be tanned, and then used for clothing. It became quite a popular item among aristocrats, with rich people favoring men’s skin as it was tougher and more durable. After the revolution ended, the supply of leather from animals became plentiful again, and the practice of using human skin to make leather boots and belts faded (thankfully) into history.
Time is an Illusion of the Third Dimension
The Theory of Relativity, developed by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century, turned our understanding of the universe on its head. We used to think of the world as a giant clock, in which objects were solid and fixed. The length of a meter stick was always one meter, and a second always lasted one second. Einstein showed us that all measurements were flexible, changing depending on the point of view of the observer.
Even the idea of simultaneity, or when two things happen at the same time, is an illusion. For some, those two things happen at different times. Ultimately, Relativity shows us that time, as we experience it, is technically an illusion. Time and space form a single fourth-dimensional unit, space-time, but because we are trapped in three dimensions, we experience the shadow of the 4th dimension as time. However, in higher dimensions, time doesn’t really exist.
Quantum Mechanics Says That We Create Our Own Reality
After Relativity, Quantum Mechanics came along to revolutionize physics and our understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live. Developed by Bohr, Heisenberg, Dirac, and others, QM says that everything exists in a world of probabilities until witnessed by an observer. If I flip a fair coin, before I flip it, there is a 50-50 chance it will be heads or tails.
After I flip it, the same possibilities remain until the flipped coin is observed to be in one state or the other. In a way, everything exists as possibilities until one outcome is selected by a conscious observer. The idea that a tree that falls in a forest doesn’t make a noise if no one is there to hear it is truly mind-blowing if you stop to think about it. Relativity showed us that time isn’t real, and quantum mechanics showed us that nothing is real.
Just like relativity and quantum mechanics showed us that what we held true was actually wrong, so do these science "facts" up next that turned out to be pure myth...
Fact or Fiction? 23 Pieces of "Science" That Are Actually Myth
When we want to hear stories of magic and allure, we turn to folklore, mythical legend, and even Netflix. If we want to immerse ourselves in facts and logical discussion, then we normally turn to science. Science has built itself upon being a proven-fact-based field, and typically presents words proven beyond a doubt. But does that mean that science is always truthful?
We’d like to suggest there are moments when science is not as clear-cut as it pretends to be. Sometimes, the lines between myth and truth are blurred and we end up believing what we’re told without even second-guessing whether it’s true. Here are 23 stories told by science that are actually myths and should probably be removed from the textbook. It’s time to ask yourself whether sugar really does make children hyperactive and whether swallowing gum does really doom us to seven years of stickiness!
Dropping a Coin From a Tall Building Won’t Kill Someone
Can you imagine being charged with homicide after dropping a penny from the Empire State Building? Some people believe that if a penny drops from a tall building and lands on a person, that it has the power to kill that individual. The reasoning boils down to illogical physics stipulating that the accumulated speed will be enough to knock a person down - forever.
However, this is the first myth that needs to be busted. While you’ll most certainly feel a bit of a sting if a penny falls on your head, it definitely won’t kill you. Rather than reach a speed of 100 miles per hour as scientific myths suggest, the penny will just tumble from the top and give you a fright.
A Full Moon Doesn’t Impact Behavior
There’s certainly something magical about a full moon and how it brightens up the night sky. It adds a mood of romance and mystery. However, there is no proof that a full moon has an impact on bizarre human behavior and mood swings. The theory stems from the moon’s gravitational force and how it affects bodies of water – of which the human body is made up of 80%.
It's true that the moon has an effect on the ocean’s tides, but closed bodies of water are not affected in the same way. In addition, the moon’s gravitational pull is equally strong during a new moon as it is during a full moon. We guess people will have to blame their crazy behavior on something other than the moon now…
Bacteria Don't Wait Five Seconds Before Jumping On Your Food
We have all heard of the five-second rule that can be pushed to ten seconds if you think that bacteria are feeling lazy. The rule, which is supposedly backed by science, suggests that any food that falls to the floor is free of microorganisms and bacteria if you pick up the morsel within five seconds. Sadly, this simply isn’t true.
Some food will be less at risk of bacteria after being dropped to the floor, such as dry food that isn’t sticky. Dropping food on a sterile surface will also probably be less contaminated than on a muddy patch in the park. However, there should be no illusion that dropped food is safe to eat if you pick it up within five seconds.
The “Napoleon Complex” Theory is Based on Myths
Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military leader, has quite a reputation as a short, aggressive man who was quick to anger. This has led to a popular theory known as the Napoleon Complex which stereotypes short men as being aggressive to make up for their lack of height. This theory is also applied to other animals where smaller males attack larger males – even when the odds don’t look so good. But this entire theory is based on a myth.
Napoleon Bonaparte actually measured a very average height of five feet and seven inches. It’s true that he was an inch below the average male height at the time, but he was certainly not as short as many people believe. The rumor of his stunted growth started because he would often spend time with tall soldiers which made him appear shorter than he was in real life.
Antibiotics Kill Bacteria, Not Viruses
Antibiotics are prescribed by doctors to kill bacteria that cause illnesses. What many people don’t realize is that certain illnesses, such as the common cold and flu, are caused by viruses and antibiotics have no role to play in getting better. This misunderstanding has led to the overuse of antibiotics and, in turn, the building up of resistance against antibiotics.
By taking antibiotics for viral infections, various ‘superbugs’ have been developed - drug-resistant bacteria that cause severe illness. As it turns out, prescribing antibiotics for the sake of being proactive can do more harm than good.
Sugar Doesn’t Make Children Bounce Off The Walls
Think back to when you were a youngster and try to remember how often you were refused sweets before bedtime because of the energy rush expected to hit. Science has told us that the sugar content in sweets makes children hyper and therefore should be reserved for special occasions or as a treat. But this is not true.
The adrenaline that has become synonymous with eating sugar is actually because of the energy of the environment. Parties and events where sweets are served are normally quite excitable and children bounce off of one another's energy. In addition, a lot of these sugary treats also have caffeine as an ingredient that contributes to hyperactivity.
Drinking Alcohol Does Not Kill Brain Cells
Moderate drinking has been proven to have a few health benefits, such as lowered cholesterol levels. But some people take it too far and err on the side of causing damage. Yes, it’s true that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can have many negative effects on the human body.
It’s not uncommon for heavy drinking to result in mental deficits as damaging the connections between brain cells over long periods of time. However, drinking excessively does not kill these brain cells, it only causes damage. Best to manage your alcohol consumption!
We Don’t Swallow Any Spiders During a Year – Let Alone Seven
There are several risks to sleeping with your mouth open, and science tells us that the chance of swallowing spiders during our slumber is one of them. In fact, the average person supposedly swallows up to seven spiders in a year, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Spiders have evolved several techniques to survive, positioning themselves where there’s a high chance of prey, and relying on vibrations to warn them of danger. Not only is there no chance of a spider finding food in a person’s bed, but the vibrations released by a sleeping person will definitely warn a spider off.
The Exaggerated Technicality of Adding Salt to Boiling Water
If you’re a fan of cooking shows, then you may have noticed the chef adding a touch of salt to their pot of boiling water. Chances are that you’ve done the same out of habit, not really knowing the purpose. The theory is that adding a teaspoon of salt to a liter of boiling water lessens the boiling time – but only by a few seconds. To throw a spanner in the works, adding salt to boiling water can also increase the boiling point of the water, increasing the chance of the water evaporating.
Essentially, adding salt to the water will make the water hotter by affecting the boiling point elevation phenomenon, but it doesn’t make the water boil faster. And here some of us were thinking that adding salt made the pasta taste better!
It’s Possible for Lightning to Strike the Same Place Twice
We all have our go-to routine when there’s a big lightning storm. Typically, it involves avoiding the swimming pool or bathtub and unplugging major electricals, not standing under trees, and staying in the car if you’re on the road. Another place that people find comfort in is in a spot that lighting has already hit because, after all, science tells us that lightning can’t hit the same place twice.
The truth is that there’s a chance that lighting will most certainly hit the same place more than once. The discharge of electricity is essentially multiple strikes occurring in the same place in a short period of time. If we break it down, the lighting is already striking more than once and tends to favor high areas such as tall buildings and trees.
There’s No Evidence That Cracking Your Knuckles Gives You Arthritis
We all have our nervous habits and unique quirks. Some people bite their nails, others crack their knuckles, and some stutter. Only one of these supposedly leads to arthritis, but contrary to popular belief, there is no substantial evidence that cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis.
Your bones are surrounded by a small pocket of synovial fluid which prevents them from rubbing against one another. When you bend or pull your joints, the synovial fluid is sucked into a gap that is created, and that is the sound that you hear when you “crack” your knuckles. This habit has no proven long-term effect on developing arthritis.
Polaris, Aka the North Star, is Not the Brightest Star in the Northern Hemisphere
Lovingly known as the "North Star", Polaris has an age-old reputation for being the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, guiding lost travelers on their way. As it is boldly illuminated in the dark sky, people don’t argue that it must be the biggest and brightest, but it is actually only the 50th-brightest star that can be seen from planet Earth. Mind blown!
So, which are the stars that put Polaris to shame? Sirius, a star located close to Orion’s belt, is one, with a magnitude reading of -1.47. The lower the magnitude, the brighter the star. Polaris, on the other hand, holds a magnitude of 1.97. What makes Polaris’s reputation so special is that it marks North, and not that it is the brightest.
We Use All of Our Brain, and Not Only 10%
Have you ever struggled with a complex problem, wondering how to activate the full capacity of your brain in order to solve it? There’s a science-based myth that says that we only 10% of our brain, but this is a misunderstanding of neurological research.
The truth is that we use all of our brains and the only instance where there are regions of the brain that are unused is in the case of brain damage or disease. Even routine tasks activate almost all regions of the brain, using up approximately 20% of the body’s energy. No wonder you’re physically tired after solving a puzzle.
Meteors Are Actually Heated Up by the Compression of Air
Apocalypse movies show flying balls of meteors gunning for the earth, catching on fire as soon as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. Just as two objects rubbing together cause friction and produce heat, the juvenile scientific deduction has led many to believe that the friction of a meteor entering the earth’s atmosphere heats it up and causes it to burst into flame.
What really happens is that the meter’s intense speed compresses the air that is in front of it. The increased pressure and compressed air make the meteor so hot that it glows and becomes visible to us earthlings. However, when they hit the earth, they are almost always cold, some even covered in frost.
Neither Hair nor Fingernails Continue to Grow After You Die
No one is really certain what happens to our soul or spirit after we die, but science has a fairly good idea of what happens to your body, although the facts aren’t always communicated effectively. Rumor has it that hair and fingernails never stop growing, even after you die. However, this is only an illusion.
When we die, the cells in our body stop receiving oxygen, and tissue maintenance becomes impossible. As a result, the body dries and starts to shrink, pulling the skin away from our hair and nails, and it's this shrinkage that makes it seem that they both continue to grow.
If You Swallow Gum, it Will Be Expelled the Same as Other Foods
Have you ever had that gut-dropping sensation when you accidentally swallow gum and realize that you’re doomed to having it stick around in your stomach for seven years? You’ll be pleased to know that this is another myth about to be busted. While our bodies may lack the enzymes that are needed to break down the gym bases, you don’t have to worry about it sticking to your stomach wall. Instead, you’ll pass it through in the same way that you would raw veggies and seeds.
With this in mind, it’s not a smart idea to make a habit of swallowing gum. Too much of the sticky substance can lead to gastrointestinal issues and constipation. It’s best to spit it out and throw it away when you’re done.
The Adult Brain Never Stops Generating New Brain Cells
It’s true that the majority of your brain cells are formed before you are even born. It’s also true that your brain continues to create new neural cells during infancy. This process is called neurogenesis, whereby new neurons or brain cells are developed in the region of the brain called the hippocampus. What isn’t true is that the brain stops this process.
While we naturally lose neurons as we age, which can affect our memory, our brains continue to produce around 700 new neurons in the hippocampus each day. This may not be much in the greater scheme of billions of neurons, but it still helps to protect against Alzheimer’s and depression. There are also habits to incorporate in your life that will with the generation process, such as aerobic exercise and enriching learning environments.
Vitamin C Consumption Doesn’t Protect You From The Common Cold
There is definitely value in consuming vitamin C for overall health. Eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges and peppers, will contribute to a strong immune system, bone structure, and healthy skin. The human body doesn’t produce vitamin C so it’s important that we include vitamin C-strong foods in our diet, but they don’t prevent the onset of a cold.
Instead, consuming vitamin C-rich foods only helps to alleviate the duration of the symptoms. In addition, the best way to feed your body vitamin C is through a recommended five servings of fruit and veg a day, rather than through supplements. If you exceed what your body needs, it will be excreted in your urine.
There is Probably No Dark Side of the Moon
Due to a concept known as tidal locking, which is based on a strong gravitational pull, the Earth has only ever been exposed to 59% of the moon. Knowing this has led to a lot of imaginative speculation that suggests that the other 49% of the moon is dark and frozen. But is this true?
It’s difficult to prove something that we cannot see, especially since science suggests that the Moon rotates on its axis at the same time that it takes the body to orbit our planet, constantly exposing us to the same side. However, the moon is a sphere and it is probably half-illuminated by the sun at any given point.
Albert Einstein Was Only a Bad Student for the System
Albert Einstein is revered as one of the smartest people to ever live. Knowing that he flunked an exam needed to attend the University of Bern may cause many to scratch their heads in confusion. Further to that, he would regularly get in trouble for daydreaming at school and having a negative attitude towards teachers. However, there’s a lot more than what meets the eye (or ear).
For example, Albert Einstein only flunked the University of Bern exam because he missed the standards for acceptance, taking the test when he was 16 years old in a language he wasn’t fluent in. When it came to the schooling system, he disliked memorization-based learning and was already familiar with what was being taught in the classroom, causing boredom. So, was Albert Einstein a bad student? Perhaps. But not because he struggled academically, only with the system.
Will You Really Explode in Space Due to Pressure?
Do you know what happens to an astronaut who holds their breath when entering space? Media suggests that the internal pressure will make a human explode as the sudden decompression in a vacuum combines with air expansion in a person’s lungs. However, what really happens is a case of ruptured lungs – and not an explosion.
The trick is to breathe out before the exposure, allowing a human to survive for up to 30 seconds. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll survive forever. Without the proper equipment in space, the lack of oxygen will lead to unconsciousness and death by asphyxiation. Not as explosive as you’d think!
A Panting Dog is Not Always a Sweating Dog
All dogs pant, whether they are a tiny Chihuahua or a large Golden Retriever. Their panting becomes especially common in the warmer months of the year, after a walk on the beach or playing around in the garden. Many people believe that this panting is indicative of a dog sweating, but this is not the case.
Panting is actually an evaporative cooling technique that lowers the temperature of a pooch down. As the water evaporates from their tongue, the body cools down. Panting is also a way for dogs to regulate their temperature. Dogs do also sweat, they just do so through their paws which are specialized types of skin with merocrine sweat glands.
Bats Can See in Black and White
Bats have earned a bad reputation for being spooky characters. Added to this demeanor is the myth that they are blind and use echolocation to help them get around. However, being ‘blind as a bat’ is just a figure of speaking and holds no truth.
While bats don’t have color receptors and can’t see in color, they are very skilled at seeing in black and white and have pretty decent night vision. They do use echolocation to help navigation and hunting, but they prefer to use their eyesight. Some bats don’t use echolocation at all. As for the speculation around bats flying close to objects, they are just curious creatures.
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