FASCINATING FACTS OF THE DAY: 20 Popular Myths Debunked
Whether an old wives’ tale or something that was popularized by media, every generation sees its share of popular myths and misconceptions that simply will not die out. The Internet has not made things any easier in this regard, as it is easier now more than ever to be baited by stories that seem true, but miss the mark on scientific accuracy. We bring you a list of 20 such urban myths that have been debunked time and again, yet somehow stick stubbornly to people’s minds.
Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning can strike the same place twice and even more times.image source: zmescience.com
A location has no part to play in changing the electrical activity in the storm itself, so once it recharges it may strike a place more than once. Given enough time (whether 10 minutes or a million years), theory states that it is “inevitable” that a single spot will be hit repeatedly. On June 14 of 2005, The WVAH TV tower in St. Albans, West Virginia was hit by lightning 50 times.
To cite another example, Chicago’s three tallest skyscrapers were struck by lightning 17 times on the 30th of June, 2014. The Sears Tower took 10 hits while the Trump Tower and the John Hancock Center were hit 8 and 4 times respectively.(source)
Myth: Chameleons change their colour to blend in with their surroundings.
Fact: Chameleons do not change their colour to blend in with the surroundings. They do it to control their body temperature and communicate with others of their kind.
Chameleons are already pros at camouflaging themselves; evolution took care of that. This colour-changing phenomenon is actually triggered by physical, physiological and emotional changes in the animal, including the stimuli that it receives from the environment (like light and temperature). By changing its colour a chameleon can also signal its state of mind to other chameleons, serving as a way of visual inter-personal communication.(source)
Myth: People in the Dark Ages believed that the earth was flat.
Fact: Medieval Europeans did not believe that the earth was flat. It was common knowledge that the earth was spherical even during the time of the ancient Greeks.
The story surfaced in the 1800s (when explorers began to push boundaries) and gained popularity steadily, but is entirely untrue. Contrary to what the myth will have you believe, Columbus did not fear his ships would fall off the edge of the earth. There were much more serious logistics to consider, given the dangers of marine travel back then. For example, a more realistic concern was that they could run out of supplies (consequently the entire crew could perish) if their destination was much farther than they had calculated.(source)
Myth: The tongue has different regions to detect tastes.
Fact: The entire tongue senses all the five tastes – sweet, sour, salty and bitter – equally.
Research reveals that the tongue contains 50-100 receptors for each taste, distributed more or less in a random manner, which completely negates the logic of this myth.(source)
Myth: The Great Wall of China is visible to the human eye from the moon.
Fact: The Great Wall of China is practically impossible to see with the naked eye from space.
Unless your vision is three times sharper than a falcon’s. Scientists explain that looking at the Wall even from a distance of 100 miles (160 kilometers) would be like looking at a 2-centimeter wide cable from half a kilometer (> a third of a mile) away. The origin of this myth goes as far back as 1932 to an episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and was intended more as show-bait than actual science.(source)