Monthly Archives July 2019

5 well-known scientific “facts” that turned out to be myths – FlipScience


(Updated March 26, 2021) We humans love anecdotes. In fact, here are some fun facts for you:

1) Three out of five people are likely to share an anecdote they found on their social media feed.
2) One on three will find a way to bring it up in a future conversation.
3) Only 13 of 27 take the time to verify whether the incredible fact they just read was in fact too good to be true.

Oh, and in case you haven’t already figured it out, these are just dummy stats that I made up on the fly.

mad scientist myth

“Trust me on these numbers – I’m a scientist! Now stay still while I clip them to your eyelids… ”(Image: Universal Pictures)

Still, it’s not that far-fetched to think that if there’s one thing people love more than getting smarter, it’s looking at more intelligent. More often than not, the easiest way to do this is to drop some random, out of this world, hyper specific scientific fact designed to leave everyone in awe.

Unfortunately, this also means that many so-called “facts” circulate without any fact checking. And as they repeat themselves out of the blue, the line between fact and fiction blurs faster than you can say “fake news!” “

Here are five of the many, many pieces of “science trivia” that don’t quite hold up when real science – or sometimes, even just common sense – kicks in.

Myth # 1: You only use ten percent of your brain.

Made: There are many ways to dispel this long-held myth. Indeed, the neuroscientist Barry beyerstein willing Seven. Conclusion: we use 100% of our brain… and perhaps the easiest way to prove it is from a practical point of view.

Think about it. What exactly are we talking about when we say “ten percent”? Are we talking about a physical region of the brain? If so, then what’s the point in leaving 90 percent unused? From an evolutionary standpoint, it would make absolutely no sense for our brains to be this big. In fact, the brain consumes about a fifth of our body’s energy, although it only accounts for two percent of the human body’s weight. Or do we assume that our neurons stop receiving signals from other neurons when we hit that “ten percent” quota?

Moreover, no existing study or research supports this silly idea. Also, if this is really the case, then any brain injury or head trauma that does not reach that “ten percent” magic zone should not hinder mental performance.

deadpool myth
“On the bright side, at least we have a Scarlet johansson movie about this one, isn’t it? (Image: 20th Century Fox)

Myth # 2: It takes seven years to digest chewing gum.

Made: Nope. In fact, you’re just going to poop him straight away. Seriously.

It is true that today’s gum uses synthetic polymers. However, things that are less than 2cm in diameter usually exit the digestive system safely. This myth was invented by your parents to prevent your teen from swallowing chewing gum, and for good reason. While this wad of chewed gum does not semi-permanently live in your gut, it can certainly be a choking hazard, both for children and adults.

jubilee x-men myth

Warning: Excessive chewing gum can give you brilliant mutant powers and an outdated fashion sense. (Image: Marvel Comics)

Myth # 3: Goldfish have a memory duration of three seconds.

Made: Research shows that contrary to popular belief, a goldfish’s memory lasts beyond a few seconds. In fact, an experiment has shown that they are able to remember things for as long as Five months!

If you own some of these shimmering swimmers yourself, you’ve probably noticed how much they tend to come to the glass of their tank when you walk into the room. What they are exhibiting is in fact associative learning. Your pets have come to associate human presence with feeding time, so they will come closer in anticipation of a delicious goldfish larva. The fact that commercially available goldfish food doesn’t even look like anything they would eat in the wild is proof of this.

In other words, it’s time to stop believing a myth that a fifteen-year-old boy managed to refute with a simple experiment.

goldfish

“Now stop believing in false scientific ‘facts’ and give me some food, a meaty dispenser. (Image: Roberto Machado Noa / Getty Images)

Myth # 4: The color red makes bulls angry.

Made: Red alert: This is absolutely false. It’s not the red cape (or muleta) worn by a matador who charges his horned enemy in a bullfight. Rather, this is the way the cape moves that enraged the bull. It has been shown that bulls will charge on a moving cape regardless of its color; red happens to be the preferred color for muletas because it helps to hide the blood (whether it is that of the matador or that of the bull) much more easily.

Still not convinced? How about this: just like other types of cattle, bulls are color blind to red (and green).

Michael jordan

“Do bulls hate red?” What a ridiculous idea. (Image: Beth A. Kesler / Associated Press)

Myth # 5: Bats are blind.

Made: You’ve probably heard the expression “blind as a bat”, usually to insult someone else’s supposed poor eyesight. The truth, however, is that on the 1,300 known bat species, none of them are completely blind.

In reality, different species of bats have different levels of visual acuity. Some of the very small bats (microbats) tend to have poorly developed eyesight. On the other hand, larger bats (megabats) have much better eyesight; in fact some of them can see three times better than we can. As for echolocation (the ability to determine the position of an object through sound waves and echoes), many bat species use it in tandem with real vision to hunt for food, especially in the dark caves.

bat

Oh, wait. We are pretty sure this we can not see. (Image: ministicks.com)


The references

  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-we-really-use-only-10/
  • https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/pdf/tenper.pdf
  • http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130625-does-gum-take-years-to-digest
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-gum-take-to-digest
  • http://www.gumassociation.org/index.cfm/facts-figures/frequently-asked-questions/what-are-the-risks-of-choking-while-chewing-gum-is-swallowed/
  • https://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/how-much-can-a-goldfish-remember.htm
  • https://www.jpost.com/Health-and-Sci-Tech/Science-And-Environment/Fish-have-longer-memories-than-previously-thought-say-Technion-scientists
  • https://www.livescience.com/33700-bulls-charge-red.html
  • https://www.scienceabc.com/nature/animals/do-bulls-really-hate-red-colour-blind.html
  • https://www.livescience.com/55986-are-bats-really-blind.html
  • https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141031-bats-myths-vampires-animals-science-halloween/

Author: Mikaël Angelo Francisco

Bitten by the virus of scientific writing, Mikael has years of writing and writing experience to his credit. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has vowed to help make science more fun and interesting for geek readers and the casual audience.


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Science and data comics get the word out


YOHAN BONNET / AFP / Getty Images

What if reading comics was not only fun, but also educational?

According to a paper presented earlier this year at a conference on Human factors in computer systems, comics can help convey complex data. In a small study, researchers at the University of Edinburgh and others tried to find out which method was best for presenting different sets of data: a text written with a picture, an infographic or a comic strip. They gave study participants information in each format, then tested them on their understanding of the data they learned.

A small majority of participants were able to retain more information from the comic book than from the other two formats. In general, people thought that one of the biggest advantages of the comic book format over computer graphics was that the comic immediately indicated which direction you were supposed to read the information. Infographics don’t have a fixed reading order, so it’s not always clear what information needs to be seen first.

In contrast, research subjects thought the comics were sometimes too repetitive. To maintain the narrative structure, the same image often appeared in multiple panels with only a small change, but some readers found that boring. One participant was cited as saying “every time I see new images (panels), I expect something new ”.

It was only a small study, and there wasn’t a huge difference between comics and infographics when it came to getting the point across, but educational comics can have other purposes. than to explain data.

One of the co-authors of the Data Comics Effectiveness study was a scientific comic artist. Matteo farinella. Last week he also spoke about science comics at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Lausanne, Switzerland. Here he demonstrated how he uses visual aids to convey complex ideas. For example, a comic book allows you to introduce new types of characters to drive the story. In a regular written non-fiction sci-fi article, these characters are always real people – usually the scientists who did the work, or sometimes patients who received some scientific breakthrough. But in a comic book, you can get creative, and introduce fictional characters or even characters representing scientific objects.


Eva amsen

This round table also included two other scientific comic artists: Claudia Flandoli and Tailgate. Flandoli showed how the peculiar reading style of comics allows you to introduce many details and asides that would be extremely tedious to include in the prose. If she wants to develop a concept, she can add a panel to “zoom in” on the detail, or add an aside. The layout of the comic makes it clear to the reader that it involves a larger story detail. In the written text, it would be tedious paragraphs of examples.

Comics also have the potential to inspire people to explore scientific ideas. Hayanon, who has been making comics for over 15 years, shared the story of a researcher who was inspired to become a scientist after reading one of her comics years ago.

The image-based nature of comics also allows them to cross language barriers. While some of Hayanon’s Japanese comics have been translated into 25 different languages, others don’t use text at all. For example, a recent article in PLOS One describes how textless comics were used in Madagascar to communicate scientific recommendations on farmland management.

Even though this medium has been around for a few decades now, only a few studies have investigated whether comics are effective in teaching people complex scientific concepts. It has always been a ‘good to have’ rather than an essential part of science education, and comics may not be suitable for all types of information. But who knows, if science and data comics prove to be more effective than other media, maybe we’ll see more of it.


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