Jan 18, 2011

Common misconceptions

XKCD pointed me to this gem of a Wikipedia article the other day. Here are some of my pet peeves:
1) Christopher Columbus's efforts to obtain support for his voyages were not hampered by a European belief in a flat Earth.

2) Napoleon Bonaparte was not especially short, and did not have a Napoleon complex.

3) It is commonly claimed that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the Moon. This is false.

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

5) Vaccines do not cause autism.

6) It is not true that air takes the same time to travel above and below an aircraft's wing.

7) 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.

8) Eight glasses of water a day is not necessary to maintain health, nor is it specifically recommended.

9) People do not use only ten percent of their brains.
Here are some that took me by surprise:
1) 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.

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

3) 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.

4) John F. Kennedy's words "Ich bin ein Berliner" are standard German for "I am a Berliner". (Meaning he did not in fact say "I am a jam doughnut.")

5) Knife wounds are not more dangerous than gunshot wounds, in fact, the converse is probably true.

6) 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.

7) Humans have more than five senses. Although definitions vary, the actual number ranges from 9 to more than 20.

8) It is not nutritionally necessary to combine multiple sources of vegetable protein in a single meal in order to metabolize a "complete" protein in a vegetarian diet.

9) Although it is commonly believed that most body heat is lost through a person's head, heat loss through the head is not more significant than other parts of the body when naked.

10) Photographic or eidetic memory refers to the ability to remember images with extremely high precision – so high as to mimic a camera. However, it is highly unlikely that photographic memory exists, as to date there is no hard scientific evidence that anyone has ever had it.
Good to know!

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