Debunking Common Myths: 44 Misconceptions You Probably Believe – Part 1

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1Book of Genesis

Book of Genesis

The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is never identified as an apple, a misconception widely depicted in Western art. The original Hebrew texts mention only tree and fruit. Early Latin translations use the word mali, which can be taken to mean both "evil" and "apple". In early Germanic languages the word "apple" and its cognates usually meant simply "fruit". German and French artists commonly depict the fruit as an apple from the 12th century onwards, and John Milton's Areopagitica from 1644 explicitly mentions the fruit as an apple. Jewish scholars have suggested that the fruit could have been a grape, a fig, wheat, an apricot, or an etrog.


2. Entrapment law in the United States does not require police officers to identify themselves as police in the case of a sting or other undercover work, and police officers may lie in doing such work. The law is instead specifically concerned with enticing people to commit crimes they would not have considered in the normal course of events.


3. No one ever claimed in court that Twinkies made them commit a crime. In the murder trial of Dan White, the defense attorneys successfully argued diminished capacity as a result of severe depression. While eating Twinkies was given as evidence of depression, it was never claimed to be the cause of the murders. Despite this, people often claim that White's attorneys argued that Twinkies made him commit the murders.


4. The English lullaby, 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' was not composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he was 5 years old. He only composed variations on the tune, at the age of 25 or 26.


5. It is rarely necessary to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person report. In instances where there is evidence of violence or of an unusual absence, law enforcement agencies in the United States often stress the importance of beginning an investigation promptly. The UK government website says in large type, "You don't have to wait 24 hours before contacting the police".


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6MSG

MSG

There is no consistent data supporting Monosodium glutamate (MSG) as triggering migraine headache exacerbation or other symptoms of so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome. Although there have been reports of an MSG-sensitive subset of the population, this has not been demonstrated in placebo-controlled trials.


7. Twinkies have a shelf life of approximately 45 days (25 in their original formulation) far shorter than the common (and somewhat jocular) myth that Twinkies are edible for decades or longer. They generally remain on a store shelf for only 7 to 10 days.


8. The word "jihad" does not always mean "holy war"; literally, the word in Arabic means "struggle". While there is such a thing as "jihad bil saif", or jihad "by the sword", many modern Islamic scholars usually say that it implies an effort or struggle of a spiritual kind. Scholar Louay Safi asserts that "misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding the nature of war and peace in Islam are widespread in both the Muslim societies and the West", as much following 9/11 as before.


9. The black belt in martial arts does not necessarily indicate expert level or mastery. It was introduced for judo in the 1880s to indicate competency at all of the basic techniques of the sport. Promotion beyond black belt varies among different martial arts. In judo and some other Asian martial arts, holders of higher ranks are awarded belts with alternating red and white panels, and the highest ranks with solid red belts.


10. 420 did not originate from the Los Angeles police or penal code for marijuana use. In California, Police Code 420 means "juvenile disturbance", and California Penal Code section 420 prohibits the obstruction of access to public land. The use of "420" started in 1971 at San Rafael High School, where it indicated the time, 4:20 pm, when a group of students would go to smoke under the statue of Louis Pasteur.


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11Bulls

Bulls

Bulls are not enraged by the color red, used in capes by professional matadors. Cattle are dichromats, so red does not stand out as a bright color. It is not the color of the cape, but the perceived threat by the matador that incites it to charge.


12. The plate armor of European soldiers did not stop soldiers from moving around or necessitate a crane to get them into a saddle. They would as a matter of course fight on foot and could mount and dismount without help. In fact, soldiers equipped with plate armor were more mobile than those with mail armor (chain armor), as mail was heavier and required stiff padding beneath due to its pliable nature. It is true that armor used in tournaments in the late Middle Ages was significantly heavier than that used in warfare, which may have contributed to this misconception.


13. Flowering sunflowers point in a fixed direction (often east) all day long. However, in an earlier developmental stage, before the appearance of flower heads, the immature buds do track the sun (a phenomenon called heliotropism) and the fixed alignment of the mature flowers toward a certain direction is often the result.


14. The term "Immaculate Conception", was not coined to refer to the virgin birth of Jesus, nor does it reference a supposed belief in the virgin birth of Mary, his mother. Instead, it denotes a Roman Catholic belief that Mary was not in a state of original sin from the moment of her own conception.


15. The use of triangular corner flags in English football is not a privilege reserved for those teams that have won an FA Cup in the past, despite a wide belief to the contrary that inspired a scene in the film 'Twin Town'. The Football Association's rules are silent on the subject, and often the decision over what shape flag to use has been up to the individual club's groundskeepers.


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16Poinsettias

Poinsettias

Poinsettias are not highly toxic to humans or cats. While it is true that they are mildly irritating to the skin or stomach, and may sometimes cause diarrhea and vomiting if eaten, an American Journal of Emergency Medicine study of 22,793 cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers showed no fatalities and few cases requiring medical treatment. According to the ASPCA, poinsettias may cause light to mid-range gastrointestinal discomfort in felines, with diarrhea and vomiting as the most severe consequences of ingestion.


17. Medieval Europeans did not believe Earth was flat; in fact, from the time of the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, belief in a spherical Earth remained almost universal among European intellectuals. As a result, Christopher Columbus's efforts to obtain support for his voyages were hampered not by belief in a flat Earth but by valid worries that the East Indies were farther than he realized. If the Americas had not existed, he would surely have run out of supplies before reaching Asia.


18. Meteorites are not necessarily hot when they reach the Earth's surface. In fact, some meteorites have allegedly been found with frost on them. As they enter the atmosphere, having been warmed only by the sun, meteors have a temperature below freezing. The intense heat produced during passage through the upper atmosphere at very high speed then melts a meteor's outside layer, but molten material is blown off and the interior does not have time to warm appreciably. Most meteorites fall through the relatively cool lower atmosphere for as long as several minutes at subsonic velocity before reaching the ground, giving plenty of time for their exterior to cool off again.


19. Sharks can suffer from cancer. The misconception that sharks do not get cancer was spread by the 1992 Avery Publishing book Sharks Don't Get Cancer by I. William Lane and used to sell extracts of shark cartilage as cancer prevention treatments. Reports of carcinomas in sharks exist, and current data do not allow any speculation about the incidence of tumors in sharks.


20. Golf did not originate as an acronym of "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden". The word's true origin is unknown, but it existed in the Middle Scots period.


21Earthworms

Earthworms

Earthworms do not become two worms when cut in half. Only a limited number of earthworm species are capable of anterior regeneration. When such earthworms are bisected, only the front half of the worm (where the mouth is located) can feed and survive, while the other half dies. Some species of planarian flatworms, however, actually do become two new planarians when bisected or split down the middle.


22. The word "f*ck" did not originate in Christianized Anglo-Saxon England (7th century C.E.) as an acronym for "Fornication Under Consent of King"; nor did it originate as an acronym for "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", either as a sign posted above adulterers in the stocks, or as a criminal charge against members of the British Armed Forces; nor did it originate during the 15th-century Battle of Agincourt as a corruption of "pluck yew" (an idiom falsely attributed to the English for drawing a longbow). Modern English was not spoken until the 16th century, and words such as "fornication" and "consent" did not exist in any form in English until the influence of Anglo-Norman in the late 12th century. The earliest certain recorded use of "f*ck" in English comes from c. 1475, in the poem "Flen flyys", where it is spelled fuccant (conjugated as if a Latin verb meaning "they f*ck"). It is of Proto-Germanic origin, and is related to either Dutch fokken and German ficken or Norwegian fukka.


23. Evolution is not a progression from inferior to superior organisms, and it also does not necessarily result in an increase in complexity. A population can evolve to become simpler, having a smaller genome, but biological devolution is a misnomer.


24. Ostriches do not stick their heads in the sand to hide from enemies. This misconception was probably promulgated by Pliny the Elder (23–79 C.E.), who wrote that ostriches, "imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed."


25. There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets. In fact, the image of Vikings wearing horned helmets stems from the scenography of an 1876 production of the Der Ring des Nibelungen opera cycle by Richard Wagner.

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