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Myth Busters: Debunking 7 popular science trivia ‘facts’ that are actually false

In this digital age when access to the Internet is as easy as ever, there’s no excuse in believing or sharing “fake” tidbits of information. Now you can quickly verify the truth behind any trivia that you hear with just a simple click through a search engine.

However, a lot of these science myths have grown to be popular that many people just assume them to be true. Growing up, all of us heard these trivia bits from our friends, parents, grandparents, and maybe even our teachers. That’s why it’s so easy to accept them without checking for the facts.

But gone are those clueless days because we are here to debunk 7 of the most popular myths out there, and see for ourselves where they lie on the fact-to-folly scale.

Myth #1: Humans have five senses.

From elementary school, we learned about the body’s five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Little did we know that that was just the beginning. The small and arbitrary number of 5 really does not give the body enough credit of what it is capable to do. Don’t forget your sense of balance, temperature, pain, and so much more.

Neurologists argue about the exact number of senses a human has, but there is definitely more than just the basic five.

Reference: Johns Hopkins Univeristy

Myth #2: You have to wait 30 minutes after eating before going for a swim.

For all the vacationers out there, you probably have heard this myth from one of your concerned relatives after a hefty lunch. As the myth goes, the blood from your arms and legs are directed into your digestive tract, leaving your limbs unable to function and swim. Some even say that doing so can cause painful and deadly cramps.

While swimming on a full stomach is not the most comfortable thing, it does not increase your risk of drowning or cramps at all. There are no reports of drowning incidents in the last year caused by not waiting for 30 minutes.

Reference: The Conversation

Myth #3: Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker.

All that time with the razor or the wax strip may seem to be making your hair thicker or coarser, but looks can be deceiving. Your facial or body hair only appears to be thicker because of the blunt tip. Cutting away hair exposes the tip and the emerging short hairs stick straight up from their follicles. This makes the regrowing hair look and feel thicker and coarser.

But this thicker appearance is only temporary. As long as you removed your hair safely and properly, your hair’s state will return to its original form if you decide to grow it out. No need to fear the razor anymore. 

Reference: Scientific American

Myth #4: Left-handed people are creative, while right-handed people are analytical.

This myth is probably derived from the true but overly simplistic idea that the right hemisphere of the brain (which controls the left-hand side of the body) deals with more conceptual and imaginative thinking, while the left hemisphere is more logical and analytic. However, there is no scientific evidence that directly links handedness to either of these types of thinking.

This is because no person is entirely left- or right-brained — it is more of a spectrum. The two hemispheres do not work in isolation, and instead they work together to perform the different functions that the brain is capable of.

Reference: Psychology Today

Myth #5: It is safe to eat food within five seconds after dropping it on the floor.

We’ve all had that moment when our favorite snack falls on the floor, and we are all just inclined to pick it up as if nothing happened. You probably cited the popular “5-Second Rule” to the ones that saw you to repress judgment. But how clean that dropped cookie is much more complicated than five seconds.

Firstly, there is no window of time that your snack remains clean because bacteria from the surface attach almost instantaneously. The amount of contaminants that attach depends on several factors, such as whether the food or the surface is wet. Furthermore, most contaminants are generally harmless and are safe to ingest in trace amounts.

Therefore, that fallen sandwich will not be bacteria-free after five seconds, but it’s entirely up to your judgment if you still want to take a bite. Maybe just don’t eat it if it fell on a dirty sidewalk, though.

Reference: The Washington Post

Myth #6: You need to drink eight cups of water every day.

Staying hydrated is definitely necessary if we want to stay healthy. But the arbitrary eight cups is not the be all end all amount of water that we need every day. It actually depends on the events of the day, such as if you’re exercising or if you’re outside on a hot day. We also get water from our food intake, especially from fruits and vegetables. Additionally, some people with certain health conditions, such as kidney disease, may need to take less water.

The best answer is that there is no one-size-fits-all number of cups needed per person, and this number needs to be personalized and tailored to one’s needs and lifestyle.

Reference: Harvard Medical School

Myth #7: Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis.

All that knuckle-cracking is the cause of the weird and concerned stares you get from those around you, but definitely not a cause of arthritis as others may say. Cracking your knuckles does not break your joints. Instead, the “pop” sound that you hear is from the bubbles bursting in your synovial fluid, or the fluid that lubricates your joints. The gases will return normally return after around 20 minutes.

Thus, cracking knuckles is neither dangerous nor beneficial, but it is perfectly safe to do. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to make a habit out of it, because some studies have shown that excessive knuckle-cracking may lead to loss in grip strength.

Reference: Harvard Health Publishing

What other popular science trivia ‘facts’ do you know that turned out to be complete myths? Share them with us below.

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