19 Facts That Are Disproven But People Still Believe Them

In the vast digital age where information knows no bounds, the internet is a double-edged sword—teeming with valuable knowledge as well as misleading falsehoods often disguised as truth. Despite dedicated efforts by fact-checkers and debunkers to clear the air, certain myths stubbornly persist, and for some reason, people choose to believe them fervently.

In this blog, we’re going to delve into some widely accepted ‘facts’ that are, in reality, completely false.

Columbus and the Flat Earth

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The story that Christopher Columbus set out to prove the Earth was round is a staple of elementary school history lessons. However, this narrative is a myth. By the time Columbus sailed in 1492, the fact that the Earth was round had been well-established among educated Europeans for centuries. This myth likely proliferated as part of a fictionalized account written in the 19th century.

Vitamin C and Colds

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One of the most commonly accepted health myths is that taking vitamin C can prevent the common cold. Popularized by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling in the 1970s, this belief has led to millions guzzling orange juice and vitamin supplements every cold season. However, extensive clinical trials and studies have consistently shown that vitamin C has no significant effect in preventing colds, though it may slightly reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

Brain Power

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Another popular myth is that humans only use 10% of their brains. Movies and motivational speakers often tout this claim to suggest that many of us have untapped mental powers. However, neuroscientists confirm that nearly every part of the brain has a known function, and brain imaging shows activity coursing through the entire organ, even during sleep.

Don’t Eat and Swim

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The warning not to swim right after eating is based on the idea that digestion diverts blood away from the muscles, potentially causing cramps. However, there’s no substantial evidence to support this claim. Most experts agree that while swimming with a full stomach might be uncomfortable, it’s not particularly dangerous.

Salty Water Boils Quicker

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Adding salt to water does increase the boiling point slightly, but the effect is minimal. The common belief that salty water boils much quicker is incorrect; in fact, the small increase in boiling temperature means it takes longer to reach that point, not quicker.

Humans and Dinosaurs Coexist

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There is no scientific evidence that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. The last dinosaurs died out about 65 million years before humans first appeared. Depictions of humans with dinosaurs are purely fictional and based on misinterpretations of fossils and popular culture.

Visibility of The Great Wall of China from Space

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NASA has clarified that The Great Wall of China, often described as the only man-made structure visible from space, is not visible from that vantage point. This misconception was further debunked by Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei. Despite these clarifications, many textbooks have not been updated and continue to incorrectly state that the Wall can be seen from space.

Alcohol Kills Brain Cells

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While excessive alcohol consumption can certainly damage the brain, it does not kill brain cells as commonly believed. Instead, it damages the dendrites, the part of neurons involved in transmitting signals, which can lead to cognitive impairments.

Police Don’t Require 24 Hour Missing Reports Before Filing

Barcelona, Spain - September 21, 2021: Barcelona Municipal Police, Guardia Urbana, protecting and helping citizens and tourists
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It’s a myth that you must wait 24 hours before reporting someone as missing. Police departments often encourage immediate reporting, especially if there is evidence of foul play or the individual is at obvious risk.

Milk Doesn’t Increase Mucus If You Have a Cold

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It’s a common belief that drinking milk can increase mucus production, especially when you’re sick. However, scientific studies have found no direct link between milk consumption and the production of mucus.

Caffeine Dehydrates

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While caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, the notion that it causes dehydration is exaggerated. Moderate intake of caffeinated beverages like coffee can contribute to your daily fluid intake and doesn’t lead to dehydration.

The 5-Second Rule

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The idea that food dropped on the floor is safe to eat if picked up within five seconds has been a longstanding rule in many households. However, research shows that bacteria can contaminate food almost instantly. The safety of eating food off the floor has more to do with the cleanliness of the surface it fell on than the speed with which it is picked up.

Sugar Rush in Children

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The belief that sugar causes hyperactivity in children is prevalent. Yet, over several decades, scientific studies have consistently shown that sugar does not affect children’s behavior. This misconception persists, likely because high-energy environments (like birthday parties, where sugary treats are abundant) may lead to increased excitement, mistakenly attributed to sugar intake.

Bulls Hate Red

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It’s a common sight in bullfighting: a matador waves a red cape, and the bull charges with apparent fury. The myth that bulls react to the color red has been debunked by science—bulls are color-blind to red. Their reaction is to the movement of the cape, not its color.

Lightning Never Strikes the Same Place Twice

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This is one of nature’s most persistent myths. In reality, lightning frequently strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it is a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is struck by lightning about 25 times a year.

Napoleon’s Height Misconception

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It was once widely believed that Napoleon was only 5 feet 2 inches tall. However, many historians now recognize that this measurement was based on the French units of the time. When converted to Imperial units, which are more familiar to us, Napoleon’s height was close to 5 feet 7 inches. This height was slightly above average for a French man during his era.

Cracking Knuckles Causes Arthritis

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Cracking knuckles has been said to lead to arthritis; however, several studies have shown no correlation between knuckle cracking and the development of arthritis. The sound heard is due to the popping of gas bubbles in the synovial fluid of the joint, not damage being done.

Cell Phones in Hospitals Disrupt Medical Equipment

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For many years, hospitals banned the use of cell phones based on the belief that they interfere with medical equipment. While early mobile phones might have caused interference, modern medical equipment is generally shielded against such disruptions, and cell phones are now often allowed in many parts of hospitals.

Chameleons Change Color to Match Their Surroundings

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A common belief is that chameleons change color primarily to blend into their surroundings as a form of camouflage. However, the truth about why chameleons change their color is more complex and fascinating. While camouflage can be a factor, chameleons primarily change their skin color in response to temperature changes, emotional states, and during social interactions with other chameleons. For instance, a chameleon might turn a darker color to absorb more heat when it’s cold or display vibrant colors during mating rituals or when threatened to intimidate other creatures or rivals.

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