Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

It seems "people are easily persuaded by things they hear more often. “The mere repetition of a myth leads people to believe it to be more true".

Unfortunately, our brains don’t remember myths in a very helpful way. “There’s a lot of research that tells us people have a hard time remembering negations,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol in England. We remember myths not as myths, but rather as statements that are additionally tagged as “false.” So instead of remembering “cheese is nothing like crack,” our brains remember “cheese is like crack (false).” As our memories fade, the qualifier on the statement may fade too, leaving us with the false idea that brie really is the next cocaine!

When people have strong beliefs about something, it’s difficult to unwind those beliefs, regardless of how strong the evidence is,” says Eryn Newman, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. 

“The moment you explain something to people, the debunking problem is far less of an issue,” according to experts. “You replace the myth with an explanation of the facts.”

There is an interesting research paper that says... when presenting readers with new information, “try to avoid repeating false information,” since that may be what remains in people’s minds. And in some situations, asking readers for their opinion or getting them to form an opinion as they read might help them distinguish between what is truth and what is myth. Peter and Koch published their results in the January Science Communication. Point noted.

Hmm...myth-busting gives me great pleasure. Taking the help of science in doing so gives me the ultimate P. So why would I keep quiet when I come across the myths? So here I am again shattering them like baloons...

1. Neuro-linguistic programmes can cure phobias

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a way of changing someone's thoughts and behaviors to help achieve desired outcomes for them. If you have anxieties and phobias some people say they can treat you by using NLP. But the neuro-scientists I spoke to expressed their reservations regarding NLP's efficiency.  

There is no genuine evidence that NLP works. And anecdotal evidence doesn't count in science. The lack of formal regulation and NLP's commercial value mean that claims of its effectiveness can be anecdotal or supplied by an NLP provider. NLP providers will have a financial interest in the success of NLP, so we cannot use their evidence. 

Research on NLP has produced mixed results. 

Some studies have found benefits associated with NLP. For example, a study published in the journal Counselling and Psychotherapy Research found psychotherapy patients had improved psychological symptoms and life quality after having NLP compared to a control group ( I must add here that psychology is a controversial subject and most of the results obtained in the subject were found to be not reproducible and therefore is not considered as true science by many).

However, a review published in The British Journal of General Practice of 10 available studies on NLP was less favorable. It concluded there was little evidence for the effectiveness of NLP in treating health-related conditions, including anxiety disorders, weight management, and substance misuse. This was due to the limited amount and quality of the research studies that were available, rather than evidence that showed NLP did not work.

In 2014, a report by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health found no clinical evidence for the effectiveness of NLP in the treatment of PTSD, GAD, or depression.

However, a further research review published in 2015 did find NLP therapy to have a positive impact on individuals with social or psychological problems, although the authors said more investigation was needed. 

The theoretical basis for NLP has also attracted criticism for lacking evidence-based support.

A paper published in 2009 concluded that after three decades, the theories behind NLP were still not credible, and evidence for its effectiveness was only anecdotal. 

A 2010 review paper sought to assess the research findings relating to the theories behind NLP. Of the 33 included studies, only 18 percent were found to support NLP's underlying theories.

So, despite more than 4 decades of its existence, neither the effectiveness of NLP or the validity of the theories have been clearly demonstrated by research. Also, it is worth noting, that research has mainly been conducted in therapeutic settings, with few studies into the effectiveness of NLP in commercial environments and therefore, are highly unreliable. Studying how well NLP works has several practical issues as well, adding to the lack of clarity surrounding the subject. For example, it is difficult to directly compare studies given the range of different methods, techniques, and outcomes. Human psychology differs from person to person and therefore you don't get uniform results in psychology and it is difficult to establish facts. Moreover, we cannot rely on commercial establishments' research as it would definitely biased towards their business.

Without valid scientific evidence, I will not recommend it. No genuine scientist or doctor would recommend it either. 

Now it is up to you to decide whether to go for it or not.

2. Do we use only 10 % of our brains? No!
The 10 percent claim is a complete myth. You use all of your brain. The only instances where there are unused regions of the brain are those in which brain damage or disease has destroyed certain regions.
Neuroscientists point out a number of reasons why the 10 percent myth is false:

Brain imaging scans clearly show that almost all regions of the brain are active during even fairly routine tasks such as talking, walking, and listening to music.
If the 10 percent myth were true, people who suffer brain damage as the result of an accident or stroke would probably not notice any real effect. In reality, there isn't a single area of the brain that can be damaged without resulting in some sort of consequence.
We would not have evolved such large brains if we were only using a tiny portion of them.
The brain uses approximately 20 percent of the body's energy. It would make little evolutionary sense to have such a large portion of our energy resources utilized by such a tiny amount of the brain.
Brain mapping research has yet to find any region of the brain that does not serve a function. "Numerous types of brain imaging studies show that no area of the brain is completely silent or inactive. Detailed probing of the brain has failed to identify the 'non-functioning' 90 percent.

3. Myths about snakes:

a) Snakes have very powerful ears: The truth - Snakes have no external ears.
Scientists have shown how snakes can hear, despite their lack of external ears and internal eardrums. The US and German research shows that snakes have two hearing systems, one via their jaws, providing valuable insight into snake evolution.
The work borrows techniques from nautical engineers and is reported in the journal Physical Review Letters.
With each tiny footstep, a mouse or other prey radiates waves through the ground and air the same way drops of water ripple through a pool and produce a single drip sound.
Just as a ship bobs up and down in response to a wave in the ocean, a snake jaw resting on the ground responds to sound waves carried by the ground.
"The lower jaw of a snake is essentially a ridged cylinder" . "So in that respect it's not terribly different from a ship."
Just as a ship can move in six different directions (heave, pitch, roll, etc.) so can a snake's jaw (up, down, side to side, etc).
And just as a ship is more stable the deeper it rides in the water, snakes often bury themselves in sand to make their hearing more precise.
Buried, a snake can more easily detect the differences in the way its jaw moves.
After a sound is picked up by a snake's jawbones, it travels into the cochlea, where nerves pick up the signal and transmit it to the brain.
By hearing through their jaw bone and through a traditional ear, snakes essentially evolved a second way to hear, say the researchers. Transmission through the skull may have been how the first land vertebrates heard.

b)Boa suffocation is merely myth :
The snakes block prey’s blood flow, not breathing
Boa constrictors don’t suffocate prey but break their hearts. The snakes kill like demon blood pressure cuffs, squeezing down circulation to its final stop. The notion that constrictors slay by preventing breathing turns out to be wrong.
Embracing prey into heart failure is faster than suffocating it and appeared in different forms multiple times in snake history.

Ambushing birds, monkeys and a wide range of other animals from Mexico south to Argentina, the iconic Boa constrictor attacks in much the same way each time. The snake cinches a loop or two around the upper body of prey, pressing against its victim hard enough to starve organs of oxygenated blood.
Within six seconds of looping around an anesthetized lab rat, a boa constrictor squeezes enough to halve blood pressure in a rear-leg artery. Blood that should surge through the artery lies dammed behind snake coils in the rat’s upper body. And back pressure keeps the rat heart from pumping out new blood. Circulation falters and fails. Boas release their grip after about six minutes on average, Boback and his colleagues report in the July 15 , 2015, Journal of Experimental Biology.
Then the boa swallows the catch whole. A rat about a quarter of the snake’s weight disappears down the gullet in a couple of minutes. Moveable bones in the head help the snake make the gulp, as does a dimple of stretchy cartilage that lets the chin open wide. But what people most often tell Boback — that snake jaws must separate at the back — is just another myth.

4. One needs to drink 8 glasses of water a day myth:

There's absolutely no science to back this up, and there never was! Scientific reviews have failed to find that there’s any evidence that drinking more water keeps skin hydrated and makes it look healthier or wrinkle free.
In fact, depending on your diet, there may be no reason to drink excess water at all. "Water is present in fruits and vegetables. It’s in food cooked using water, fruit juice, it’s in beer, it’s even in tea and coffee. Water is the best beverage to consume, it’s certainly not your only source of hydration. You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks."
People say coffee, tea, and alcohol dehydrate us, and therefore can't count towards our daily water intake, science has debunked that myth too.
A 2002 review by physician Heinz Valtin from Dartmouth University in the US found that not only was there no peer-reviewed evidence to support the eight glasses a day rule, there was also no research to suggest that other drinks couldn't be used to adequately hydrate us.
"This conclusion is supported by published studies showing that caffeinated drinks (and, to a lesser extent, mild alcoholic beverages like beer in moderation) may indeed be counted toward the daily total, as well as by the large body of published experiments that attest to the precision and effectiveness of the osmoregulatory system for maintaining water balance.
In the same study, he also broke down the myth that by the time we feel thirsty it's 'too late'. In reality, we feel thirsty exactly when we're supposed to: "when the concentration of blood (an accurate indicator of our state of hydration) has risen by less than 2 percent," he says, "whereas most experts would define dehydration as beginning when that concentration has risen by at least 5 percent."
Of course, it's worth noting here that these recommendations are for healthy people living pretty sedentary lifestyles in non-extreme temperatures. People living in hot climates, anyone who's exercising a lot or battling with an illness may very well need to drink eight glasses - or more - of water a day in order to alleviate their thirst.
And that should be what it all comes down to, according to the research - drink more water when you feel thirsty. But don't stress out about following some pre-prescribed formula to health, because all it's going to do is see you running to the bathroom more often than you need to!

5. Growth of Hair and Nails after death myth...

It’s a common myth that your hair and nails continue to grow after death. While this is not true, it certainly looks that way and that’s part of what frightens people. In fact, what happens is that, with no blood flow, your skin begins losing moisture after death. This lack of moisture causes your skin to shrink and pull back, which in turn reveals more of your hair (straight down to the follicle), while also exposing more of your nails. In other words, your hair and nails aren’t growing, they simply are unbared.

6. Fasting can cure fevers myth

An quack told me this: You will have to starve the bad bacteria and viruses that cause fevers to get cured and if you don't eat, you will starve them and they die. And you will get rid of your fever!

Another belief is that eating food may help the body generate warmth during a “cold” and that avoiding food may help it cool down when overheated.

But the truth is you need the food for your immune system to work well. And only if your immune system works well you can fight the microbes and only when you fight them efficiently can you  kill them and then only the defense mechanisms like fever  can be withdrawn!

 Fever is part of the immune system’s attempt to beat the bugs. It raises the body temperature, which increases metabolism and results in more calories burned; for each degree of temperature rise, the energy demand increases further. So taking in calories becomes important. So in reality you shouldn't fast and eat nutritious food when you have infection and fever!

7. Now the Bermuda Triangle myth...

After watching the video one person still had doubts...
Itdoesn't really provide a reason for all the mysterious aircraft disappearance and crashes in the area. If they could like they have done with shipwrecks in this documentary, I would be more inclined to believe there was no 'unknown' forces acting in the area.

And my reply to him:

I understand your dilemma but at the same time I want to point out that the conditions in the sky when the planes disappeared fizzled away and no longer available for studies now like the weather phenomena. Therefore, we cannot be certain about them and the reasons can only be guessed. When you couple these uncertainties with the myths of Bermuda you heard, naturally your mind tends to believe about 'unknown forces'. It appeals more than a scientific reasoning to a common mind.
All most all the planes disappeared in the area were of old make and didn't have modern equipment to deal with drastic conditions. Now several planes fly over the BT without any ill effects. There lies the difference.

8. Carrot and vision myth

Can carrots give you a flaw less vision? To everybody's surprise the answer is no!
How did the myth originate then? Here is the answer...
In World War II, British pilots had a game-changing new tool for finding their enemies at night -- RADAR. But if the enemy knew about the Allies's new tech, they'd undoubtedly start working on copying it. So the British military started a rumor that their pilots had high-carrot diets to thank for their new-found night vision! And it got stuck! People started eating carrots so that they'd be able to see better during blackouts and nights.
Of course, carrots are a nice source of Vitamin A, which is essential for the general health of your eyes (and hair, skin, and immune system). But while it's important to eat sources of Vitamin A (which also include lettuce, milk, cheese, and peas, among other things), eating more won't actually help you see any better.

9. Moon affects our sleeping patterns? No, says science!

Astrologers believe that the moon controls the emotions and symbolizes the relationship between a mother and a child. It can also have an impact on intellect and intuition, according to them.
According to mythology a full moon can turn people into werewolves and ancient Chinese people believed it was linked to fertility.
Astrologers believe that the moon governs your past and your emotional development.

However, the findings in a recent study will surprise those who follow astrology, for whom the moon has significant importance.
To establish if lunar phases somehow do affect humans, an international group of researchers studied children to see if their sleeping patterns changed or if there were any differences in their daily activities.
The study of 5812 children from five continents took place over 28 months, which is equivalent to the same number of lunar cycles.
A study has concluded that we sleep the same amount regardless of where the moon is in its cycle.
Researchers found only a tiny alteration during a full moon which was not statistically significant enough to matter.
No other behaviours were substantially modified during the entirety of the lunar cycle.
Their study provides compelling evidence that the moon does not seem to influence people’s behaviour. The only significant finding was the 1 percent sleep alteration in full moon, and this is largely explained by their large sample size that maximizes statistical power. The clinical implication of sleeping five minutes less during full moon does not represent a considerable threat to health.
So we should not be worried about the full moon. ‘Our behaviours are largely influenced by many other factors like genes, education, income and psychosocial aspects rather than by gravitational forces.
The results are published in Frontiers in Pediatrics (2016).

10. Intelligent people have more copper and zinc on their hairs!

It is just a myth! Not true! The amount of copper and zinc in the hair is responsible for just hair colour. What does colour of hair got to do with intelligence? Read this research paper :

On the contrary higher levels of copper and zinc in blood can make a person schizophrenic! Copper and zinc are regarded as neurotransmitters and are in high concentrations in brain hippocampus. As a result elevated copper and depressed zinc have been associated with hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders, behavior disorders, and depression. Also, many of those labeled with autism and paranoid schizophrenia have elevated blood copper levels in addition to other biochemical imbalances. “Histamine methylation in Schizophrenia,” (Medical Hypothesis, 1989, 30:167-174) 

Zinc-Copper Imbalances

11. Myth of the Exploding Skull

A common misconception is that the head of a burned body will explode if there is no wound or hole in it, much like a microwaved potato with no puncture in the skin. But forensics researcher Elayne Pope quickly deflated this urban legend when she conducted tests on 40 human cadavers. The myth probably arose when firefighters found the fragmented skulls of burn victims, not realizing that the skulls, which have a thin covering of tissue and quickly become brittle from heat, were easily broken by falling debris or water from pumps.

So don’t believe everything you read or hear.

12. Different regions of tongue has different sensitivity towards specific taste.

Completely wrong. We don’t have different regions for Sour, Salty, Sweet etc.

Tongue, has more than 500,000 sensitive nerves, spread across the tongue which is able to taste everything. Thess nerves are same in all the regions.

Then why did it spread so widely?

In early 20th century, researchers realized that we feel the taste only after the saliva mixes with the food-particle. To show that, they set up an experiment to pour saliva on the lollipop and divided the sweet, sour, salty taste individually.

This looked ugly and gruesome to newspaper editors. So, instead of showing this experiment, they decided to print tongues showing different regions.

And that’s how it all started.

13. Animals can predict weather or future or earth quakes.

They can’t!
What they can do is, they can sense the change in temperature/humidity/level of oxygen etc.

For example, Dragonflies eats insects on the ground. When the humidity in air gets high, the smaller insects become unable to fly due to humid aid stuck on their wings. So, Dragon flies have to fly at the lower level for the food. That way, we can say ‘If you see Dragonflies on the ground level, rain is imminent.’

Honey Bees takes care of their honey in the harsh summer by keeping them cool by flattering their wings. So during the summer, we don’t see them quite often. But as soon as the surrounding starts getting cool, they come out and fly for the food. So, when you see honeybees flying around, it means weather is good.

Catfish moving violently, erratic behavior of Snakes and Rats, Chickens stops laying eggs etc. are examples of natural way of ‘Earthquake Detection’. Though scientists have noted it, there is no way of knowing the exact reason for that. One can assume, that they might get sense of vibration before any human can perceive. No proof is there, though.

Scientists think that the basis of this myth is "the psychological focusing effect," where people remember strange behaviors only after an earthquake or other catastrophe has taken place. If nothing had happened, they contend, people would not have remembered the strange behaviour.

14. Virginity Myth...

More myths...

1. There is no gravity in space. Yes there is, but it is very weak. The reason astronauts appear weightless is that they are falling at the same rate as everything else around them. The ISS is actually falling sideways because of gravity.

2. Lightening never strikes the same place twice. Actually this is a common occurrence! Lightening has a tendency to strike the tallest thing. In a large field, the tallest object is likely to be struck repeatedly until the lightening moves far enough away to find a new target.

3. Meteors are heated by friction when entering the atmosphere. Actually the compressing of the air in front of the meteor is what causes the heat. Also, meteorites are usually cold when the strike the earth. The reason is that they are so cold from their journey through space,that the entry heat is not sufficient to do more than burn off the outer layers.

4. Dropping a penny from a skyscraper will kill a pedestrian below. Very unlikely. A penny is not aerodynamic at all reducing its terminal velocity and it weighs very little. If it hits somebody,they will feel a sting but it won’t cause any serious injury.

5. There is a dark side of the moon. There is one side that is not visible from the surface of the earth, but it receives just as might light as the side we do see.

6. The Earth’s seasons are caused by the Earth’s distance from the Sun. The primary cause of the Earth’s seasons is the that the tilt of Earth causes the angle of the sunlight to change as the Earth orbits the Sun.

7. The Sun is made of hydrogen gas. The material was largely hydrogen gas before it coalesced into the Sun, but the Sun is made of plasma; a state of matter so energetic that the electrons and nuclei are no longer bound to each other. Individual protons and electrons can move about.

8. Eating celery doesn't burn more calories than you gain by eating it! Even though celery has low calories, high water density and high fiber, your body doesn't use as many calories to process it as there are in a celery stick.

9. Physics cannot explain how bumblebees fly. Usually spouted by people who have experience in the flight of airplanes. However, how a plane works, and how a bumblebee flies are entirely unrelated to each other. Science can perfectly explain how a bumblebee flies, and it’s not that complicated.

10. The stars we see in the night sky are probably dead. The stars you see in the night sky are, in fact, within a few thousand light years of Earth. That means for the photons to reach us, the light would have to be traveling for 3000 years. In case you weren’t aware, stars take millions of years to run out of hydrogen to fuse, in the case of stars like our Sun, billions, and in the case of red dwarf stars, trillions. A few thousand years is nothing.

11. That sugar makes kids hyperactive. Nope. It’s a straight up case of the placebo effect, and the fact that high-sugar foods are often associated with exciting events (e.g. birthday parties) where kids are already excited.

12. That veins are blue, and the blood in your veins is blue. No, blood actually turns a darker shade of red when its not oxygenated. Your veins are also dark red. Veins just look blue because the collagen in your skin is scattering the light that’s hitting them.

13. Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis. No. There are many causes of osteoarthritis, and none of them include cracking your knuckles. The main causes of arthritis are age, injury, obesity, and genetics.

14. Dogs and cats can’t see in color. Not true at all. Unlike humans and other primates who have three cone cells in their eyes (red, green, blue), dogs only have two, (yellow and blue). Meaning they see the world in shades of green, yellow, and blue. For cats, they also have three cone cells, but not as advanced as primates, thus they can’t see the same richness of hues that primates can. Further, both cats and dogs appear to be near sighted, if you compare their visual acuity to a human’s. This is why they rely on their sense of smell more than we do.

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