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10 Widely Common Myths on the Internet Even to this Day

common myths

The Internet is filled with myths that are believed by millions of people. From the myth that putting an ATM pin in backward will alert the police to the myth that ancient scholars were dumb enough to think the Earth is flat, we bring to you 10 of the most widely common myths on the Internet!

1. Myth: If you enter your ATM pin backward at an ATM, it alerts the police.

Entering the ATM Pin backward does not alert the police
Entering the ATM Pin backward does not alert the police. Image Credit: Pixabay

Fact: This is not true. If it were to happen, then people with a palindrome PIN would have a hard time.

If you ever enter your ATM pin backward, the ATM will not place a call to the police. This rumor has been prevalent since the 1980s. It originated from a proposal that the American police suggested for the ATM pin system. They suggested that this would be a proper way to capture criminals. The idea originated in 2006 in the form of a hoax email chain across social media platforms. This is how the modern generation became familiar with this myth.

The proposal never took off as there were numerous issues with the proposed system. Reversible PINs such as ‘7667’ or ‘8888’ (palindromic PINs) would have to be made unavailable for the system to work. Moreover, PINs such as ‘3783’ or ‘1031’ would also need to be avoided so as to minimize the risk of entering them incorrectly. If instead of ‘3783,’ the person accidentally enters ‘3873,’ the police would be called even when there was no robbery. All these problems might have made the authorities to scrap the proposal.(source)

2. Myth: You eat “X” amount of spiders in your sleep.

You don't eat any spiders during sleep
You don’t eat any spiders during sleep. Image Credit: Martin Cooper via Flickr

Fact: The actual number is zero.

There is a common belief that humans swallow an average of eight spiders every year. This would mean that we swallow on an average 52 spiders during our lifetime. But in reality, the odds of that are actually zero. It’s very unlikely for a spider to come crawling near a human, let alone crawl into the open mouth!

Spiders detect danger by sensing the vibrations taking place around them. When a person is sleeping, their breathing, heartbeat, tosses and turns, snores, and the sounds they make during the course of their sleep are clear signs of danger for a spider. So, it’s highly unlikely that a spider would venture near a sleeping person!(source)


3. Myth: GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are harmful.

Genetically Modified Organisms are not proven to be harmful
Genetically Modified Organisms are not proven to be harmful. Image Credit: Pixabay

Fact:  There is no proof that genetically modified foods are harmful to consumers.

GMOs or genetically modified organisms are one of the most controversial segments when it comes to the food industry. There is a question looming over everyone on whether they are healthy or harmful to mankind. But science has debunked the myth that GMOs are harmful.

GMOs are foods whose genetic structure has been altered by scientists to make them more efficient. Disease-resistant papaya, non-browning apples, high-yielding crops, etc. are all examples of GMOs. There has been no scientific proof that GMOs are harmful. It is just a common misbelief among consumers. In the U.S., every new GMO product is thoroughly reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration regulators. The Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency also participate in the review. The FDA, upon major scientific studies on this issue, has declared them safe. Despite this, many people still hold onto the notion that GMOs are harmful.(source)

4. Myth: Drinking alcohol during winter keeps you warm.

Drinking alcohol
Image credit: pixabay

Fact: Drinking alcohol gives the sensation of warmth, but while one may feel warm on the outside, the inside of the body is getting colder.

It is a common ritual to open up the alcohol bottles when winter strikes. The common belief is that alcohol helps to keep you warm during the winter. The truth is even though one feels warmth after drinking alcohol, it is just a sensation. In reality, the core of the body is getting colder.

We feel cold when the blood flows away from the skin into the organs in order to increase the core temperature. When alcohol is consumed, the reverse process takes place. Blood flows from the organs towards our skin giving the sensation of warmth and at the same time decreasing the core body temperature. This sudden drop in core body temperature is actually harmful and increases the risk of hypothermia.(source)


5. Myth: Vikings wore horned helmets.

Vikings did not wear horned helmets
Vikings did not wear horned helmets. Image Credit: James Ward via Wikipedia

Fact: Costume designer Carl Emil Doepler created horned helmets for the Viking characters, and the stereotype was born.

The first element that comes to mind when someone talks about Vikings is their distinguished headgear. In most of the movies on Vikings, they are depicted as wearing helmets that have horns attached to it. But in reality, they never really wore horned helmets. Depictions dating back to the eight century shows that the Vikings were either bareheaded or adorned with simple helmets made from iron or leather. Archaeologists have not yet discovered any Viking-era helmet that was embellished with horns.

So where did this misconception arise? This goes back to as far as the 1800s. Scandinavian artists like Sweden’s Gustav Malmström used to portray warriors and raiders wearing horned helmets. In the 1870s when Wagner staged his “Der Ring des Nibelungen” opera, Carl Emil Doepler, the costume designer, created horned helmets for all the Viking characters. This is where the stereotype originated.(source)

6. Myth: Caffeine causes dehydration.

Caffeine never leads to dehydration
Caffeine never leads to dehydration. Image Credit: Pixabay

Fact: There is no evidence that suggests that caffeine causes dehydration.

Tea, coffee, soda, and chocolate are widely consumed for the caffeine in them. Even though caffeine is legal and its use is unregulated in many countries, some people have a misconception that caffeine has undesirable side effects including dehydration. This misconception arose in 1928 when people started noticing that consumption of caffeinated beverages led to increased urination. Now more urination meant that you are losing more water from your body. Hence, caffeine gained the reputation of being a diuretic and a dehydrating substance.

But Lawrence Armstrong, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut and director of the Human Performance Laboratory, says, “The truth of the matter is, a small increase in urine output has little to do with dehydrating the body.” Increased urination doesn’t mean you are losing more liquid from a body. The logic is simple. If you drink more water, you will urinate more. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop drinking water! The same applies to caffeinated beverages.(source)


7. Myth: Adding salt to a pot of water on the stove while cooking will make it boil faster.

Adding salt to boiling water does not make the water boil faster
Adding salt to boiling water does not make the water boil faster. Image Credit: Anello Family Seafood

Fact: The difference is negligible when it comes to home cooking.

The belief that salt makes water boil faster is an old wive’s tale. It’s not completely a myth. The tale has a truth to it, but it is so little that it is almost negligible. Lesley-Ann Giddings, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Middlebury College in Vermont, says, “If you’re adding 1 teaspoon (less than 3 grams) of salt to a liter (34 fluid ounces) of water, it doesn’t really make so much of a difference.” In layman terms, the difference in the time required to boil when salt is added is only a few seconds.

The myth arose from the fact that less heat is required to increase the temperature of saltwater than freshwater. So even though saltwater has a higher boiling point, it boils faster as the temperature increases faster in saltwater. Moreover, in order to notice a difference in the boiling times, a lot of salt needs to be added to the water. This is not the case when it comes to cooking or home activities. Hence, adding a pinch of salt to boil your eggs or any other vegetable faster doesn’t work.(source)

8. Myth: Bananas grow on trees.

Banana plants are not trees
Banana plants are not trees. They are actually herbs. Image Credit: Ramesh NG via Wikipedia

Fact: The banana plant is actually a herb.

When we talk about bananas, we normally say that bananas grow on trees. But in reality, a banana plant is not actually a tree. According to Purdue University’s Center for New Crops and Plant Products, they are large herbs. When the stem of a banana plant is cut, there is no wooden trunk within. The entire stem is made of leaves that overlap and intertwine to form a strong column. The stem is so strong that it can grow up to a height of 40 feet, making it one of the tallest herbs to grow on Earth.

Even though the banana plant is a herb, the banana itself is a fruit and not a herb.(source)


9. Myth: Sunflowers always face towards the sun.

Sunflowers do not follow the sun once they are fully grown
Sunflowers do not follow the sun once they are fully grown. Image Credit: Pixabay

Fact: Grown-up sunflowers point in one fixed direction all day long. However, young sunflowers, before growing flower heads, do track the sun.

In school, we are taught about a phenomenon known as heliotropism. Heliotropism makes flowers follow the sun across the sky. One of the most commonly known flowers that follow the sun is the sunflower. But there’s a misconception that lies in this statement. It is true that sunflowers follow the sun but only when they are young.

Younger sunflowers have green “bracts” with leaves just below the flower that faces the Sun. It is quite obvious why young sunflowers would portray heliotropism. They are trying to maximize photosynthesis. But as the sunflowers get mature, they start to develop seeds. The weight of the seeds make them droop and they stop displaying heliotropism. Throughout their lifecycle, they end up facing towards the east.(source)

10. Myth: People in the Middle Ages in Europe believed that the Earth was flat.

No educated person from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat
No educated person from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat. Image Credit: National Ocean Service

Fact: No educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.

The belief that people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth to be flat instead of spherical is just a myth of modern times. Virtually all scholars held the viewpoint that the Earth is, in fact, spherical. Since the 14th century, almost no one in the academic circle believed the Earth to be flat. According to Stephen Jay Gould, an American paleontologist, biologist, and historian of science, “There never was a period of ‘flat Earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now).” The Greeks were the first to spread the knowledge of the Earth being spherical. And the majority of the Medieval scholars accepted the Greek knowledge and accepted the round shape of the Earth into their cosmology.

So, Galileo didn’t have to actually fight against all the scholars to prove that the Earth is, in fact, spherical.(source)


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