Monday, July 25, 2005

Which ones are Modern Myths?

` I've recently come across more of this Internet Trivia crud - but these are even tougher to examine. Problem is with such questions is that they usually don't cite their sources. (Then again, I can sometimes be almost as bad!)

` Can you guess which of the following are true and which are false?

` I'll try.

1. Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.

` True! According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the sugar in apples and the act of chewing them keeps people awake more effectively in the morning! Focusing on chewing probably has a lot to do with it... coffee is distinctly non-chewable.

2. Alfred Hitchcock didn't have a belly button.

` It was reported thirdhand by one person that after an operation, the surgeons had sewn up his navel. However, it is probably not true.

3. A pack-a-day smoker will lose approximately 2 teeth every 10 years.

` This is true, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. People who smoke are two times more likely to lose their teeth than people who don't smoke (according to two different 30-year studies).

4. People do not get sick from cold weather; it's from being indoors a lot more.

` This also seems to be true: When you are indoors more often from cold weather, you spread around germs more effectively.
` So it's rather behavior from cold weather that causes illness rather than the cold weather itself - I mean, does warm weather cause drowning? No, but people will put themselves at risk for drowning when it's summer!

5. When you sneeze, all bodily functions stop, even your heart!

` As yet, nobody is really sure how true this statement is - more research is actually needed. Unfortunately, somehow I don't think there's a whole lot of research that actually pays attention to this type of thing.

6. Only 7 per cent of the population are lefties.

` Maybe. Generally, seven to ten percent of any population being left-handed is the norm. Problem is, people keep switching hands all the time, so it's hard to tell.

7. Forty people are sent to the hospital for dog bites every minute.

` Blatantly false! According to a 1998 JAMA article (that's The Journal of the American Medical Association), the number of fresh emergency room dog bite injuries per day is only 914. Sound like a lot? The number of minutes per day is more - 1,440. You do the math.

8. Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until they are 2-6 years old.

` False! Babies are born with cartiligenous kneecaps, which don't ossify until at least three years of age.

9. The average person over 50 will have spent 5 years waiting in lines.

` I would guess not: Okay, 438000 is the number of hours in fifty years. Half that - since you're probably at home half of that time and out somewhere else the other half - is 219000. Subtract five years (43800 hours) and we get 175200 hours. That means... if you're fifty, you've spent about four hours a day waiting in line? Outside of Soviet Russia and all, is this even possible?
` Then again, I'm not the greatest at calculating things... but if we only spent ten minutes a day waiting in a line, that would amount to... oh, about six months in fifty years.

10. The toothbrush was invented in 1498.

` Supposedly, according to the American Dental Association, this is true - the Emporer of China had a bone and hog-bristle toothbrush made in 1498. However, I can't verify even that.
` (The nylon-bristle toothbrush, on the other hand, was invented by DuPont in 1938.)

11. The average housefly lives for one month.

` False. Personally have been repeatedly told my whole life that houseflies only live for 24 hours. If that suddenly started being true, they would go extinct in about... two days.
` In truth, an average housefly lives about two weeks at the most - they need more than one day in order to hatch, pupate, and find a suitable mate, after all! And yet... that's not even a whole month - usually it's less than half.
` But that's only under natural conditions - the potential lifespan of the male housefly is up to sixty days, while the female can live up to seventy days! They can even spend an entire winter in your attic (in a torpor) and come back out the next spring!

12. 40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year.

` An image comes to mind here... those commercials from around 1990 where a little girl looks into the bathroom, sees that the toilet has teeth and is snapping at her, and screams for her mother to whip out whatever cleanser that subdues even the scariest anthropomorphic toilets.

` Um... yeah. The only thing I know about common toilet-related injuries is when a guy gets his scrotum stuck under a toilet seat. Also, sometimes toilets explode when people put cherry bombs down them. I also know someone who was stung by a wasp that had probably been attracted by the water or the low temperature and had crawled under the seat. Still, I don't know of a toilet immediately causing an injury.
` In addition, Dave Barry wrote a column about incidents of actual toilets exploding for apparently no reason. And Dave Barry said, and I quote: "I am not making this up." And if you can't trust ol' Dave, who can you trust? Thing is, unless someone put bombs in them, I have no idea why. Perhaps ignited sewer gas?

13. A coat hanger is 44 inches long when straightened.

` Being that I have no wire coat hangers, I can't say, but that sounds about right.
` In addition, my mom concurs, as she's unwound them many times to clean the sweeper out, they probably are.

14. The average computer user blinks 7 times a minute.

` I don't know that to be true, but then again, I can't think of why that couldn't be.

15. Your feet are bigger in the afternoon than any other time of day.

` False! I'm sure they do get bigger - after you've been on your feet, they can swell up until you can barely get your shoes off. But that's influenced by activity, not any particular hour.

16. Most of us have eaten a spider in our sleep.

` Nope! Not only is that unlikely - why would they be stupid enough to crawl into your mouth? - but no spider has ever been recorded to have been eaten by a sleeping human, so you can't say how often this could possibly happen anyway. In other words, that has to come from someone's fear (or playing on someone else's fear!) rather than any observations at all!

17. The REAL reason ostriches stick their head in the sand is to search for water.

` False! I don't think that could work, even if they did stick their heads in sand! But they don't! In fact, when ostriches are threatened and can't run away, they flatten themselves along the ground to hide - which is useful when there's undergrowth around.

18. The only two animals that can see behind themselves without turning their heads are the rabbit and the parrot.

` False... I'm pretty sure. Surely, other prey animals have the same abilities, including various rodents and ducks and whatnot. (Of course, it isn't specified to what degree they can see behind themselves!) And I don't see why chameleons and even some fish wouldn't be able to! And let's not forget invertebrates!

19. John Travolta turned down the starring roles in "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Tootsie."

` I think that's true. Frankly, that doesn't mean that I care. Celebrities bore me. Especially ones who donate their money to an organization that will charge people a million dollars in 'self-help classes' before telling them that its real purpose is to get rid of harmful alien spirits, as demonstrated in this humorous slideshow.

20. Michael Jackson owns the rights to the South Carolina State anthem.

` Don't know, don't care, and frankly, his plastic, screwed-up face disturbs me.

21. In most television commercials advertising milk, a mixture of white paint and a little thinner is used in place of the milk.

` I believe so: Using fake food and beverages in comercials is common - this includes using colored Crisco in place of ice cream and polished arcrylic instead of ice cubes for use under those hot studio lights. I know this for a fact because I saw people doing just that on a TV documentary specifically about food commercials. (Also, I'm pretty sure they said that opaque beverages were mostly paint.)

22. Prince Charles and Prince William NEVER travel on the same airplane, just in case there is a crash.

` I'm pretty sure that's true, as it wouldn't surprise me - it's important to keep as many members of the Royal Family alive as possible. 'Specially ones like princes.

23. The first Harley Davidson motorcycle built in 1903 used a tomato can for a carburetor.

` Don't think so, not that I care that much. Judging on the seriousness and meticulouseness of both Harley and Davidson, I would doubt this very much due to lack of evidence.

24. Most hospitals make money by selling the umbilical cords cut from women who give birth. They are used in vein transplant surgery.

` I don't know if any of that happens, but I do know that the cords are useful: Umbilical cord blood - which is full of stem cells - is often frozen in banks. Usually, people donate it , but if you want to keep a sample for a family member's leukemia or sickle-cell anemia or whatever, it'll cost you a lot of money.

25. Humphrey Bogart was related to Princess Diana. They were 7th cousins.

` I think this may be true. I also don't care.

26. If coloring weren't added to Coca-Cola, it would be green.

` Maybe. Don't care. Don't drink Coca-Cola. Tastes almost as bad as Pepsi. Pepsi is evil. Coca-Cola, though probably would be greenish or colorless if you didn't add the caramel coloring.

` (Note: I may one day learn the answers to the rest of these questions, but for now I really don't care enough.)

` Now we reach the bottom of the page, after verifying that some of these things are true and some of them definitely are not! And what does it say?

` 'All of these things are true! - now think about number 16.'

` *Sigh...*
` Scary thing is, I've seen several places on the web that have this very list presented at face value - meaning no skeptical commentary like mine - and people's reactions are generally that they believe all, or almost all of it! That's the thing with the media - most things are second- and third-hand, often distorted, and people are not expected to know the difference between facts and bogus pieces of information!

` Sometimes, it can be important to know the truth, you know.

` Phil and EdgeWalker were talking about this the other day... the people involved in Bush's insane 'War on Terror' have a much different point of view of what went on than people who were not.
` Lots of it has to do with the way information gets watered down and rendered meaningless through stupid little sound-bites.
` Therefore, to us civilians far away from the action, Dubya's war was (is?) truly a 'virtual war', distinct from - but not entirely unlike - actual events that took place.
`Lots of it has to do with the focus of everything, of course, and also the accumulation of so many distorted little details sort of like the way internet trivia is. And also, like internet trivia, there's usually more of it than you think!

` Think of the consequences of believing something if it isn't true. It might come back to bite you in the ass. That's why being a skeptic is a good habit!

` So, when trying to decide whether or not to accept something as fact, clearly it's best to have it all straight. (It saves much pain/embarrassment later on.)

` Or, as Gourdy, the Mouse-Drawn Vector YurkTM might say:

` "Remember kids: Stay aware, or stay away!"

` Okay, I just threw that in there because it's the first vector I've ever made. (And it shows!) I really need a stylus if I'm going to make more, though...


Joey M. said...

Bravo! I await the next installment!

S E E Quine said...

Thanks :)

AstroNerdBoy said...

I'm glad you did this because I don't have to. I love my friends, but a few sometimes still get caught up in these wild rumors that go around on the web. They've all learned not to send me those "DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!" virus e-mails. But then I got the e-mail with all these "facts." I knew the spider one was false after having gone to a spider enthusiast website last year (out of morbid curiosity) and reading different actual facts there.

So, thanks!

S E E Quine said...

` Hooray! Someone else thought it was useful!