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Worst 10 Urban Myths

Worst 10 Urban Myths

In a moment of serious killjoy-osity we've trawled through the world of urban myths to find the scientifically most inaccurate... well, the ones which are just quite daft. So what's the truth behind KFC's mutant chickens and are blondes really going to go extinct? Shamini Bundell finds out.

(click on the links for the inside story)

Redefining the value of Pi
Myth: The state of Alabama has redefined the value of pi to be exactly three to fit in with the bible.
Truth: The bible, like the Pirate's Code, should be taken as more of a guide than a strict rule. (more)

Cabbage patch kids are nuclear mutants
Myth: The toys were orders by the US government to prepare us for life post-nuclear holocaust.
Truth: If they're to prepare us for anything, it's the modern obesity epidemic. (more)

More people are alive today than ever lived
Myth: Population growth has been so massive over the last 100 yrs that the living outnumber the dead.
Truth: Yes there's a lot of people alive, but 40,000 years is a long time and a lot of people. (more)

NASA's expensive space pen
Myth: NASA spent $$$ developing a pen that could write in space. The Russians used a pencil.
Truth: Both Americans and Russians used pencils, until someone designed a space pen. (more)

Smile to save energy
Myth: It takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 to smile. Smiling saves energy.
Truth: It depends on the type of frown, the sincerity of smile and the pendantry of researcher. (more)

KFC's mutant meat
Myth: Kentucky Fried Chicken changed to KFC because their chickens were mutants.
Truth: Mutant chickens? Really? Oh come off it, only MacDonalds use those. (more)

Blondes face extinction
Myth: Blondes are slowly going extinct and the last one will die out in Finland in 200 years.
Truth: You're telling me gentlemen don't prefer blondes? Get back to your lab, freak boy. (more)

No swimming after dinner
Myth: If you go swimming after lunch, that's it, you're dead. This must be true, Mum said so.
Truth: There has never been a reported death linked directly to a post dinner dip. (more)

Lemming suicides
Myth: Lemmings leap to their deaths from cliffs in mass fits of suicidal fervour.
Truth: It was Disney. They made them jump. They pushed them off a cliff on camera. Bastards. (more)

Wasted brains
Myth: 90% of our brains go unused, sitting dormant until we get consciousness expansion.
Truth: If you only use 10% of your brain then you're an idiot. In more ways than one. (more)

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Your Say:

Nice spot of debunking!

I heard that "more people alive than ever have lived" line on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this very morning.

Is it Asimov or Arthur C who cite the ratio of dead to living as 20:1? I heard somewhere else that there are 100 billion dead people, which doesn't quite fit, but sounds like a nice reverse exponential.
David Bradley, SciScoop

In 2002 Carl Haub did some maths and came out with the current world population being only 6% of everyone who ever lived!

"Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living." - Arthur C. Clarke
Shamini Bundell

Interesting reading the one about the mutant chickens.

A book of quotations that I have read, I think it was called "They said what?" had a quotation from Winston Churchill along the lines of "One day it will be possible to grow the parts of a chicken that we need, the legs, the breast and so forth, without the need to breed the whole animal".

Anyone got a reference to this quote anywhere?

Christian Legg

on: Blondes face extinction
If the guys that are with the blondes aren't blonde the children will have a higher probability to have the hair color of the non-blonde.
Nico van der Heide
  • Whilst this is true it doesn't mean that the blonde gene will go extinct. It is well known that, unless a gene has a beneficial or detrimental effect on fitness, it will persist at an unchanged frequency within a population (look up the Hardy-Weinberg equation for more information) - Ed

Thank the good spirits the last one is on there. I can't abide that myth, and it seems to pop up everywhere.
Nobody Important

I'd recommend taking a look at the QI website. (google it if you don't trust links). It's a BBC programme which will teach you everything you thought you knew, but didn't.

And no, I'm not being paid for promotion, I'm just a fan of the show!!

Oh all this snide witticism. I can't stop going 'HUUUH HUH HUH HUH HUH'

The "refutation" of the "10 percent myth" is getting as tiresome as the original saw was. The claim was that people only realize a tenth of their capacity. No one but an imbecile ever thought it meant that, literally, only one in ten neurons ever fires. And it's plain without any science at all that most of the "mental capacities" of people can't be measured numerically. It's a rhetorical expression of one's confidence in human potential.

These endless refutations of it are as ignorant as the occasional complaint that "dark side of the moon" is a misnomer on the grounds that the sun shines equally on all sides of the moon: in fact "dark" here means "unknown", not "unlit".

It's almost impossible to eliminate recessive genes. Even deleterious ones stay in the population since they are only unmasked when both alleles carry the recessive. No studies needed -you can work the math. So even if blonds were at a selective disadvantage,they would still pop up from time to time.

Title Image: Dora Mitsonia

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20 Jul 2011
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