Science can be very confusing – is chocolate healthy or not? Will red wine make my heart stronger? The nature of science is that very few things are truly certain because new studies keep revealing more details, but there are some truths scientists are sure about. These are not always spread far and wide, however, so most of us remain in the dark. Here’s a list of debunked myths many still believe:
Sharks can’t get cancer
This myth was debunked well over a century ago, but many people still believe sharks are somehow immune to cancer. The misconception drives a niche section of healthcare where people sell products made with shark cartilage, claiming it can prevent and even cure cancer. In reality, lots of shark species can get cancer. In 2013, the first evidence of cancer in a great white shark was spotted in the form of a large tumor. Sadly, persistent belief that sharks are special leads to huge numbers of them being slaughtered for their parts.
Hair and fingernails grow after death
When you die, your hair and fingernails don’t actually keep growing. To do that, your body would need to be active in some way and reproducing cells, but since you’re dead, that isn’t happening. The truth is much grosser. Post-death, human skin dries out and actually begins to pull back from the nail beds and shafts of hair. That makes it seem like the nails and hair are growing out, but everything around them is just shrinking. Once decay has really set in and everything starts to break down, that “growth” stops, because there’s nothing left.
Neanderthals were violent idiots
Calling someone a “Neanderthal” is not a compliment. It implies they are stupid and possibly violent. For years, we’ve believed that Neanderthals were much more primitive than us, and eventually died out completely as we emerged as the superior species. However, more studies and discoveries revealed that Neanderthals were not especially violent or unintelligent. They used tools, made jewelry, and possibly even figured out how to make fire. There’s also a lot of evidence that humans mated with Neanderthals, leading some experts to theorize that perhaps Neanderthals didn’t die out; they bred into our family tree. Regardless of their ultimate fate, it’s become clear that our old views on Neanderthals are not accurate.
We only use 10% of our brain
This persistent myth has been thoroughly debunked, but many of us still think it’s true. Brain scans show that in fact, we actually do use all of our brains. If we didn’t, why would we have that other 90%? It doesn’t make sense that we would have evolved a brain that’s mostly useless. The brain is actually so busy it uses up 20% of the total amount of oxygen and glucose our body needs. We may not be aware of what most of our brain is doing – just one portion is responsible for thinking and decision-making – but the rest is occupied by keeping our organs going, blood flowing, and more. Another brain “fact” that isn’t true: Einstein using 15% of his brain. He used all of it, just like everybody else.
You can “catch up” on sleep
Stayed up several nights in a row? Planning on sleeping a lot during the weekend? This won’t make a difference. While many people believe they can “catch up” on missed sleep, the reality is that perpetually disrupted sleep patterns can’t be undone. Sleeping a lot after not getting many winks can actually make you feel worse. A study from Harvard Medical School revealed that people who slept 10 hours after sleeping for just 6 hours a night for two weeks had worse focus and reaction times. Want to improve your sleep? Keep it consistent.
There’s a lot of fake news about Albert Einstein’s brain. That’s unfortunate, especially when you consider he didn’t want his brain studied at all. Why were his wishes disregarded?