10 popular “scientific” myths and misconceptions

Posted on Sep 17, 2022      24

New information from pseudoscientists appears all the time. Unfortunately, not all of them reflect reality.

With the spread of the Internet, search for information has become much more accessible, but not all the facts that you find on the Internet, you can believe. We have collected the most common “scientific” myths and misconceptions that many take for truth.

So, let’s start the fight against pseudoscience right now.

Myth #1: Antibiotics help against viral diseases

Despite many warning articles about the uselessness of antibiotics against coronavirus and other viral diseases, the demand for these drugs increased 6-fold against the background of the pandemic.

It’s worth remembering once and for all: antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infectious diseases; they have no effect on viruses.

According to the World Health Organization, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to patients hospitalized with COVID-19 if one complication is an accompanying bacterial infection.

Do not take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription!

What happens if you just take antibiotics?

  1. Excessive use of antibiotics not only kills the bacteria that caused the infection but also those that live in the body and help it perform its functions.
  2. Misuse of antibiotics can lead to antimicrobial resistance. Bacteria that might cause disease develop resistance to antibiotics. To put it even more simply, misuse of antibiotics will cause them not working at the right time.
  3. To continue the previous point, we should add that taking antibiotics carelessly can lead to a pandemic of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. Not following the prescriptions of doctors, you harm not only yourself but also the entire society.

Myth #2: Bulls react aggressively to the color red

If someone or something causes someone to be annoyed, displeased or aggressive, it is often said, “It works on him like a red rag on a bull!” But do bulls really dislike the color red?

Bulls see the color red, albeit in muted tones. But another thing that irritates them is the movement of the red cloth and the bullfighter. The bulls used in bullfighting are of a very aggressive breed. They are bred in such a way that any abrupt movement will make them angry and make them attack.

For reference! A bullfight is a fight between a bullfighter and a bull. A muleta is a red cloth with which a bull is taunted. Toreador - the person who fights the bull in bullfighting.

The belief that the color red angers bulls was refuted in an episode of the science television show “Destroyer of legends”. The animal reacted equally to white, red and blue - it attacked all three.

Why do the bullfighters use red cloth?

The color red was not chosen by chance. Usually the bull is killed at the end of the fight, and the red cloth helps disguise the animal’s blood. Also, the red cloth attracts the attention of spectators.

So bulls have no color preference; they respond to whatever moves more.

Myth #3: Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice

In 2019, a group of physicists disproved the myth that lightning doesn’t strike the same spot twice. But even before this study, many examples proved this claim false.

  1. According to statistics, the Empire State Building, a 103-story skyscraper in New York City, is struck by lightning an average of 25 times a year.
  2. In 2015, scientists found that Lake Maracaibo, in Venezuela, is struck by lightning more often than any other place on the planet. Thunderstorms strike over the lake 297 out of 365 days a year. Lightning does not strike the entire lake, but is concentrated at the mouth of the Catatumbo River, which flows into it.
  3. In 2011, a young man from China was struck by lightning twice in a row. But despite all the adversity, he got up and went about his business as if nothing had happened.

And here is a video that an American woman from Montana shot. It shows lightning striking the same tree over 10 times in a row.

Myth #4: Elephants are afraid of mice

There are many theories that mice gnaw on elephant limbs or can crawl into their trunk. And this myth is also common in children’s cartoons and stories, where an elephant, upon seeing a mouse, panics.

Researcher Richard Lair, who has studied elephants for over 30 years, believes that these animals are not afraid of mice, and the rustle that can make rodents.

The fact is that elephants have poor eyesight, so they can be frightened when a small animal rustles past their feet. An elephant can’t immediately tell if it’s a small mouse or something more dangerous, like a hyena, running around, so it’s wary of anything that moves fast. Other animals that move fast, such as dogs, snakes or cats, can also make an elephant nervous.

The American Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus even did an experiment in 2006. The animal trainer showed the elephants, the mice sitting in his hands, but none of the trunk’s owners even moved.

Thus, elephants are not afraid of the mice themselves, but might well be frightened by their sudden movements.

Myth #5: Germs don’t have time to get into the fallen food if you pick it up off the floor in 5 seconds

What you pick up quickly, it’s like you didn’t drop it. You’d be surprised, but several studies have been done on this subject.

The first study

In 2007, a team of researchers led by Professor Paul Dawson of Clemson University in South Carolina found that over 99% of bacteria still “get” on food is within the first five seconds.

Scientists say that it is more important what surface the food falls on, not the time to pick it up. For example, carpet passed fewer bacteria to food than tile and wood.

The team of scientists also found that dangerous bacteria can persist on dry surfaces for up to four weeks.

Second study

The next study was conducted by Professor Donald Shafner of Rutgers University in 2016. He concluded that food can become contaminated instantly, although it will have fewer bacteria on it if you pick it up quickly.

Donald Shafner also determined that the higher the humidity of the food, the more bacteria it would gain. As in the last experiment, carpeting showed the lowest rate of germ transmission.

A third study.

The latest study was conducted in 2017 by Aston University professor Anthony Hilton. He claims that if food doesn’t show dirt on it, it can be consumed. But the scientist noted that there are still risks, and it’s impossible to say with certainty that bacteria won’t be able to get on the fallen food.

Anthony Hilton also reminded that besides time, other factors are important: the type of food and the type of surface.

Brief conclusion

You should not blindly trust the “five second rule”, because sometimes, one second is enough to infect bacteria.

It is better not to consume food that fell on the floor. But if you really want to analyze the situation, remember that the floor should be clean and the food should be dry (for example, cookies or bread). These rules only work in your home. In public places, you can’t eat food that fell on the floor, even if you pick it up in 5 seconds.

Myth #6: Humans use only 10% of the brain

This myth has formed the basis of the plot of several Hollywood movies, such as: “Limitless” and “Lucy”. Many people, after watching such movies, forget that this is fiction and continue to believe in the theory of the underutilization of the brain.

The concept that the brain is only used at 10 percent seems appealing, because we can use the unused parts of it and become more intelligent. But we are constantly using most of our brains.

Using positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists have found that much more than a tenth of the brain is engaged, even when sleeping or resting.

There are no parts of the brain that do not have a specific function.

The ten percent theory contradicts the principles of evolution. After all, evolution eliminates everything superfluous, and the brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy. If most neurons were not used, evolution would have gotten rid of unnecessary brain volume long ago.

Brief conclusion

Research shows that although not simultaneously, humans use all parts of their brains, meaning that this organ is 100% used.

Myth #7: Chewing gum takes 7 years to digest

Many of us have heard the scary story about what happens if you swallow gum. Allegedly swallowed gum will lie dead weight in the stomach for years, or even make the intestines stick together. That’s a myth.

Although gum is not designed to do this, if you accidentally swallow it, you have nothing to worry about. The experts at the Mayo Clinics write that the gum base is indeed virtually immune to human gastric juices, which means it is not digested. But it doesn’t stay in the stomach or intestines and comes out naturally after a couple of days.

Chewing gum inside the body is surrounded by bile and other fluids, so neither the intestines nor the stomach can clump together. And thanks to peristalsis, which moves the pieces of food through the digestive tract, gum is eliminated from the body.

But if large amounts of chewing gum are swallowed, constipation and intestinal obstruction can occur.

Myth No. 8: Birds will give up their chicks if human’s touch them

Human scent will scare the birds away and cause them to abandon their chicks. This myth was most likely invented by parents so that their restless children wouldn’t harm the chicks with their careless movements.

How is it really? Dr. Mieko Chu of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology argues that birds don’t have a well-developed sense of smell; they rely on sight and hearing. So human scent won’t prevent birds from continuing to care for their young.

But touching the chicks in most cases is still not worth it. Biologists warns that human intervention can harm them. It is not worth touching the fledglings, which have fledged, even if they are lying on the ground. Such chicks can not fly yet, they just learn, and parents nearby observe and feed them.

Especially do not take chicks home, because by such actions you “kill” them for the wildlife.

When a chick should be helped

  • If about a day or more his parents do not come to him.
  • He is small and has no plumage.
  • If he has been injured.
  • If he is lying in an unsafe place, such as a road, a dog-walking playground, or a playground.

Myth #9: You can only charge your smartphone when it’s fully discharged

This rule used to work when cell phones used nickel-cadmium batteries, which held more charge if fully discharged. Now, smartphones use lithium-ion batteries that don’t require a full discharge.

Experts advise to keep the charge level between 40 and 80 percent. That’s how you can increase battery life. The fact is that the ion battery, on average, can withstand 500-550 charge cycles. For example, when discharging-discharging at 50 percent, the service life will grow to 1500 cycles, with such actions you can extend the life of the battery of your smartphone by 3 times.

But the same experts also recommend completely discharging your laptop or smartphone once a month. Full discharge will help the device display the level of charge more accurately.

Myth #10: If you touch a frog or toad, you get warts

The reason for this myth is that many toads and frogs have small tubercles on their skin which look like warts. But they are not contagious and it is only a feature of their skin.

Warts are small benign formations on the skin, the emergence of which is provoked by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus enters the human body through lesions on the skin.

Amphibians do not carry papillomaviruses, so from touching a frog or toad, warts do not appear.


We debunked 10 myths that have nothing to do with science, but are firmly entrenched in the public consciousness. Do not let such myths mislead you and always check the validity of the information.

Teg:   myth