Myth: Water conducts electricity

While this is a science myth, it doesn’t mean you should bring your toaster in the bath with you. The reason you shouldn’t swim in a lightning storm doesn’t have to do with the water itself. Pure water is actually an insulator, which means it doesn’t conduct electricity. The danger comes from the minerals and chemicals in it called ions, which have an electric charge. While pure water is theoretically safe around electricity, it’s nearly impossible to find in the real world because even distilled water has ions.

Myth: Blood is blue in your body

A widely shared myth is that blood is blue until it is exposed to air or replenishes its oxygen. Because veins are a greenish blue, that theory sounds reasonable enough. But the fact is, human blood looks the same in your body as outside: red. That hue is brighter when it’s oxygen-rich and darker when it needs that oxygen replenished, but it’s red all the same. The tissue covering your veins affects how the light is absorbed and scattered, which is why the blood circulating your body looks blue.

Myth: The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure you can see from the moon

Interestingly, this myth has been around at least since 1932, when a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! cartoon deemed the Great Wall of China is “the mightiest work of man—the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the moon.” Of course, that was almost 30 years before a machine would touch down on the moon, so the claim was entirely unfounded. (Find out how Canadians contributed to the moon landing and the broader exploration of space.) Astronauts have now confirmed that even the Great Wall actually can’t be seen from space, except at low altitudes. Even at those (relatively) low heights, it’s actually easier to see roads and plane runways, whose colours don’t blend into the ground like the Great Wall’s do.

Myth: Chameleons change colour to match their surroundings

Yes, chameleons can change colour by stretching and relaxing cells that contain crystals, which affects how the light is reflected. They can’t change into any colour to match their surroundings, though, and their colour changes don’t have much to do with camouflage. Instead, chameleons use the crystals mainly for communication (dark colours signal aggression, like when a female doesn’t want to mate), but also temperature control (lighter colours reflect the heat). Those changes aren’t directly used for camouflage, though—just the opposite, in fact. The dull brown and green “resting colours” of chameleons blend in with their surroundings until they switch it up.

Myth: It takes seven years to digest chewing gum

Don’t freak out if you can’t find a trashcan and need to swallow your gum. The truth is that your body can’t digest gum, not even in seven years. That doesn’t mean it sticks inside your system, though. It will pass through your digestive system without being broken down, then come out in the bathroom like anything else. If kids swallow too much, the gum could block their intestines, but that’s extremely rare.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice

Anyone familiar with lightning rods could probably already tell you there’s nothing stopping lightning from hitting the same spot twice. The Empire State Building, for example, once endured eight strikes in 24 minutes during a storm. Even without a lightning rod, there’s nothing keeping lightning away from the spot that just got hit. In fact, the features that made the spot likely to get hit once—height, presence of standing water, or terrain shape, for example—would be just as attractive to a second bolt, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Myth: Genes determine race

You might think people who look superficially different would have big differences in their genes, but that’s not the case. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, humans share 99.9 per cent of their genes with each other. Even that 0.1 per cent doesn’t have any racial markers. In fact, a groundbreaking 2002 study revealed there is more genetic diversity between people of African descent than between Africans and Eurasians. You can use your genes to trace your ancestors’ geography, but that doesn’t directly tie in to race. Case in point: Sickle cell anemia isn’t a general “African” disease, as it’s normally described; it’s more common in West Africans, but also in Mediterranean, Arabian, and Indian populations.


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