April 8, 2007
20 Scientific Myths, the Science of Peeps, and The Hoax
Posted by Alan Childress
I've already blogged on my search for false myths and urban legends, as well as hoaxes, of the legal profession and of history (the latter proved to be a fairly weak list). Continuing the theme and my quest, here's the Top 20 Scientific Myths, including the widely assumed theses that: dog mouths are cleaner than human ones, hair and nails grow after death, water drains backwards in the Southern Hemisphere, humans only use 10% of their brains, and (unrelated) chickens live on, headless. The site allows you to vote your faves.
The surprise is that some myths of science turn out to be true. The site reports that the chicken one pans out: "True, and not just for a few minutes. A chicken can stagger around without its noggin because the brain stem, often left partially intact after a beheading, controls most of its reflexes." I wonder if that is also true of marshmallow chicken Peeps but do not find the answer even from the scientific-experiment peeps site www.peepresearch.org, which humanely reports that before testing, "all peep subjects are thoroughly examined and sign a disclosure form explaining the potential risks of their volunteer service." Predictably, tests using alcohol and cigarettes caused a "synergistic effect," and ultimately a condition "which scientists call 'ball of charred goo.' " I'd prefer placebo.
I am relieved to hear that the penny-dropped-from- tall-building-is-lethal legend is false. I always hated the irony that a little sculpture of Lincoln could pierce your head behind the ear and kill you. He of all people.
In the bad history post, I promised to go see The Hoax, a movie about Clifford Irving's 1972 "autobiography" of Howard Hughes. I did and enjoyed it. I liked the theme, obviously, but I also think it worked as a movie, and Richard Gere and especially Alfred Molina were quite good in it. It seems to be in "limited release" (groan; I guess we need even more screens for The 300--which on the posters looks to me like The Zoo), but catch it if you can. Critics like it too.
One history myth that turns out to be settled fact: Napoleon had very nice legs.
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