25 Popular Myths Debunked

Posted by , Updated on December 1, 2023

Many times the things we think of as common knowledge are little more than myths and urban legends. So, while there may be some experienced myth busters among you, we know that others of you will probably have to face some hard facts by the time you reach the bottom. At any rate, this list is by no means exhaustive so if you have any other popular myths or urban legends on your mind go ahead and leave a comment.



Vikings had horns on their helmets

viking horns

There is some truth to this. Archaeological finds have discovered helmets with horns and wings, but these have always been designated for the priests to wear during ceremonies. Vikings warriors did not wear them into battle. In fact, it is debatable whether Viking warriors wore helmets at all. So where did this myth come from? It most likely started with the ancient Roman and Greek writers like Plutarch, who vividly described the northern tribes as wearing all manner of strange things on their heads.


Bananas grow on trees

Banana tree

Although we all call it a “banana tree” the stem doesn’t contain true woody tissue. In reality it is a herbaceous plant, or “herb”. Spread the word.


Irregardless is not a word


Oh but it is. You might not like it, and your English teacher might not like it, but just don’t make any bets that it’s not in the dictionary. Of course, it’s considered non-standard and most people would probably prefer “regardless” or “irrespective”, but that is a matter of preference.


Poinsettias are lethal


Poor Poinsettias, everyone steers clear of them. The myth was started sometime in the 20th century shortly after they were brought over from Mexico. The child of a military officer allegedly died upon consuming a poinsettia leaf. As a result of this rumor the toxic properties of this plant have been highly exaggerated. Of course, you may want to keep it away from your pets because consumption can result in an upset stomach, but trust us, they’ll live.


Humans have 5 senses

5 senses

This is common knowledge right? Well, in the realm of academia a dispute rages and it has yet to be settled. There is no doubt that we have 5 primary senses. This has been known since the time of Aristotle. But go ahead and ask a Harvard Medical School researcher and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. Depending on their stance they may include any of the following: equilibrioception, nociception, proprioception, thermoception, interoception, the list goes on…


Hydrogen Peroxide helps wounds heal

Hydrogen Peroxide

Well this can be a painful myth, quite literally. Heck, even your pediatrician might recommend it if they’re not up to date on their research. The truth, however, is that it doesn’t help your wound at all. That bubbling you see? Its probably the hydrogen peroxide attacking you. Not only that, it causes cellular damage and extends the healing process. But hey, placebos work right?


Tomatoes are legally considered vegetables


No, they are still fruit. The Supreme Court never ruled that tomatoes are vegetables in any botanical sense. In Nix vs. Hedden they simply classified tomatoes as vegetables for the purposes of taxation, so that under the Tarrif Act of 1883 they would be taxable, in the agricultural sense.


Dogs sweat through their tongue

pug panting

Yes, when dogs get worked up they start to pant, but panting is not the same as sweating. In actuality dogs have very few sweat glands, most of which are located in their footpads. They do keep cool by panting and breathing, however, using the moist lining of their lungs as an evaporative surface.


Bats are blind


Au contraire, they do pretty well for themselves. While they can’t see in color, at night they certainly see better than we do. Of course, many species also use echolocation, so long story short, they know where they’re going.


Chameleons blend into their surroundings


Its common knowledge that Chameleons change colors but the reason for it is slightly more elusive. While most believe it is so that they can blend in with their surroundings, the primary reasons are to regulate their temperature or communicate with other chameleons.


Sharks don’t get cancer

Great White Shark

Contrary to what you may have heard at your local dietary supplement retail outlet, sharks do get cancer. There is nothing special about their cells and researchers have been studying cancerous tumors on sharks for years. So, next time you’re about to buy those cartilage pills, call the bluff.


Seasons are caused by the distance of Earth from the Sun


Seasons are actually caused by the 23.45 degree tilt of the earth’s axis. This means that different parts of the earth are oriented towards the sun at different times of the year. Its all about direct sunlight.


If you cut an earthworm in half it will regenerate into two earthworms


While earthworms do regenerate they will not divide into two entirely new earthworms. Every 5th grader knows that the front of the worm lives and the back dies. The regeneration happens when the front of the worm replaces the lost half of its body.


Goldfish have a 3 second memory

Gold Fish

The idea that with every lap around the fish bowl your goldfish is experiencing the world as if it were completely new is completely wrong. Goldfish actually have a fairly decent memory. In fact, they can be taught to respond to different light, music, or other sensory cues.


You should drink 8 glasses of water every day


While this is probably good advice for some people, especially if you live in a really dry area, it should not be followed as a rule. Moreover, nobody is really even sure where this advice originated. Just remember, if you’re thirsty, drink.


Chewing gum will stay in your stomach for 7 years


No it won’t. It’s true that it doesn’t digest but that doesn’t mean it lingers in your stomach forever. It will come out with everything else, probably looking a lot like it did when it first went down.


Sushi is raw fish


Although this may be true it is not necessarily true. Raw fish is probably the most popular variety but there are several other types. To be even more accurate sushi is actually the “rice-vinegar” whereas sashimi is the raw fish. Usually sashimi is used as a topping but so is nori (dried seaweed) and various other vegetables.


Cracking your knuckles leads to arthritis

Cracking Knuckles

According to the latest research this is false. So for all of you crackheads out there, you are lucky, your knuckles will remain crackable.


Thomas Crapper invented the toilet


It would be funny no doubt, but to say he invented the toilet is a stretch. It is true, however, that he was heavily involved in the popularization of the flush toilet and made several important improvements to its functionality. So, it still is pretty funny.


A duck’s quack doesn’t echo

duck quacking

Go to a grocery store, buy some bread, find a lake, bait some ducks, catch one, release it under a bridge. If you do this correctly you will see why this myth is false.


Dropping a penny from the Empire State Building would kill someone

Empire State Building

Pennies only weigh about a gram and they tumble as they fall so the air resistance is significant. If it reaches its terminal velocity it would be falling at about 100 miles/hour. So when it finally hit you on the head with about 1 foot-pound of energy it would hurt a little but you would quickly forget about it.


The Great Wall of China is the only man made structure visible from space

The Great Wall of China

First of all we have to define where “space” starts. Is it 50 miles, 100 miles, the moon? For our purposes we will use the International Space Station, and guess what? Thats right, you can’t see the Great Wall of China from there. By the way, the ISS is about 173 miles above sea level which is considered low Earth orbit. That’s barely even space. There are man made structures visible from that height, however, one being the Pyramids.


Fingernails and hair keep growing after death


Once you die, everything in your body will start to decay, even your hair and fingernails. Although the origin of this myth is disputable it probably stems from the fact that when the skin starts to recede from a dead body it makes the hair and nails appear longer.


The 5 Second Rule

Five Second Rule

The belief that it takes 5 seconds for bacteria on the floor to hop on a piece of dropped food is misplaced. The truth is, it only takes a second if that.


A toilet’s flush will change direction depending upon which hemisphere it is in

Toilet Flush

This is one of the most ridiculous yet staunchly defended myths to date. Proponents will attribute this to the Coriolis Effect which is derived from the rotation of the Earth. While this effect does influence air masses or other large environmental structures it has absolutely no effect on the direction your toilet drains.