My Top 20 Myths and Urban Legends

I’ve gathered my top 20 myths and urban legends from several online sources. 10 are true, the other 10 are false. Can you tell which is which?

Guess first and only then check the answers (on the comments section).

True or False?

#1 - The woman Jack Nicholson always thought to be his sister turned out to be his mother.

#2 - Eating carrots will improve your night vision.

#3 - Water drains backwards in the Southern Hemisphere due to the Earth's rotation.

#4 - Spider silk is as strong as the Kevlar used in bulletproof vests.

#5 - The word "kangaroo" comes from an aboriginal Australian phrase meaning "I do not understand."

#6 - Charlie Chaplin once lost a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.

#7 - If you are stung by a jellyfish while swimming in the ocean, you should have someone urinate on the sting.

#8 - A cockroach can survive for several days without its head.

#9 - A large percentage of U.S. paper currency is contaminated with traces of cocaine.

#10 - A computer keyboard harbors more germs than a toilet seat.

#11 - Having a good "base tan" will help prevent sunburn if you'll be spending a lot of time in the sun.

#12 - Eating a poppy-seed bagel or muffin can cause you to fail a drug test.

#13 - Cellular phones have caused explosions at gas stations.

#14 - The Great Wall of China is the only manmade structure visible from the moon.

#15 - A coat purchased at a used-clothing store for Professor Marvel's costume in The Wizard of Oz turned out to have originally belonged to L. Frank Baum, the author of the story.

#16 - The outcome of Washington Redskins football games can predict who will win the U.S. presidential election.

#17 - Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

#18 - Arriving late to class, a student mistook examples of famous unsolvable math problems on the blackboard for a homework assignment and solved them.

#19 - Drinking alcohol will warm you up when you're cold.

#20 - You will get sick if you go outside in the cold with wet hair.

Ready for some answers? Place your bets and proceed to the comments section. Note that it’s much easier to read long comments on the unique page created for each post. You can reach this page by clicking the post title (in this case “My Top 20 Myths and Urban Legends”).

~~~
p.s. Honey, I will drive the kids to school, you can take the crash test dummies.

6 comments:

Uri Kalish said...

If you think one of these urban legends should not have made it to the top 20, let me know (you should probably provide another myth to replace it).

Uri.

Uri Kalish said...

Answers:

#1 - The woman Jack Nicholson always thought to be his sister turned out to be his mother.
True.
This is loco! At age 37 Jack Nicholson discovered that the woman he'd always thought his sister was actually his mother. Jack, born on 22 April 1937, had been the illegitimate child of 17-year-old June Nicholson. Nicholson had spent his life up to age 37 assuming that his biological mother, June, was his sister, and that his maternal grandmother, Ethel May, was his mother. Even on their deathbeds, neither June nor Ethel May had offered up the truth.

#2 - Eating carrots will improve your night vision.
False.
This is brilliant! Invented by the British intelligence in WWII to explain how German planes were spotted by British pilots at night even before they reached the English Channel. They published the pilots were eating carrots to improve their night vision. This myth was invented in order to cover up their new technology - the airborne interception radar.

#3 - Water drains backwards in the Southern Hemisphere due to the Earth's rotation.
False.
I’ve heard that when I was a little kid. A popular misconception is that the Coriolis effect determines the direction in which bathtubs or toilets drain, and that water always drains in one direction in the Northern Hemisphere, and in the other direction in the Southern Hemisphere. Actually, it depends on the water’s initial flow direction and the sink's structure.

#4 - Spider silk is as strong as the Kevlar used in bulletproof vests.
True.
Wow! A strand of spider silk the width of a pencil could stop a Boeing 747 airplane in flight. Don’t mess with Spider-man.

#5 - The word "kangaroo" comes from an aboriginal Australian phrase meaning "I do not understand."
False.
I was so sorry to find out this one is a myth. Legend has it that when English explorer James Cook asked the native people of Australia what they called those strange hopping creatures; the response was "kangaroo," meaning, "I don't understand what you are saying." Of course, Captain Cook didn't understand them, either, and the animal was henceforth known as a kangaroo in the English-speaking world. Later contact with aboriginal people revealed that they did not call it by that name. That's a great story, but it's not true. While the various aboriginal groups in Australia have different names for the marsupial we call a kangaroo, in the Guugu Yimidhirr language spoken by the aboriginals where Captain Cook first recorded seeing this unusual animal, it is in fact called a gangurru.

#6 - Charlie Chaplin once lost a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.
True.
How crazy is that? Chaplin entered one such contest in San Francisco around 1915, and while his standings were not recorded, it was noted that he didn't even make the finals.

#7 - If you are stung by a jellyfish while swimming in the ocean, you should have someone urinate on the sting.
False.
You can use vinegar, baking soda, ice packs, salt water, hot water, but not urine. Damn, I was so looking forward to peeing on my friends…

#8 - A cockroach can survive for several days without its head.
True.
Roaches absorb oxygen through spiracles on their body, and can survive for a month without food. A headless cockroach will live for about a week until it dies of thirst. I know a few people that will probably survive this too...

#9 - A large percentage of U.S. paper currency is contaminated with traces of cocaine.
True.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that 79 percent of the currency tested bore minute traces of cocaine. And you though you have to go to a dealer…

#10 - A computer keyboard harbors more germs than a toilet seat.
True.
A computer keyboard can harbor more than 3,000 microbes per square inch, while the average toilet seat contains less than 50 microbes per square inch. Is that why we write crappy software?

#11 - Having a good "base tan" will help prevent sunburn if you'll be spending a lot of time in the sun.
False.
Beware of skin cancer! A dark tan on fair skin is only equivalent to a sunscreen with SPF-2 or SPF-4, which won't provide much additional protection from the sun.

#12 - Eating a poppy-seed bagel or muffin can cause you to fail a drug test.
True.
While the amount you'd typically consume would be too small for you to feel the effects, it can produce a positive result in a urine drug test. “Don’t bagel and drive!”.

#13 - Cellular phones have caused explosions at gas stations.
False.
I tried to explain that once to a gas station worker to no avail. While some fuel station fires were initially attributed to cell phone use in the press, further investigation has always turned up another cause.

#14 - The Great Wall of China is the only manmade structure visible from the moon.
False.
You can see it from a low earth orbit as well as other manmade structures like the Giza pyramids and airports runways, but you can’t see them from the moon. I think some people have ego that can be seen from space.

#15 - A coat purchased at a used-clothing store for Professor Marvel's costume in The Wizard of Oz turned out to have originally belonged to L. Frank Baum, the author of the story.
True.
Wow! Frank Morgan, the actor who portrayed Professor Marvel (as well as several other roles, including the Great and Powerful Oz himself), discovered Baum's name sewn into one of the coat pockets. The tailor and Baum's widow were contacted, and both identified the coat as having once belonged to the late author.

#16 - The outcome of Washington Redskins football games can predict who will win the U.S. presidential election.
True.
All that money wasted on campaigns... This was true for the years 1936-2000. The outcome of the final home game of the Washington Redskins has been as an indicator of which political party would win the presidential election. If the Redskins won their last home game before Election Day, then the current party in power would win the election. If the Redskins lost, the opposing party would take over the White House. Unfortunately, the Redskins' streak ended in 2004. Although they were defeated by the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 31, George W. Bush was reelected and the Republican Party retained control of the White House.

#17 - Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
False.
Lightning favors certain spots, particularly high locations. In the year 2000, me and my wife were in Italy for our honeymoon. While we were walking in one of the streets of Pompeii it started raining. Suddenly, a lightning hit and exploded an electric wire about 5 meters away from us. An American lady told us “Lightning never strikes the same place twice” and continued walking to the exact location the lightning just hit. Me and my wife ran away. A funny fact is that it was Yom Kippur on that day, the holiest of the Jewish holidays. Not only that me and my wife did not fast on that day (like we should), the day before we ate bacon (which is forbidden) and visited the Vatican. If I wasn’t an atheist, I might be tempted to think someone is trying to send me a message.

#18 - Arriving late to class, a student mistook examples of famous unsolvable math problems on the blackboard for a homework assignment and solved them.
True.
One day in 1939, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley by the name of George Dantzig arrived late to his statistics class. Seeing two problems written on the board, he assumed they were a homework assignment and copied them down, solved them and handed them in a few days later. In actuality, they were examples of (formerly) unproven statistical theorems, which he had managed to prove. My math teacher once gave us Fermat’s last theorem as homework.

#19 - Drinking alcohol will warm you up when you're cold.
False.
Relatively known but often ignored. Drinking alcohol sends blood to your skin, which will make you feel warm and flushed, but causes you to lose core body heat.

#20 - You will get sick if you go outside in the cold with wet hair.
False.
You may feel cold, but you can't catch a cold. The common cold is caused by a virus, the name is misleading. Mom, please stop harassing me.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Thanks for the experience.

That was fun.

zenpen said...

I was actually told the myth #3 by teachers in school. They never could answer when i asked "which way water drains at the equator".

fun post.

Drowsey Monkey said...

I got 10 out of 10. Hmmm... damn that Seinfeld episode about the poppy seed .. I thought that was an urban myth.

Altered Route said...

Now that was fun! I'm sure enjoying your blog!
Connie