Common Misconceptions About Well Known Objects


Every so often people learn a fact and take it for granted that it’s true. You can live your whole life believing this fact until the day comes when you discover it’s absolutely untrue and never was true. It can be quite surprising when it happens. But the fact is, we all fall prey to misconceptions all the time. It happens, and there’s no shame in it. No one knows the truth of anything until they learn it, after all. With that in mind, here are some of the most common misconceptions out there about things you probably thought you knew. 

10. Microwaves Don’t Cook from the Inside Out

For some reason, microwaves have long endured more myths and misconceptions than any other piece of kitchen equipment. People have long thought they cause cancer and, of course, there’s the way they cook things. Many people have the odd belief that a microwave cooks from the inside out.

If you have ever tried to cook a frozen burrito, you know without a shadow of a doubt that microwaves do not cook from the inside out. Nine times out of ten you’ll experience an ice cube in the center of the burrito surrounded by molten beans and cheese.

Your microwave uses radio waves to excite the particles in your burrito in order to make it hot. The waves reflect off the walls of the microwave itself, but they pass right through the food, exciting the molecules within and causing heat. The plate in the middle makes it rotate with the idea that you’ll get more even heat that way. 

The waves themselves penetrate from the outside and pass through, so while microwaves do heat the inside, they don’t go inside out. They go outside, inside, outside again. And depending on the quality of your microwave and how that plate is moving, sometimes they do a poor job of evenly penetrating your food. 

9. Salt Won’t Make Water Boil Faster

Chefs will tell you that the first thing to do when you boil water for pasta is to salt it. Make it taste like the sea. You should do this when you boil potatoes or other vegetables as well. Somehow this was translated to younger chefs and home cooks as a method by which to make water boil faster.

The prevailing belief was that salt water is chemically different from unsalted water. The salt would make the water boil harder and faster. Except that’s not true. If anything, salt water takes a little longer to boil as it has a slightly higher boiling point than freshwater. The difference is pretty much negligible, however.

The reason you salt water when you’re cooking has nothing to do with temperatures and speed. It’s the same reason you salt a steak or your potato salad – because it tastes better.

8. The Great Wall Isn’t the Only Man Made Structure Visible from Space

There are actually two misconceptions stuck together when it comes to how and where you can see the Great Wall of China when you leave earth and both of them are wrong. One says that the Great Wall is the only man made thing you can see from space and the other says the Great Wall is the only man made thing you can see on the moon. Neither is true, but they’re wrong in different ways.

If you make it into orbit around the earth, officially beyond the atmosphere and in space proper, then you can see all kinds of man-made structures. Whole cities with roads and airports are plainly visible all over the Earth. The Great Wall of China is just one of many, many things you can see. 

If you go the full distance to the moon, then you can’t see anything. The Earth is very hard to make out from that distance and there isn’t a single man made structure that’s visible, Great Wall or otherwise. 

7. Laptops Won’t Make you Infertile

Laptop computers get their clever name from the fact you could put one on your lap to use it. Most people still opt to use a table or desk, but in a pinch it will sit safely on your legs while you do work. Although the “safe” part was an object of concern for some. Given that the battery is right there, and laptops can start generating heat, there was a belief for a time that laptops could cause some serious danger. In particular it was believed a laptop could make you infertile.

Using a laptop has been linked to an increase in the temperature of a man’s testicles. That, in theory, could lead to infertility. The problem with the theory is that it hasn’t actually been linked to evidence to back it up. Even the author of a study that found laptops could raise your temperature admitted they don’t know just how long or how much heat you can handle being exposed to.

The common belief is that it does cause this reaction, but there’s nothing beyond belief to support it. If you’re worried, then just put the laptop on a desk. If you’re a woman, there’s almost no need to worry at all. 

6. Diamonds are Not Made from Coal

Any pop culture fan knows that coal turns into diamonds. Just ask Superman. The Kryptonian hero made diamonds all the time over the years, crushing them into existence with his bare hands. In theory, it makes sense to most of us. Coal is made from carbon, diamonds are made from carbon, and diamonds are formed under extreme pressure so all you need to do is crush coal, right? Well, not really.

Coal is actually formed from the fossilized remains of plants and animals. Diamonds are typically formed far deeper in the Earth and are actually much older than coal. Diamonds are older than plants, even. So the idea those plants died, were fossilized, turned to coal and then turned to diamond is just not scientifically sound.

5. Rice at a Wedding Will Not Harm Birds

There are more traditions associated with weddings than you can shake a stick at. From grooms not seeing brides to wearing something borrowed and something blue, you could write a book on the topic. In fact, many hundreds of people have. But one tradition was essentially ousted in the not too distant past, ostensibly for the good of nature. 

People used to shower the newlyweds with rice as they left the church, just pelting them with handfuls. Then came word that this was a danger. Birds would eat the rice, the rice expanded in their stomachs, and the birds exploded. Alternatives like confetti and other items have been substituted in the years since. But just how many birds exploded from wedding rice?

Turns out it was none. Birds can eat rice and many of them actually do eat rice. They also eat wheat and barley and most other grains that humans eat. None of these are pre-moistened, either. They just don’t absorb so much moisture inside a bird or any other animal that would cause it to die. And, presumably, if the bird felt parched after eating the grains they’d just drink some water.

The misconception can actually be traced back to 1988 when Ann Landers gave it national exposure in her advice column. Even then ornithologists thought it was silly, but they didn’t have syndicated columns to correct the misinformation. 

4. The Coriolis Effect Doesn’t Apply to Toilets

The Simpsons made the idea of toilets flushing backwards a part of everyday life. Of course toilets flush differently in the Southern Hemisphere; it made too much sense. People even brought up the Coriolis Effect to account for why water would drain differently below the equator than above. The only problem was none of it was factual

The Coriolis Effect is a real thing and it mostly relates to weather patterns. It doesn’t have an effect on toilets. The fact is a toilet is too small of an area for the effect to have any influence over, especially combined with the force of the water in the bowl. 

The way a toilet drains as it flushes is based entirely on how the toilet was built. If the water is designed to flow clockwise, it will drain clockwise. If it is designed to flow counterclockwise, it will flow counterclockwise. You could have two toilets in the same house that drain in opposite directions.

3. Charging Your Phone All Night Will Not Damage the Battery

When smartphone first became ubiquitous parts of modern life they came with a serious warning – never overcharge it. But also make sure you charge it all the way. And never let it lose all its charge. There was a lot of battery paranoia out there.

The idea was if you didn’t charge it fully the first time the battery would somehow get stuck wherever you charged it and stay there. So if it was unplugged at 50%, you’d never have more than 50% life. 

If you were to charge it overnight, you risked overcharging the battery which was just as bad. But the fact is these days a modern smartphone battery really lives up to that name. They’re smart. When they reach full charge, the software installed will stop the battery from charging any further so you don’t risk a battery overheating or causing damage. 

2. Iron Maidens Didn’t Exist

Iron Maidens were so popular that an extremely successful and long-lived metal band has been using the name since 1975. No doubt they were as disappointed as anyone else to discover that the torture device from which they took their name wasn’t technically a real thing.

Iron maidens do exist, you can probably Google one and go see them in exhibits if you’re so inclined. The problem is they are not what people said they were. They were originally introduced to people as torture devices from the Middle Ages. Like a large metal coffin in which a person was forced to stand with an inside lined in deadly spikes. The doors would close and the victim would be impacted all over. The spikes were long enough to wound but not kill, so the victim endured suffering before they died. 

Accounts of this torture device did not come form the Middle Ages, however. It was not mentioned at all in writing until the 18th or 19th century

1. The Dark Web is Not Porn and Crime

If you don’t watch Letterkenny, you may not be aware of how insidious the Dark Web really is. You can find anything there from the most illegal narcotics to weapons to the darkest and weirdest kinds of pornography. It’s like a land of lawless madness where no one controls anything and rules don’t exist. Or at least that’s what a lot of people who have never looked into it think. 

The Deep Web is anything that isn’t indexed, which means you can’t find it when you Google it, basically. In order to find content on the Deep Web, you need to know how to access it directly. This covers a stunning amount of content. Think of any website you need to log into in order to view. All of that content that you can see only when you log in is part of the Deep Web. The landing page was probably part of the Surface Web. 

Of course the Dark Web contains some insidious materials, but it’s also just a small subsection of the Deep Web. There are sites where people traffic in depravity and illegal activities Of course, some of that exists on the Surface Web as well. But the vast majority of the Deep Web is things like archives and other pages. And there are a lot of them.

In 2017, the Surface Web had about a billion pages while the Deep Web had closer to 550 billion. The Dark Web is sort of like a room off to the side of the Deep Web. Pages aren’t indexed here, and it’s meant for truly anonymous browsing. You can’t use Internet Explorer or Chrome to view sites on the Dark Web.

The benefits for many users when it comes to the Dark Web are the fact it’s anonymous and essentially untraceable. Obviously that’s what lends itself to criminal activity, but it also offers a lot of security and peace of mind to those who don’t want governments or ISPs knowing their business. So, just as in any other part of life, if you are a criminal you could use it for crimes, but if you’re not you can use it for perfectly legal activities.

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