Misconceptions

The Bermuda Triangle Is Not So Mysterious

Bermuda Triangle is a well-traversed shipping route in the North Atlantic ocean. It covers 270,000 square miles between Florida, the island of Bermuda and Puerto Rico and is referred to as the ‘Devils Triangle”. Since the term…

That Isn’t Chlorine You’re Smelling In The Pool

Nothing says summer like the smell of chlorine from a pool . . . but it’s not chlorine you’re smelling. It’s chloramine, a chemical produced by the reaction between chlorine and urine. And it’s what makes your eyes red. When people think it’s okay to stay in the pool for bathroom breaks, pools become a massive, festering slush of disease, with everything from asthma and lung infections to Legionnaires’ disease associated with swimming in dirty pools.

Does Today’s Population Really Outnumber History’s Dead?

It’s repeated every so often, usually as a comment on how out of control the world’s population is getting and what a drain we are on the world’s resources. It’s said that the present-day living outnumber all the dead of human history. But the Population Reference Bureau put some serious work into debunking that. In 2011, there were around 6.987 billion people on Earth, and it estimated that there have been a staggering 107,602,707,791 that have ever lived. There are a lot of variables, from changes in the birth rate to natural disasters, but it’s safe to say that we’re not even close to making the factoid come true.

The Myth Of NASA’s Spendy Space Pens

An urban legend says that NASA spent millions developing a pen for its astronauts, while the Soviet Union just gave their men pencils. While that’s not a good idea anyway (mainly because of dust and the possibility of breakage), it’s not true. NASA did spend an outrageous amount on mechanical pens for Gemini, but by the time Apollo came around, they were using a space pen that had been invented independently by the Fisher Pen Company with no NASA funding. That was eventually the pen the space program decided on, and the Soviet Union used it, too.

The Unlikely Myth Of Margaret Thatcher And Soft-Serve Ice Cream

With the death of Margaret Thatcher came a bizarre claim that she was responsible for the development of one of our favorite summer treats: soft-serve ice cream. The problem comes when you consider that soft-serve had been popular in the US for around a decade before Thatcher started her work at J. Lyons & Co. Even when she was there, she was mostly working on soap and pie fillings. The myth was likely started by the British left as a metaphor for her political policies.

The Passport Is Surprisingly Ancient

The first mention of anything like modern-day passports comes from a Bible verse—Nehemiah 2:7-9. The Mongols issued one of the earliest passports in the form of an iron medallion presented to foreigners who were in Mongol territory and under the protection of the Khan. It wasn’t until nearly World War I that the more familiar format (which included details like height and eye color) was implemented. British government officials fought that idea for decades, claiming it was “degrading.”

Gold-Capped Teeth Have Been Around A Long, Long Time

As disgusting and un-hygienic as much of history has been, there’s one thing that many cultures have had in common—the practice of dental implants and tooth decorating. While the Maya blinged out their teeth by drilling holes and inserting minerals and stones, evidence suggests that the Celts followed the Etruscan example of sporting gold teeth. The Vikings, on the other hand, went a little simpler and just etched a series of lines into their teeth.

Many Death Row Inmates Remain Surprisingly Positive

When studies looked at the last words of death row inmates, they found that many of them were going into their final moments with words of positivity, hope, forgiveness, and love. They suggest that this is a sort of psychological defense mechanism that allows us to cope with the overwhelming knowledge of what’s about to happen. Another study of the final hours of a person’s life has found that those who have made peace with their guilt and the inevitability of death are more likely to request a last meal and more likely to request something high-calorie.

Did The Nazis Give ‘Companionship’ Dolls To Their Troops?

According to the story, Heinrich Himmler ordered a whole legion of “companionship” dolls called gynoids to be made based on Aryan appearances. The dolls would accompany Nazi troops across Europe and beyond, allowing them to satisfy their desires without coming into contact with dirty, foreign women of ill repute. But there isn’t much evidence for the story. It’s based on a few questionable photographs of the dolls before they were all supposedly destroyed in the bombings of Dresden. So did the Borghild Project actually happen?

Vegetarianism Originally Had Little To Do With Animal Rights

Today, many of the most vocal vegetarians aren’t afraid to say they’re doing it for the animals even though the origins of the vegetarian lifestyle had less to do with saving animals and more to do with maintaining a clean, bland lifestyle that would curb sexual desire and prevent the downfall of society. The movement was started by the Reverend Sylvester Graham (of graham cracker fame). He pushed the idea of a meat-free, flavor-free diet in order to help curb sexual appetites and free people from the need for masturbation. It wasn’t until some of his followers—the Kellogg family—decided to try their hand at making fake meat that the Seventh-day Adventist Church got hold of the idea and came up with the now-familiar hot dogs and burger patties.