There are certain facts that we just take as truth. These wives tales, often concerning health, are usually passed down through generations and range from completely ridiculous to entirely plausible. We take a look at several commonly assumed ‘facts’ and the reasons they are incorrect, but also examine a couple that turn out to be right.
Cheese before bed gives you nightmares:
There is no research to suggest that cheese before bed gives you nightmares. In fact, research conducted on different types of cheese showed that the only noticeable effect of cheese before bed was to give pleasant or strange dreams. For example, it was reported that Blue Stilton seemed to give volunteers bizarre dreams. One of the volunteers given Blue Stilton recounted dreaming of soldiers fighting each other with kittens instead of guns.
Dark side of the Moon:
Many people believe that one side of the Moon is in perpetual darkness. This is in fact false; the side of the Moon that is turned away from earth spends the same amount of time in darkness as the side we can see. Another common misconception about the far side of the Moon involves its size. Most people think we can’t see half of the Moon from earth, but actually only about 41% of the Moon is hidden from us. This is due to a rocking back and forth of the Moon which allows an observer on earth to see slightly different halves of the surface at different times.
Deoxygenated Blood Is Blue:
When you look at your veins you will see that they appear blue, but when you see human blood out of the body it is red. Popular belief is that this is because you are observing deoxygenated blood in your veins which is blue, but that blood outside of your body is always oxygenated and so is red. This is a complete myth. The colour of blood comes from the haemoglobin in red blood cells. In reality, haemoglobin is a bright red whens its oxygenated and dark red when it is deoxygenated, but it is never blue. The reason that blood appears blue in your veins is actually just a trick of the light. The way in which the light is absorbed by blood and diffracted by skin results in veins being observed as blue in colour.
Lightning never strikes the same place twice:
Lightning strikes the best conductor on the ground – regardless of whether or not it has been struck before. This can easily be seen in videos all over the internet that show the same place being hit by lightning several times in a row. Buildings such as the Empire State are thought to be hit by lightning over a hundred times a year.
A penny dropped from a tall building can kill someone on the ground:
Throwing a penny off a tall building wouldn’t kill someone. A penny only weighs about a gram, so even at terminal velocity it still wouldn’t be heavy enough to kill someone…that’s not to say it wouldn’t hurt though.
The Earth is closer to the sun in summer:
It obviously cannot be correct that the distance of the Earth from the Sun determines the seasons as if it did, everywhere on the globe would experience the same seasons at the same time. Clearly this is not the case, for example it is currently winter here in England, while in Australia it is summer. Seasons on Earth are instead caused by the Earth’s tilt. In an over simplification summer is caused when the Earth is tilting towards the Sun, winter when it tilts away.
Most of your body heat dissipates through your head:
Your head only makes up about 10% of your skin’s surface area. As heat loss is related to surface area actually only a small portion of body heat is lost through your head. Obviously other factors can influence and alter this. For example, if you covered the rest of your body apart from your head in enough clothing then there is going to be a significant amount of heat lost through your head. This is where the myth originates from, but with all factors controlled your head does not lose a disproportionally large amount of heat compared to the rest of your body.
Gum stays in your intestines for seven years:
The idea that gum gets stuck in your body because it can’t be digested is fed to most of us when we are younger. This is incorrect: even though gum does take longer than food to pass through your body it still only takes a couple of days and simply takes the same route as any waste product.
Warm milk before bed helps you sleep:
It actually turns out that it is true that having milk before bad can help you sleep. Milk contains tryptophan an amino acid known to induce sleep. The process of the body cooling has also been connected to sleep and so hot milk which warms you will then make you feel sleepy afterwards. This, combined with the fact that people associate warm milk with comfort and sleep, means that warm milk can aid sleep.
‘Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning’
This ancient saying which dates back over 2,000 years is likely to prove correct in most cases. It will hold true for a weather system travelling from west to east, which weather systems generally do. If there are departing clouds in the evening, the Sun setting through the clouds would illuminate the sky red. Alternatively, if when the Sun rises there is an approaching storm, the sky will be illuminated red.
It is interesting how some of these wives’ tales are perpetuated even though they have been shown to be incorrect. It highlights the importance of questioning popular belief and considering every ‘fact’ for yourself.