6 Ridiculous Science Myths You Learned in Kindergarten

#3. Bats Are Blind

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The Myth:

The ubiquitous old saying "blind as a bat" is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it at least has its basis in fact. After all, as both creatures of the night and everyone's favorite antihero, bats really don't have much of a need for the eyeballs that Mother Nature bestowed, preferring to instead rely on their sense of echolocation and justice, respectively.

Paul Katz/Photodisc/Getty Images
Kind of like dolphins, except dolphins don't give a shit about justice.

The Reality:

Bats' eyeballs are more functional than decorative. According to Merlin Tuttle of Bat Conservation International, "There are no blind bats. They see extremely well." Yes, you read that right: Barring the occasional tragic affliction, there is no such thing as a blind bat.

MalcolmB2/Photos.com
Even the ones with cataracts just opt for surgery.

In fact, bats' retinas have not only an abundance of rods (a prerequisite for night vision), but also two types of cones: the run-of-the-mill variety that serves them well in daylight conditions, and a second, UV-sensitive type that gives them freaking Predator vision. Even the widespread assumption that bats depend exclusively on their sonar is flawed when you consider the fact that of the two types of bats -- fruit bats (the kind that feed on flowers and, um, fruit) and microbats (the kind that occupy a space in your nightmares completely disproportionate to their size) -- only one of them uses echolocation. When your prey is less the "fluttering through the darkness" variety and more the "hanging stationary from a branch" one, sonar just isn't all it's cracked up to be. No, for bats that feed on fruit or nectar, UV vision is the mutant superpower to have, considering that many flowers reflect ultraviolet light.

Hey, look at that! Science may have finally given us an explanation for Pink Batman.

#2. Why Airplanes Fly

Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

The Myth:

The explanation goes like this: The wings of a plane are designed in such a way that they make air travel faster over the top of the wing than under the bottom. This means the pressure over the wing is less than the pressure underneath, causing lift. It's called the Bernoulli principle, and even the pimp daddy of all nerds, Einstein himself, is said to have given it his thumbs up. Cased closed. Right?

Vasily Pindyurin/Photos.com
The principle explains why something rises when you lean over it and blow.

The Reality:

Sorry to decompress your flight cabin there, Einstein, but the "differing pressures" explanation of flight isn't correct. Instead, what's really happening has a much simpler explanation -- one that you also learned in school. You see, according to a guy named Isaac Newton and his third law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, if you want something to go up -- like, let's say, a plane -- then what you want to do is force air to go down and back so that the "opposite reaction" propels the object up and forward.

And that's where the shape of the wing comes in. It's true that a plane's wing must have a very specific shape -- just not the one that's postulated by the Bernoulli principle. Instead, the wing is angled so that it forces the air on top to go down toward its back end (downwash), creating upward force toward the front (upwash).

David Anderson/Florida International University
The effects of backwash, meanwhile, are exclusively taught in the school cafeteria.

The wing generates lift not by magically manipulating air pressure, but by using basic Newtonian physics. While the Bernoulli principle is a real thing, it has very little to do with the reason mankind can spit in God's eye from his hurtling metal tubes. And nobody is quite sure why your school's science textbooks, television, and, most alarmingly of all, goddamn pilot manuals have the wrong explanation for flight. But they don't need to know why the plane flies to fly it ... r-right?

#1. Milk Is Good for Your Bones

Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images, Stockbyte/Getty Images

The Myth:

Milk is good for your bones, because it has calcium (duh). Every kid learns this in kindergarten and is beaten over the head with it every day until they leave high school. After all, not only do we hear it in science class, but we're also given a dose of healthy milk with every single school lunch to wash down our daily allotment of Grade W hamburger (now with 50 percent less tendon!).

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
Sometimes we'd put ketchup in the milk and give it to Rick. Heh. Good ol' Rick.

The U.S. government apparently takes great pride in its totalitarian control of our cow juice intake, given that, according to The Man, children get so little calcium at home that, had someone not stepped in, every single American kid would grow up to be Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable.

The Reality:

It turns out that milk and its calcium-rich dairy cousins don't get you one bit closer to being the proud owner of a Wolverine-like skeleton.

To ascertain whether Big Calcium's claims were really correct, researchers at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine analyzed the results of all the studies done on the subject and found that the vast majority of them found no evidence that drinking milk does what science teachers or be-hairnetted lunch ladies told you it would: "Neither increased consumption of dairy products, specifically, nor total dietary calcium consumption has shown even a modestly consistent benefit for child or young adult bone health." Moreover, a Cornell researcher found that the countries consuming the most cow's milk actually have the worst bone health in the world overall.

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty
Of course that may be because those countries also have the most skateboarding.

While it's true that calcium gives bones their strength, it appears that drinking milk may not be the best way to get calcium, and that "exercise, heredity, hormone levels, smoking, protein intake, and intake of vitamins D and K matter more than milk."

Now, nobody's saying this is all a conspiracy by the government to force potentially lactose-intolerant children to drink fart-provoking milk in order to harness their precious methane to power the next wave of American war machines -- we just haven't heard anybody deny it, either. Don't you think that's strange?


You can contact Eddie with writing opportunities, or just to say hi, at firebugfilms@hotmail.com. Himanshu, meanwhile, is wondering what the hell's up with everybody over on Twitter.


We have some bad news: the food pyramid is a pile of lies, car gas tanks don't explode when shot, and your favorite book sellers are now selling a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves RIGHT NOW, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.

It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.


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