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The average person knows shockingly little about the human body, considering that they've spent their entire life living inside one. It's not their fault, though; bullshit "facts" about health, diet, sex, and everything else continue to swirl around pop culture, and even make it into the classroom. So let's set the record straight on a few big ones ...

6
Myth: Sitting Too Close to the TV Will Damage your Eyes

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You probably remember one of the most exciting things about childhood: coming home from school, grabbing a snack, then sitting cross-legged on the floor a few inches from the TV as the cartoons came on. That is, until your parents would tell you to pick your ass up and move back, because sitting that close to the TV would ruin your vision.

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That's not even factoring in if you had Cinemax.

The Reality:

If there's any correlation between sitting so close to the TV as a child that it looked like you were about to make out with it and needing glasses as an adult, then it's probably the other way around -- that is to say, you were sitting that close because you had shitty eyesight to begin with, and that was the only way you could see the TV.

In fact, of all the studies that have been done to test whether there was a minimum distance below which the TV would start to fry your eyes into smoking craters, no evidence has ever come out to suggest that there even is one. The rumors probably surfaced back when old-timey televisions spewed radiation, and people were worried about damaged eyes and/or Hulk powers during Amos 'n' Andy.

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"Get back from the TV before you get eye cancer! And drink your Radithor!"

Staring at television or computer screens for long periods can make your eyes hurt and feel dry and strained, but this isn't because the screen is harming your eyes; it's because focusing hard on something means you blink less often, and your eyes get tired. Just take a break now and then, and you can press your nose right up against that porno without worrying about cataracts.

5
Myth: Healthy Teeth Should be Gleaming White

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Every toothpaste you pick up promises at least two things: fresh breath and white teeth. Because when someone smiles and puts a mouth full of piss-yellow teeth on display, all you're thinking is "put down the coffee and pick up a toothbrush, you medieval pit beast." Yellow teeth are a sign of terrible hygiene, and repel sex more effectively than a beard confined entirely to the lower neck.

Wikipedia
It's the Ed Hardy t-shirt of facial hair.

The Reality:

You might think white teeth are attractive, but as far as being natural, they're the dental equivalent of fake breasts. That's right, the natural color of human teeth is yellow. Sure, staining them with coffee or cigarettes makes them darker, as does not brushing often enough, or doing meth. But the pinnacle of oral health doesn't make your mouth look like George Clooney's, either.

In fact, your desperate, futile attempts to scrub your teeth white can actually damage them. Stiff toothbrushes are abrasive and weaken teeth by stripping off the outer layers. On top of that, "whitening" toothpaste brands are mostly bullshit. If you cough up the dough to get your teeth professionally whitened, they'll bleach the enamel, which also damages them.

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"Come on, her baby teeth going to fall out soon anyway. I've got boat payments."

So despite TV commercials insisting that healthy teeth should be as white and polished as a stormtrooper's crotch plate, the whole "gleaming white teeth" thing is one of those cultural beauty standards, like insisting dudes need to wax their chest hair.

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4
Myth: Tongue Rolling Is a Genetic Trait

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This is another one you probably first heard in elementary school. When science teachers are exasperatedly trying to explain the concept of genetics to idiot children, they usually bring out examples of hereditary traits. They pick simple, easy-to-spot things like hair and eye color, and of course, tongue rolling. If you can roll your tongue into a gross tube shape, it means one of your parents also has the most pointless superpower ever. If neither of them have this ability, but the mailman does, it means your mother is a filthy whore.

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Home-wrecking son of a bitch.

The Reality:

Your science teacher was wrong. Not about genetics as a concept -- that's pretty solid -- but about tongue rolling being an example of it. As early as the 1950s, studies had already been done that showed rolling your tongue isn't a trait passed down from your parents. It's something you learn.

The studies showed that the percentage of kids who can tongue roll goes from 54 percent in the 6-7 age range to 76 percent for the age of 12. This means that a bunch of kids just dick around in their spare time (they have a lot of it), practicing tongue tricks until they learn how to do it. It's not genetics any more than twirling a pencil is -- it's just bored kids learning a dumb trick.


The original assertion that it was a genetic thing came from a paper published in 1940, which excitedly claimed to have discovered "A New Inherited Character in Man" in the form of children who could pull a stupid face in a certain way. So at least your teacher didn't get it off Wikipedia or something, but it still pays to check the publication date of your sources.

3
Myth: Hair and Fingernails Keep Growing for a While After Death

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This bizarre myth is so widespread that undertakers are frequently bombarded with questions about it, and so is Google. It's also one that's hard to verify personally, because we have this weird habit of stashing bodies underground where we can't check on them periodically without freaking everybody out. But if you dug up a corpse after it'd been in the ground long enough for serious decomposition to kick in, you'd expect it to look like the Crypt Keeper:

That is, with long, scraggly hair, and yellow fingernails having grown out a half inch or so. That's because, due to some weird trick of biology, your hair and fingernails supposedly keep growing for a bit after the rest of you has died. It's as if they're in denial or something, like that guy who keeps showing up to the office for a month after he's been fired.

The Reality:

The short answer to the question is no, they don't. Just like anything else in your body, hair and nail growth require a constant supply of nutrients, oxygen, and blood to keep going, three things that aren't available in a corpse.

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You can still get erections, though.

The idea has been popular "knowledge" as far back as World War I, where a line in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front remarks, "It strikes me that these nails will continue to grow like lean fantastic cellar-plants long after Kemmerich breathes no more." Rest assured however, Kemmerich's toenails remained neatly pedicured forevermore, if a little gangrenous.

The best guess about where this myth came from is that, after death, the body starts to dry up and shrivel, and the skin pulls away from the nails and hair in such a way that it looks like they're getting longer, when in reality, the carcass is just shrinking. People who noticed this might have thought that the hair and nails were growing -- that is, after they stopped screaming about vampires.

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2
Myth: "Flat Feet" Are a Body Defect, and Are Prone to Injury

Wikipedia

If you have so-called "flat feet" (that is, no dramatic "arch" in your foot), then you must at some point have considered that you aren't cut out for military service. But it's not your fault; during World War II, thousands of potential soldiers were turned down simply because they had the condition, and everyone knows that flat feet are prone to injury. When you're walking through hostile terrain, you need the spring in your step that comes from natural, healthy arches, not slapping the ground with big flat ping-pong paddles. Begone, you malformed freak! Even Death has rejected you!

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You may have some hope for a life among the merfolk.

The Reality:

What the generals didn't know is that they were turning down the superior flat-footed Ubermensch in favor of the pathetic arch-footed mud people.

In Fort Benning in 1989, a sample of over 300 soldiers was studied, and it was discovered that those with flat feet were actually less prone to injury than those with normal arches, or even a high instep. Those with arched feet suffered double the injuries, like strains and stress fractures, of those packing a couple of seal flippers down there. This means that all this time, people were turned down from enlistment when getting them onboard would have saved governments thousands in medical treatment.

In the meantime, shoe companies spend millions trying to contour sneakers in such a way as to give "normals" the same support as the flat-footed master race, in a desperate attempt to delay inevitable extinction through natural selection.

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While Dr. Scholl's tries to secretly cripple the flatties before they gain too much power.

1
Myth: Avoid Sex Before the Big Game -- It Harms Athletic Performance

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It's a widespread axiom in the sports world that getting laid diminishes your athletic performance, to the point where many coaches ban their players from having sex from one night to even one month before a match. In Raging Bull, Robert De Niro pours a jug of ice water on his dick to calm down his urges. Even Rocky was forced to abstain, creating conflict between his coach's orders and the girl he was really into. And you've seen The Karate Kid -- didn't you notice the scene where Mr. Miyagi wouldn't let him "eat the fish?"

Columbia Pictures
"And no waxing off in the shower, either."

And for some reason, the supposed rule only applies to men. In women's sports, it's popularly thought that sex raises testosterone, and so it's encouraged to bang away as much as you want. So it makes women stronger but men weaker? How does that make sense?

The Reality:

It doesn't! This myth was proved false as early as 1995, when Yale conducted research on eleven men, testing their output when abstaining and when having sex, and no change in performance was detected. In fact, another study performed on marathon runners in London suggested that having sex improved their game.

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Which sounds like an awesome study to sign up for until you get stuck in the control group.

Nevertheless, the rule is ancient; there's evidence that even the ancient Greeks participating in the first Olympic Games believed getting jiggy would sap their energy levels and lower aggression, post-coital bliss turning them all into big old pansy-ass girly men who couldn't sport properly. So it must have come from somewhere, right?

Well, there is one way that sex can affect your sporting performance, and that is if you stay up all night doing it. So if you take this article as permission to do the entire cheerleading squad the night before a big game and you suffer because of it, it's not because those sex vampires sucked out your prowess, it's just because it took you until sunrise to work your way from Candace through to Tiffany, and forgot to sleep.

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Not to mention Todd through Alan.

Xavier Emaka is a freelance writer based in Nairobi. He sometimes tweets here and blogs here.

For more ridiculous things you believe about your body, check out Your Mom Lied: 5 Common Body Myths Debunked and 6 Lies About the Human Body You Learned in Kindergarten.

Got a friend abstaining before the big game next week? Want to justify your sitting-three-inches-from-the-TV habit to your family? Click the Facebook 'share' button below.

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