6 Bullshit Myths You Believe About the Human Body

#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.

#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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