6 Lies About the Body You Learned in Kindergarten: Classic
When we reach the age of 2, we start to have a few questions about our bodies. At first they're simple. "Will that toy fit into the wet hole in the middle of my face?" But as we mature, the questions become more complex and too numerous for any reasonable human being to answer. It's no coincidence that around this time, our parents ship us off to school, where someone is paid to give us answers.
Unfortunately, many of the answers you get there are lies that seem specifically designed to make the world around you seem boring. Because how else are they going to get you to stop asking so many damn questions? For instance, you probably still believe ...
Note: The human body is like a used car -- from the moment we first get inside one, we're constantly told lies that make it sound like a magical machine, when really it's just a wad of flesh and bone held that's just barely keeping itself together (especially if you drive a Kia). Because when we're not cramming things inside it or using it to do just terrible, terrible things, we're spreading lies and rumors about its basic functionality. So enjoy this Cracked Classic, and remember, don't buy a Kia. -Cracked.
You Only Have Five Senses
Sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing. Them there's your five senses. Since kindergarten, you've probably been told that anyone who thinks she has a sixth sense is either a television psychic or M. Night Shyamalan. This original classification is widely attributed to Aristotle, so if you try to argue that there are more than five, you're basically arguing with the guy who invented being smart.
And wannabe intellectuals have rocked the comb forward/beard combo ever since.
Scientists still aren't quite sure of exactly how many senses you have, or what even constitutes a sense, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one who believes you have five. Depending on how they count them, they usually wind up with something like 14 to 20. The five you learned about in school were just the five most evident senses, aka the boring ones you could have figured out for your own damn self. The rest are far more interesting.
Pictured: #19, smision.
The Harvard School of Medicine lists six extra ones that are pretty hard to argue against. Close your eyes, then touch your nose with your index finger. How did you know which one was your index finger without looking at it? How did you know where your nose was? Did you smell your finger to your nose? Did your sense of touch somehow tell you what the air molecules you encounter along the way to your nose feel like? Nah, that's proprioception, your body's awareness of where it is in relation to itself.
Oh, yeah. We just dropped the H-bomb on you.
Maybe the most interesting one they left out is your sense of timing, which might seem like it's only a sense in the way that fashion is a sense. But leading neurologists like David Eagleman think it's the most important of all the senses, since it's the thread that ties the rest of them together. An apple is just a series of different sensations without your sense of time telling you they're all happening at the same moment. Still not convinced? Try staring at a white wall in a totally silent room. Your sense of time tells you how much of your life has been wasted because you didn't take us at our word.
Good on you, fella.
It's also worth noting that this sense your kindergarten teacher failed to mention can operate like a freaking superpower. For instance, if you're walking in the woods and a bear growls in the bushes behind you and to your left, the bear's growl hits your left ear a millionth of a second before it hits your right. Your sense of time is able to pick up on that infinitesimal difference and allows you to perfectly triangulate the bear's location behind you.
If you were only relying on your sense of hearing, you would only know that the bear is somewhere on the left side of your body. Your ears don't swivel around like a dog's, so you would have to turn and use your eyes to pinpoint the bear. A blur of brown and black fur would be the last sight you ever saw.
Two members of our PR team died getting this photograph. Honor their sacrifice by chuckling dutifully.
The Tongue Map
One of the first things many of us learned in science class was that the tongue is organized like a factory floor plan, with each region assigned responsibility for its own highly specialized tasks:
The empty middle is where you taste irony and things that are so close you can taste them.
If you spent your childhood shotgunning Pixy Stix like the rest of us, you may have noticed that you could taste sugar even when it was bypassing the tip of your tongue at 70 mph. You were left to conclude that your teachers were liars or that there was something hideously wrong with you, depending on whether you were raised Catholic.
Your teachers were probably just being fed the same line of bullshit that's been passed from biology class to biology class for decades, and it's totally false. As with the myth that spinach is rich in iron, this one started with a mistranslation of a century-old German study (maybe stop relying on those, science). In 1901, German scientist D.P. Hanig conducted a taste test and found that some volunteers experienced certain flavors more intensely in certain regions of the tongue. Forty years later, a Harvard academic appropriately named Dr. Boring mistranslated the results of the German survey, mistaking a vague tendency among a bunch of Germans (who were probably taste-testing four different varieties of sauerkraut) for the precision workflow chart you see in the tongue map.
Our research for this article has informed us of the existence of sauerkraut pie. Will you stop at nothing, Germany?
Researchers have known for years that all areas in the tongue are about equally good at detecting different flavors. It's not an evenly distributed democracy of taste buds, but every tongue has different patterns of strength and weakness. Your tongue map is like your mouth's fingerprint, if the pattern on your fingerprint determines whether or not you like Brussels sprouts. Each of our "tongue maps" will detect different tastes, sometimes from the same meal. Also, far from being relegated to specific locations on the tongue, your taste buds go all the way down your throat into your digestive system. When you've eaten some bad food, the ones in your stomach warn your gag reflex that if it doesn't evacuate the building, the shit's about to hit the fan (and everything else within three square blocks).
"Well played, Taco Bell."
The taste map has hung around 30 years after it was officially debunked even though it's less interesting than the reality because teachers need cool-looking color-coded maps to fill out science books, and fat-cat wineglass makers like to pretend you need a golf bag's worth of specialized wineglasses to direct different types of wine to the best possible place on the tongue.
We prefer to chug it out of a bag.
Deoxygenated Blood Is Blue
This is one of the first, and for those of us who don't go into medicine, only pieces of anatomy we learn. The blue veins you see on white people's arms look that way because they are carrying deoxygenated blood away from the heart. This is your body's helpful way of color-coding which direction everything is moving for biology textbooks. Blood is red when it has oxygen but blue when it lacks it. And you never bleed blue because blood turns back to red thanks to the oxygen in the air. You've seen even more evidence of it, either in movies or firsthand if you're a homicidal maniac: People who hold their breath or get choked turn a purplish blue before passing out. Because they're not getting any O2! Case. Closed.
"Does anybody know mouth-to-mouth?! These boys need serious help over here!"
When it comes to the color of your blood vessels, your eyes can, and frequently do, deceive the shit out of you. Usually, veins are close to the surface of the skin, and they're the ones that carry oxygenless blood. That means it's true that those blue vessels you're seeing carry blood without oxygen, but the blood itself is not blue. Even the vein itself isn't blue. It primarily looks blue because of the way light reflects off it. The vessels carrying blood toward the heart and the blood they carry are both actually darker (also known as even more) red.
Blood with oxygen on left, without oxygen on right.
They appear blue on white people because of the way light passes through their skin. In typical white-person fashion, whoever came up with this myth looked down at his arm and assumed that the little blue lines running up and down his arms must actually be blue, failing to notice that different colors of skin reflect different light waves, making the veins look anywhere from green to pink when viewed through other colors of skin.
Stuff White People Like: Making ridiculous generalizations about blood.
The blue appearance doesn't stop blood from being red, just like the color of the sky doesn't make outer space Carolina blue.
Your Personality Is Determined by Your Left or Right Brained-ness
If you have functioning ears, you've definitely been told at some point in your life that lefties can access some cerebral cheat code that makes them artistically talented or emotional, and that righties are better at logical or intellectual thought. And it's all because the right side of your brain (which controls the left side of your body) is totally in charge of your creativity, while the left side controls your logic.
Leading to the immortal question: "If I switch hands, will I do better on the math test?"
It turns out that the whole thing about creative genius stemming from the right side of your brain is a big fat myth. Yet this myth is so pervasive that teachers are often told to balance the amount of right-brain and left-brain activities, lest their fragile little brains develop into the cognitive equivalent of those arm wrestlers with one giant arm.
This is your brain on an unbalanced education, according to 18th-century educators who are still somehow teaching.
The brain does indeed have some specialized structures that handle certain functions, but the idea that they cluster to opposite sides of the brain, like neurolinguistic cliques of nerds and jocks in a high school lunchroom is ridiculous. For example, while things like grammar and word production are both located on the left side of the brain, intonation and emphasis happen on the right. So you're not going to be much good with language if you're not pretty handy with both hemispheres.
Most brain functions work this way. Along with language, emotions (supposedly controlled by the right brain), and arithmetic (supposedly dominated by the cold, calculating left hemisphere) both get the bi-lateral treatment. Scientists will tell you that in order to be truly creative or logical, you need resources from both sides of your brain.
"Sir, since you aren't using the left side, I don't see your objection to having it cut out."
Complicating our vision of the brain as an East Coast/West Coast battle is the fact that sometimes one part of your brain will take over the functions of areas that have been damaged. Which is why people who have had to remove an entire brain hemisphere don't suddenly lose all their "creativity" or "logic" functions. They go on to do things like graduate college, and they usually regain a good chunk of the supposedly lost localized functions.
You can even drink with half a brain. But all the lamest doctors say you shouldn't.
Sorry to shatter your hopes of becoming misunderstood abstract painters, lefties. Hey, at least you still have an advantage in sports! And apparently, murder.
You Lose Most of Your Body Heat Through Your Head
One of mom's most important pearls of wisdom probably still echoes through your head: "Don't go out without a hat, Junior. You lose most of your body heat through your head." Popular opinion tends to side with her on the issue. After all, heat rises.
Which is why samba classes should never be held in high-rise buildings.
Your head is not some broken radiator that needs fixing. The percentage quoted in this myth will vary from person to person, some telling you that a hatless head will cost you up to 80 freaking percent of your body heat.
Both of the men in this photo froze to death immediately after it was taken.
In reality, covering one part of the body has as much effect as covering any other. The origin of this myth can be traced back to the 1950s. In one of the least-thought-out studies of all time, the U.S. Army decided to put several test subjects through bitter cold conditions and then measure the amount of body heat they lost. Teeny tiny little detail: the army decked out the subjects in the latest Arctic survival gear but neglected to give them hats.
"It's been 40 minutes and subject retains consciousness. Jim, release the bears."
So while the subjects did in fact lose a comparatively large portion of their body heat through their heads, of course the subjects lost most of their body heat through their heads! What the hell else was the military expecting?! The U.S. Army scientists then proudly printed out their survival manual with the advice that you better cover up your head, because you lose 40 to 45 percent of your body heat through it, thus giving every mother in the world her three favorite things: 1) A bullshit statistic to recite; 2) a reason to worry about her children and 3) an excuse to put them in adorable hats.
As if they needed one.
Scientists who weren't retarded later found out that, all things being equal, you lose no more than 10 percent of your body heat through your head. The chest, head and face are also more sensitive to changes in temperature, making it feel as if you're losing more heat through them in the cold, but the truth is that the head itself loses no more heat than any other part of your body.
Having said that, you should still cover your head during bitterly cold weather. The same goes for your forearms, your left foot and your taint.
Your Metabolism Makes You Fat or Skinny
Statistically speaking, you're more likely to die from being fat than from anything else, but avoiding this awful fate can be complicated. We learn from an early age that even if you watch what you eat and exercise regularly, you can still end up overweight due to something called your metabolism. Your metabolism describes how much energy your body uses just by breathing, having a heart that beats and other basic stuff like that. You might also be familiar with metabolism as it relates to breakfast. Many of us are told that eating breakfast in the morning will actually jump-start our metabolism. By the time you turned 10, most of you were under the impression that you were skinny or fat due to a mysterious internal metronome that speeds up and slows down, depending on when in the day you eat.
"Does 'constantly' count as a time of day?"
See? It's complicated.
Everything you ever learned about metabolism is secretly confusing you into being fatter, making nutrition and obesity seem much more complicated than they actually are. If you want to know why you're fat or skinny, take the number of calories you put into your body and subtract the number of calories your body is using. The further you are from zero, the fatter you will become. The slow metabolism theory of ass fattery assumes that the "using" number is a wildcard that's mostly out of your hands.
Your greasy, sticky hands.
In reality, it's exactly as simple as you'd think it would be. There's no special time of day when eating magically makes your body skinnier. In fact, scientists who aren't in the business of inventing cookie-based cereals think breakfast is the most important meal of the day to skip if you're trying to lose weight.
We can't imagine why.
Some scientists say that there's no significant difference between the metabolisms of obese and thin people. When you take weight into consideration, the folks at the Mayo Clinic found that that the metabolisms of over- and underweight people are the exact opposite of what we always heard: Thin people actually tend to have slower metabolisms than their heavier counterparts.
It's the same reason European cars use less gas than Hummers. When you put on the pounds, either with muscle or fat, your body has to compensate by expending more energy just to do things like moving your blood around and taking in air. Thus, those things burn more calories.
"This is my standin' up ice cream."
What about people who swear they eat like anorexic birds yet somehow still gain weight? Research shows they're no less honest than anyone else, they're just falling victim to a flaw in perception that we all share. Imagine you're running two contests in which people are asked to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar. In one contest, the actual number is 2,500 jelly beans, while in the other contest the jar has 200. The people guessing in the 200-jelly-bean contest are going to be closer to the target because our brains are better at estimating smaller numbers, while the guesses made by people in the 2,500-bean contest are going to be all over the map.
And the fat people will just end up eating the jelly beans.
The same goes for estimating how much you ate at Thanksgiving dinner vs. how much you ate at your mid-afternoon snack. Our mind is just worse at estimating how much we ate at a large meal. Since overweight people eat larger meals, they underestimate how much they're eating and believe they're suffering some unfair advantage.
"This is a normal meal, right?"
Our beliefs about metabolism are exactly as stupid as the beliefs in the early '50s that certain cigarette brands could be used to treat asthma. But even back then, we're pretty sure a kindergarten teacher wouldn't excuse a 5-year-old from class to smoke because he needed to ease his healthy nerves.
You can visit Eddie's website here.
For more ridiculous lies that were the building blocks of your view of the world, check out The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught in History Class and 6 Books Everyone (Including Your English Teacher) Got Wrong.
And stop by LinkSTORM to cleanse your palette of all this sticking it to the man.
We have some bad news: the REAL velociraptors were over-sized chickens, animals can hold grudges and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, 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'll explain why Ostriches are modern-day dinosaurs.