Common misconceptions

Here, care of the Internet, an attempt to make some common misconceptions less common.  I’ve picked ones that I understood to be true.

George Washington did not have wooden teeth. His dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth), and probably human teeth from slaves.

There was no widespread outbreak of panic across the United States in response to Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Only a very small share of the radio audience was even listening to it, and isolated reports of scattered incidents and increased call volume to emergency services were played up the next day by newspapers, eager to discredit radio as a competitor for advertising. Both Welles and CBS, which had initially reacted apologetically, later came to realize that the myth benefited them and actively embraced it in their later years.

Microwave ovens do not cook food from the inside out. Upon penetrating food, microwave radiation decays exponentially due to the skin effect and does not directly heat food significantly beyond the skin depth. As an example, lean meat has a skin depth of only about 1 centimeter at microwave oven frequencies.

Meteorites are not necessarily hot when they reach the Earth. In fact, many meteorites are found with frost on them. As they enter the atmosphere, having been warmed only by the sun, meteors have a temperature below freezing. The intense heat produced during passage through the upper atmosphere at very high speed then melts a meteor’s outside layer, but molten material is blown off and the interior does not have time to warm appreciably. Most meteorites fall through the relatively cool lower atmosphere for as long as several minutes at subsonic velocity before reaching the ground, giving plenty of time for their exterior to cool off again.

A duck’s quack actually does echo, although the echo may be difficult to hear for humans under some circumstances.  

Waking sleepwalkers does not harm them. While it is true that a person may be confused or disoriented for a short time after awakening, this does not cause them further harm. In contrast, sleepwalkers may injure themselves if they trip over objects or lose their balance while sleepwalking. Such injuries are common among sleepwalkers.

All different tastes can be detected on all parts of the tongue by taste buds,[212] with slightly increased sensitivities in different locations depending on the person, contrary to the popular belief that specific tastes only correspond to specific mapped sites on the tongue. The original tongue map was based on a mistranslation of a 1901 German thesis by Edwin Boring. In addition, the current common categorical conception is there are not 4 but 5 primary tastes. In addition to bitter, sour, salty, and sweet, humans have taste receptors for umami, which is a savory or meaty taste.

The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is commonly assumed to be an apple, and is widely depicted as such in Western art. However, the Bible does not identify what type of fruit it is. The original Hebrew texts mention only tree and fruit. Early Latin translations use the word mali, which can be taken to mean both “evil” and “apple”. German and French artists commonly depict the fruit as an apple from the 12th century onwards, and John Milton’s Areopagitica from 1644 explicitly mentions the fruit as an apple. Jewish scholars have suggested that the fruit could have been a grape, a fig, wheat, an apricot or an etrog.

Henry Ford did not invent either the automobile or the assembly line. He did improve the assembly line process substantially, sometimes through his own engineering but more often through sponsoring the work of his employees. Karl Benz (co-founder of Mercedes-Benz) is credited with the invention of the first modern automobile, and the assembly line has existed throughout history

Toilet waste is never intentionally jettisoned from an aircraft. All waste is collected in tanks which are emptied on the ground by toilet waste vehicles. Blue ice is caused by accidental leakage from the waste tank. Passenger trains, on the other hand, have indeed historically flushed onto the tracks; modern trains usually have retention tanks on board and therefore do not dispose of waste in such a manner.

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