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Common Beliefs That Have Been Debunked By Science

By John – on in News, Culture

‘Fake news’ are nothing new. All sorts of myths and mistaken beliefs have gained traction over the years and have somehow become widely believed even though they are totally untrue. We have compiled a list of 15 things that you have almost certainly heard of that have never existed or just aren’t true. No need to attend college to be smart!

1 Pool water that changes color if you urinate in it


Nope, it’s not a thing. No pool dye or water has ever existed that changes color if you urinate in it. It’s possible that such a dye could be created one day but it would be a real challenge to create a dye that reacts exclusively to urine and its organic compounds, given that there are so many organic compounds floating around in pools.

So, whatever a lifeguard or parent may have told you as a kid, it is possible to inconspicuously pee in your local swimming pool, but please don’t.

2 Uncle Sam

Good ol’ Uncle Sam has been a leading icon of America and US patriotism for years but he is entirely made up. It does seem a bit too good to be true that his initials are ‘U’ and ‘S’ doesn’t it?

While some people believe he is the literal father of the US, he isn’t, but the Uncle Sam persona continues to signify freedom and patriotic fervor in America.

3 Truth serum


The CIA has investigated various potential truth serums over the years including sodium pentothal, which is the drug commonly described as a truth serum. The problem is, it doesn’t work.

Researchers and consequently judges have decided that it does not effectively force people to tell the truth. It does lower people’s inhibitions and even gives them hallucinations due to its psychoactive properties but you can still lie your heart out after you’ve taken it.

4 Bulls seeing red


Why are bullfighters’ capes red? It must be because the color red angers bulls, causing them to charge. Not at all.

According to research done in this area, the color red is not what attracts and enrages a bull. Rather, they are reacting to the way the cape moves as the bullfighter swishes and swirls it around.

5 Viking helmets with big horns

Wikimedia Commons

We all know what Vikings looked like, right?. Didn’t they roam around Europe wearing helmets with massive horns sticking out of the side? It’s a great visual but unfortunately, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that these helmets ever existed, so where did we get this idea from?

It probably came from the various depictions of Vikings that were produced in literature and art during the 1800s at part of the Romantic movement.

6 Anti-gravity chamber


Human beings have come up with all sorts of extraordinary inventions but we have not yet managed to devise a technology that can neutralize gravity.

Weightlessness can be simulated in planes that undertake certain parabolic moves so that when the plane is pointing down passengers can float for a couple of seconds but that’s it. Sorry.

7 Iron maiden


An iron maiden, not the heavy metal band, was a gruesome medieval torture device that consisted of an iron cabinet with a door lined with spikes pointing inwards. Or so we’re told.

So-called iron maidens are made up of genuine medieval artifacts but many experts believe that museums pieced unrelated artifacts together to create an entirely new and fictional item that historically never existed but looks great in an exhibition room.

8 George Washington’s wooden teeth

Smithsonian Magazine

George Washington suffered from problems with his teeth for most of his life and had several different dentures fitted over the years. That is all true, but what isn’t true is that he ever had any dentures made of wood.

No one knows where the myth of George Washington’s wooden teeth came from but, shockingly, it has been taught as fact to US students for decades. While wood was never used to make Washington’s dentures, metals, teeth from animals, and even teeth from slaves were. They didn’t teach you that in history class now, did they?

9 King Arthur

Wikimedia Commons

The story of King Arthur is great but it is exactly that, a story. While some still hold onto the belief that the British/Roman leader did exist and bravely held out against an Anglo-Saxon invasion in the 400s or 500s, most historians have now fully dismissed the idea that King Arthur was a real person.

This is primarily because King Arthur’s name does not appear in any important texts dating from 400-800 C.E. As evidence goes, it’s pretty conclusive.

10 Jackalope


The jackalope rose to fame in the 1930s; it is not a product of evolution but rather of American folklore. However, that hasn’t stopped lots of people from claiming that they have seen this mythical animal running around in the wilderness.

Disappointingly, scientists believe that most of these sightings are actually of rabbits that have been infected by the Shope Papilloma virus, which can cause large tumors resembling antlers or horns to develop on their heads. So, your jackalope is probably just a very sick rabbit.

11 Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker

Not Betty! Yes, it’s true, Betty Crocker never existed. She is the creation of Marjorie Husted and the marketing campaign she created for the Washburn Crosby Company. While the surname of Crocker belonged to one of Washburn Crosby’s directors, the name Betty was selected simply because it sounded American and morally upright.

Betty Crocker quickly became a household name, regularly gracing American TV screens, newspapers, magazines, and radios.

12 Frogs give you warts

Wikimedia Commons

No, they don’t. Dermatologists across the globe are in firm agreement that a human virus entirely unrelated to toads or frogs is responsible for warts. However, you still shouldn’t get too hands-on with a toad.

The lump behind their ears can be extremely dangerous as they are sometimes armed with poison designed to injure the mouths of predators trying to grab a quick bite. If you touch this poison it can irritate your skin (but it won’t give you warts, as claimed in the past).

13 Pope Joan


You may have heard that there was once a female pope called Joan. However, a little investigation quickly debunks this myth. Pope Joan is said to have been coronated in 855 but Benedict III immediately replaced Leo IV in 855.

There is also the total lack of any contemporary relics or texts depicting or referencing Joan to consider. A female pope is a pretty big deal, you’d think someone would’ve mentioned it.

14 The apple in the Garden of Eden

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

The literal truth of this biblical story from Genesis is for you to decide but the idea that an apple was the ‘forbidden fruit’ in the Garden of Eden was never part of the original story.

This mistaken belief is probably the result of the Latin word mălum, meaning ‘evil,’ being confused with the Latin word mālum, meaning ‘apple.’ No actual fruit is mentioned in the original biblical text, only the general concept of forbidden fruit.

15 Goldfish have three-second memories

Max pixel

It is a widespread belief worldwide that fish have very short memories and that goldfish, in particular, can remember things for only three seconds.

To get to the bottom of the issue, researchers have conducted numerous academic studies and experiments and there is now overwhelming evidence that fish have good memories and are at least as intelligent as birds.

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John has been a jack-of-all-trades since he was a child. His insatiable curiosity led him to study science. He began writing scientific articles for various blogs during his school years. He loved it so much that he continued even after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in science. John now writes for Get-Science and other online scientific publications.