Everyday Myths

There are certain aspects of everyday science that we think of as fact, but in reality may be pure urban legend. In this section, you can learn about some of the everyday science myths you may encounter.

You're starving and you just dropped your chocolate on the floor. Are you the type who blurts, "Five second rule!" and gobbles it anyway, or the kind who mourns its loss? Let's look at the science behind contamination.

When you're a kid, this frightening rumor burns through the playground like wildfire. After all, what could be worse than your own eyes exploding out of your head? But does it have any truth to it?

Though they're indispensable to any construction project, nails have a nasty habit of getting hammered into thumbs and puncturing tires. Is a rusty nail even more dangerous?

The world's intelligentsia has managed to convince us that the Earth is round and makes a full rotation once every 24 hours. Why can't they agree on the effects of that rotation on toilets and ball games?

And, here comes the pitch. Hey Bob, is that player reading a physics textbook at bat? Strike! Wait, Bob, he's put down the book and is getting ready to swing. And -- it's outta here. That guy in the lab coat has scored a home run!

Can you do creepy, bendy things with your fingers that freak out your friends? You might have been called double-jointed. What's really going on with those joints of yours?

Unlike our beloved earthly matter, strange matter is weird -- that is, if it even exists. Did we mention its unnerving habit of eating everything in its path, under the right conditions?

Decades before you ever heard of the Higgs, this multinational particle physics lab was smashing its way to answers about how the universe worked. Pop inside CERN just as half of the world's particle physicists do every year.

CERN is a European research organization dedicated to the study of very tiny particles. Could they discover time travel?

To understand the universe better, scientists from all over the world are going to harness the power of an enormous machine -- the Large Hadron Collider.

You know how when you're bored, time seems to move at a snail's pace, but when you're having fun it goes by all too quickly? Einstein called it time dilation.

At an intersection, you hear the pitch of the train's horn go up and then back down after the train has passed. Why?

You may have heard the tale of a person who throws a penny from the Empire State Building and kills a pedestrian below. Does this story have any truth to it?

Whether you chew to freshen your breath or blow a big bubble, you probably shouldn't swallow gum. But does it really stay in your body for seven years if you do?

We've all seen it in the movies: A guy stumles across quicksand, and before we know it, he's waist deep and can't get out. Does Hollywood have it all wrong?

Surfer and physicist A. Garrett Lisi may have solved one of physics' greatest mysteries -- the theory of everything. It's a mathematical link to how the universe works.

According to recent studies, it appears gingers need extra anesthesia to put them under during surgery. The same gene that gives redheads their hair color is apparently responsible for the way the body handles pain.

Swiss citizens recently cast their parliamentary election votes, which were transmitted using quantum cryptology, a method of encoding and decoding voting data using photons.

Remember that traffic accident you avoided the other day? In another universe, you died. Or at least you did according to the Many-Worlds theory.

Have you ever seen an action movie where the hero gets in an elevator, but the evil villain has cut the cables? Fortunately, elevators in the real world have so many safety features that this kind of stuff never happens.

In the news coverage of the Russian submarine accident, I read that the Norwegian salvage divers used a technique called saturation diving, whereby they could stay underwater for days to weeks at a time. How does saturation diving work?

A CART race at Texas Motor Speedway was cancelled because the G-forces on the drivers were too high. How can you calculate the G-forces, and how do the cars generate forces that high?

If you were to fly west around the world, fast enough so that you crossed one time zone every hour, would you stand still in time?

You've heard the saying for ages, but exactly why is it so dangerous to go swimming right after you eat?

Looking forward to instantaneous travel? The Star Trek teleporter is one step closer to reality. Scientists have now teleported a laser beam. Could humans be next?