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    19 Pop Songs Fact-Checked By Professors

    Does shaking it off actually work? Academics and other experts weigh in.

    1. How fast would Miley Cyrus be going if she came in like a wrecking ball? Would the impact actually wreck her?


    Luckily, David McDonagh from the University of Leicester has done the math.

    "Based on a simple pendulum model, even the lightest wrecking balls would require

    a human to be traveling around 316 mph," he says. "Attempting to break someone's walls at this speed ... would almost certainly result in a deceleration well beyond human limits."

    In other words: becoming a human wrecking ball would definitely wreck Miley.

    2. Is it possible to kill someone softly with a song?


    Nope, according to neuroscientist and hearing expert Dr Seth Horowitz, who has studied sonic weapons.

    "No soft song will have a lethal effect, unless it is one that someone particularly hates and makes them go out and do something unpleasant," he says.

    "Even at the maximum loudness from sitting too close to a bunch of Marshall stacks at a metal concert, the most you could get would be temporary threshold shifts in hearing (although with long term exposure, that becomes permanent along with fun stuff like tinnitus)."

    3. Is it true that we will never be royals?


    Not necessarily, according to royal watcher Jerramy Fine, author of Someday My Prince Will Come.

    She says there are plenty of examples of ordinary folk marrying royals.

    "Crown Prince Haakon of Norway met his princess at a rock concert and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden married her personal trainer," she explains.

    But are there any royals who are currently on the market? "As far as I'm concerned, until Prince Harry is engaged, he is eligible," she says. "Prince Philippos of Greece and Prince Nicholas of Romania are also highly eligible. And cute."

    4. Are same-sex attracted people really born this way?


    There's solid evidence for the existence of "gay genes" in men, says Professor Jenny Graves from La Trobe University – though none so far regarding women. There's also solid evidence that environmental factors are important.

    Instead of thinking of genes as gay or straight, Professor Graves believes everyone has a mixture of "male-loving" and "female-loving" genes. Both men and women "can be somewhere between very male-loving and very female-loving," she says.

    5. If you want a Maserati, do you need to “work, bitch”?


    Nope, according to Professor Andreas Bieler from the University of Nottingham. Working harder isn't necessarily the key to success.

    "It is similar to this notion of having the opportunity in the U.S. to move from washing dishes to becoming a millionaire, as long as you work hard and show initiative," he says.

    This "completely overlooks the structural causes of inequality, poverty and exploitation in capitalism."

    6. In Vogue, Madonna sings “Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it”. Is the dance style known as voguing really that easy?


    Nope, according to Shaun J. Wright, a DJ, vocalist and former ballroom participant.

    "Striking a pose is probably the simplest aspect of voguing," he says. The true essence of the artform is its attitude, which is "steeped in the vernacular, perspectives and experiences of queer black and Latino Americans."

    He points out another problem with the song: all of the Golden Age Hollywood stars Madonna praises are white, despite there being plenty of glamorous performers of color from the era.

    "That omission is telling of how she co-opted the culture then repackaged it for the masses, and also speaks to the general population's acceptance of appropriated culture."

    7. Should you let me take a selfie?


    "Please, take that selfie," says Professor Jill Walker Rettberg from the University of Bergen, who studies digital culture.

    "The ridiculing of selfies is a form of media panic as the cultural mainstream readjusts to changing media practices," she says.

    "It's also interesting that dismissing selfies as narcissistic and vapid is almost always aimed at young women, who for the first time are able to decide for themselves how we see them and how they see each other."

    8. Is it true that hips don't lie?


    Hips can actually lie, according to Genevieve Iversen, a PhD candidate from the University of Otago who studies deception.

    Psychologists have found that "body animation and activity and postural shifts do not differ significantly between lies and truths", she says.

    In other words, someone's hip movements don't necessarily tell you what they are really feeling.

    9. Is this the real life? Or is this just fantasy?


    Philosophers haven't reached agreement on whether the world around us is "real" or not.

    Nick Bostrom from Oxford argues that there's a serious possibility we are living in a virtual reality simulation created by an ancient, super-intelligent civilization.

    But philosopher David Pearce is skeptical for a number of reasons. While the idea of creating a simulated world "sounds cool" at first, he says, it would also mean recreating all the horrors of war and disease. For this reason, he doubts that running such simulations "is the kind of thing that a super-intelligent civilization might want to do."

    10. Do tigers actually come at night, as Susan Boyle sings in “I Dreamed A Dream”?

    Wasforgas / Via

    "Tigers do indeed hunt at night," says animal behavior expert Professor Rob Young.

    11. Is everybody living in a material world, as Madonna sings in "Material Girl"?


    Yes, according to philosopher Dr Kristie Miller from Sydney University.

    Saying we live in a material world is basically the philosophical position known as physicalism, she says: the idea that the basic building blocks of our world are physical "and everything else is in some way 'made up' out of those physical things."

    But not all philosophers would agree with Madonna, Kristie adds. Others argue there are things that are fundamentally non-physical – like ghosts, souls, and mental states.

    12. Did Egyptians really walk like they do in “Walk Like An Egyptian”?


    Nope, says Dr Kate Spence, an Egyptologist from Cambridge.

    "The confusion arises because the Egyptians represent bodies in a composite manner with each body part shown in its most characteristic form," she says.

    The walk shown above "is a modern exaggeration of the style and isn't actually found in ancient Egyptian art."

    13. Does milk contain any pheromones, or other volatile chemicals, that could bring all the boys to the yard?


    "No," say the food scientists at the University of Queensland.

    14. Can a person ever be toxic?


    Only under very rare circumstances, says toxicologist Dr Ian Musgrave.

    Humans are not toxic by themselves, he says. But in theory, environmental toxins could build up inside us and pose a health hazard to others. Someone with lead, mercury or arsenic poisoning could sweat enough of it so that "if you licked them all over you might get enough heavy metals to make you sick."

    Medicine might also make you toxic, he says. Some patients taking medication for chest pain in the form of gels and patches have transferred it their sexual partners "with resulting effects such as fainting or dizziness."

    15. Did video really kill the radio star?


    "For better or worse, video most definitely did not kill the radio star," says pop music theorist Dr Charles Fairchild from Sydney University.

    "During the heyday of the music video, radio conglomerates like Clear Channel grew to unprecedented size and profitability, mostly due to some very friendly forms of deregulation."

    16. Do girls actually run the world?


    Nope. Only 22% of politicians sitting in national parliaments around the world are women, according to a report by UN Women.

    17. Is it true that all you need is love?


    "Relationships have crucial effects on people's well-being – both physical and mental," says Dr Shiri Lavy from UC Davis. "This has been shown in several studies."

    However, she adds, "this does not mean that other variables do not affect people’s well-being."

    18. Is there, in fact, a light that never goes out?


    Nope, according to Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics from Sydney University's School of Physics.

    "Since their birth more than 13 billion years ago, stars have shone brightly, and will keep the universe illuminated for trillions of years into the future," he explains. "But forever is a mighty long time, and eventually the fuel that powers the stars will be exhausted."

    Everything will "glow in the pale red light of these dying stars," he says, until "the universe is plunged into eternal night."

    19. Is shaking it off an effective way of dealing with players, haters and heart-breakers?


    It all depends on what Tay-Tay means by shake it off, says Professor Kim Halford, a clinical psychologist from the University of Queensland.

    If she means playing music and dancing, that can be a good strategy for dealing with negative vibes. "Music can be used mindfully to alter mood and shake things off," he says – though playing sad music can actually make things worse.

    But if shaking it off means trying not to think about something, it's bad advice – like trying not to think about a pink elephant. You're better off trying to think stuff through, says Professor Halford. "Why did this person do what they did to you? Did you contribute? What do you want to do about it from here? Maybe talk it over with a trusted friend, to try to make sense."

    A third possible meaning of shake it off is to get on with life and do other activities, like going for a walk or seeing friends – which is a good way to deal with feeling sad or hurt, he says.

    If you still persistently feel really sad or angry for a couple of weeks after trying these strategies, it's time to seek assistance, he adds. "Get a referral to a clinical psychologist and see if some professional help can get you to shake it off."