13 Science Myths You Probably Believe

All those things you’ve been told? They’re not true.

1. Water drains down sinks anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Nope, it doesn’t. The Coriolis effect does make cyclones spin different ways on each side of the equator, but in something the size of a sink it has no effect whatsoever. Instead, it’s all about which way you pour the water in.

2. There’s no gravity on the International Space Station.

Earth’s gravity is actually only a tiny bit weaker up on the ISS than it is down on the ground. It’s the constant state of freefall caused by the space station being in orbit that gives astronauts (and everything else) their weightlessness.

3. Humans have stopped evolving by natural selection.

Sir David Attenborough


Charles Darwin



“We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 95–99% of our babies that are born,” Sir David Attenborough told the Radio Times recently. But it’s not that clear cut. In fact, human evolution might have even sped up over the last few thousand years.

4. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

If you need proof, click here to watch a video of lightning hitting the Empire State Building three times.

5. Water conducts electricity.

Water itself doesn’t conduct electricity. It’s the impurities in the water, like salt, that do. But no water you come across is likely to be completely pure, so keep your hairdryer out of the bathroom to be on the safe side.

6. Bumblebee flight violates the laws of physics.

Flickr: anastasyar / Creative Commons

If you assume bumblebees are like airplanes, they shouldn’t be able to fly. But (you’ve probably noticed) bees are not like tiny airplanes, so they take advantage of different physical effects to get their lift. When they flap their wings they create mini vortexes, pulling their wings upwards and helping them stay in the air.

7. Dolphins are much smarter than other animals.

Turns out, dolphins might not be so clever after all. Scientists have spent a lot of time looking for, but never found, a dolphin language. And many other animals beat dolphins in intelligence tests. Sorry, Flipper.

8. Whether you can roll your tongue or not depends on your genes.

Flickr: 34323101@N00 / Creative Commons

In a 1940 study some children managed to learn the skill. Eleven years later, some scientists showed that the number of tongue rollers among Japanese school children increased by 20% between the ages of 6–7 and 12. So it can’t be purely genetic.

9. Astronauts would explode without their spacesuits.

You wouldn’t survive long in space without a suit, but you wouldn’t explode. The vacuum would make your blood boil, and you’d lose so much heat you’d probably end up freezing to death. But look on the bright side: You’d probably have lost consciousness thanks to a lack of oxygen by then.

10. 95% of the ocean is unexplored.


Well, that all depends on your definition of unexplored. If you mean not seen by human eyes, technically you’d be correct. But we still know something about what’s out there.

11. Skipping breakfast will make you gain weight.

Flickr: jonolist / Creative Commons

Only a handful of studies have tested this claim rigorously, and those studies generally conclude that skipping breakfast has little or no effect on weight gain.

12. We only use 10% of our brains.

While you might be only using a small percentage of your brain while you’re sitting around not doing much, in a 24-hour period you actually use most of it.

13. Earth is closer to the sun during summer.

Earth is actually closest to the sun in January. Our planet’s tilt on its axis is what causes seasons. In summer, we’re tilted toward the sun.

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Kelly Oakes is science editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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