OK? Say it with me, ‘Correlation Does Not Imply Causation’, now repeat it 3 times. Is it drilled into your brain yet? Good, Because this week I’ll be debunking some of the most common misconceptions about Science.
Starting with; Dino’s: The brontosaurus never actually existed! The skeleton of the brontosaurus is actually an apatosaurus with the skull of a camarasaurus. It was a mistake that was discovered in 1903, but wasn’t fully eradicated until 1979. Also while we’re on the topic of dinosaurs, common birds did not evolve from pterosaurs (such as the pterodactyl), they evolved from dinosaurs.
Biology: Killer whales are not whales. They are actually members of the dolphin family. Bats are not blind, they’ve just evolved to use echolocation as their primary source of direction. A ducks quack will echo, just like anything else.
Humans actually have far more than 5 senses, depending on your definition we have in between 9 and 21. These include the ability to sense temperature, acceleration, where your limbs are, and more. The human tongue is not subdivided into different sections that taste different things, each taste bud has the ability to taste sweet, sour, savoury, and bitter foods. The blood in your veins is not blue, ie, it doesn’t suddenly become oxygenated when it comes into contacts with air, it’s your veins themselves that are a dark blueish colour.
There is no chemical that will turn water a certain colour when it comes into contact with urine.
Next, Physics: Lets get straight to the heavy topic here; there are only eight planets in the solar system, no matter how nostalgic you are for Pluto, it was demoted in 2006.
The far side of the moon is not the dark side of the moon; also the moon alone is not responsible for the tides, the sun plays a role as well, however its less than a fourth that of the moon. The sun is not burning, it is actually an enormous nuclear fusion reactor, fusing hydrogen and helium into heavier elements, giving off gobs (sorry for not using standard metric units) of energy in the process.
The vacuum of space is not devoid of gravity, in fact there is enough of it up there to keep all the stars orbiting the centre of the galaxy. As well, the vacuum of space, is not a vacuum! Its filled with cosmic rays, microwave background radiation, virtual particles, as well as gravitational and electromagnetic fields!
Speed and velocity are not interchangeable, neither are mass and weight! (Weight is a measure of the strength of gravity acting on a certain mass). Gravity is not a downward force, adding salt to water raises it boiling point, & glass is not a super-cooled liquid. Glass is an amorphous solid, somewhere in between a solid and a liquid. Centrifugal force isn’t a thing, its just the centripetal force viewed from an opposite reference frame
The seasons are caused by the earth’s axial tilt of 23 degrees and not by the earth’s distance from the sun. Lighting constantly strikes the same place twice (The empire state building, for example.) It is not possible to accurately predict earthquakes! The core of the earth is not molten, it is actually a ball of iron and nickel.
Whew its nice to get that out there.
Now I would like to talk about 2 things we are improperly taught in school. The things above are just quick fixes and queries into correctness, but these 2, I feel are fundamentally wrong to mislead our students.
I have a problem with this photo because it is wrong, and it is out in textbooks worldwide. Everyone knows it as the evolution of man or ‘The March Of Progress’, but it is hardly an accurate representation of evolution. From left to right it goes: Dryopithecus, Oreopithecus, Ramepithecus, Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, & Homo-sapien. Lets get it started, First problem; There are no females here. As most other animals humans reproduce sexually and thus come in two ‘flavours’. For this to be an accurate representation of the species on a whole, there needs to be females as well. Secondly, Neanderthals are not ancestors to humans, they lived along side us until about 40,000 years ago, and were like a cousin species. They eventually died out because they were less adaptable to changing climates than Homo-sapiens. Another problem in this picture is that Oreopithecus was hardly even a player in the evolution of primates, it lived for a couple million years (which is short in evolutionary terms), and new research suggests it most likely was not even bipedal as the photo suggests. As well, ‘Cro-Magnon’ was at first a fancy word for ‘pre human’ but it turns out the model it was based on was in fact a modern Homo-sapien, so Cro-Magnon isn’t even actually a thing in evolutionary science anymore. My final problem with this ‘Meme of science’ is that is implies evolution is a linear process when really its just about genetics. The species of which offspring’s genes mutate and adapt better for their current habitat. In reality the depiction of human evolution should look much more like a complex tree or fractal.
2) Einstein’s Theory’s of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics – Nowhere in the textbooks of high school physics does it talk about Einstein’s theory of relativity. Maybe if your lucky your chemistry text will bring up the particle wave duality of light. But Neither special or general relativity, or most of the major aspects of Quantum mechanics are in curriculum. These two things were the most revolutionary thing to happen in physics since Sir Isaac Newton. They changed the way we see the universe, they added layers upon layers of deep and true understanding to nature herself. Now I know most teachers are thinking “How can we expect them to learn fancy advanced physics, when most of them struggle to understand classical Newtonian physics? Besides, they couldn’t really appreciate the beauty of it without fancy college level mathematics.” To which I would say nonsense. I would have given a limb (okay maybe not but you see the point) to have just learned the qualitative aspects of these theories in physics class. And the most important reason we need to learn these things is because; That is the the way it is! Wouldn’t you be a little frustrated if you went to school your whole life being taught the earth is flat and then once you got to university, SIKE the earth is actually round. Well that’s exactly what we do with physics. And quite frankly I think it’s a little unfair.
But that’s just my 2 cents, let me know what you guys feel is the worst misconception about science? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,