# Things we (should) know are scientifically false, but say anyway

You know what I mean: Scientific concepts that are misconstrued in the popular culture even though everyone should pretty much know better. On would think, anyway.

For example:

Cloning:
As portrayed in cartoons, etc, it involves creating often numerous, often zombie-like adult replicas of the person in question. In fact, each clone must be given birth to by a woman and amounts to a “twin” however many years younger and with a different upbringing. (The Boys From Brazil is one of the few realistic portrayals of cloning.)

Fossil Fuels:
Oil does not come from dinosaurs! It comes from coral and clams and crap like that.

Gravity:
If the Earth stopped rotating, we would not all fly off. In fact, the lack of centrifugal force would slightly increase the gravity (especially near the equator.)

I always assumed this meant the sudden inertia for all earth objects spinning at 65,000mph would be ‘flung’ off the earth, but I never really thought about it hard enough to process the logic of it.

If the earth itself did suddenly stop then all the objects on it would maintain an orbit of 65,000mph at the same distance from the earth. We’d all move across it’s surface at 65,000mph, or more likely splat into the nearest mountain solid enough to stop moving when the earth stopped moving.

Sunrise and sunset, when we all know that the sun is NOT rising or setting, it’s the earth that is rotating.

The linear velocity at the surface of the Earth near the equator, due to rotation, is about 1,000mph, not 65,000mph.

People who say they are sweating like a pig, meaning they are sweating a lot.

Pigs don’t sweat.

Hence the mud.

Also eat like a bird. If you mean you eat over your own body weight everyday…

This is not a good way to put this. The gravity doesn’t change, regardless of the speed of Earth’s rotation. However, the gravity and the centrifugal force generated by the rotation do act in opposition and partially cancel out.

Spaceships and asteroids that stop when blown up, instead of the debris just continuing on.

Aliens and humans interbreeding, without massive genetic engineering assistance.

Aliens that are just funny looking humans.

Electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom, and other aspects of the ‘solar system’ model of the atom. We ( or at least anyone moderately scientifically knowledgable ) know it’s wrong, it’s been known to be wrong for decades, but even scientists often use the orbit analogy. Because it’s actually a matter of quantum mechanics at that scale, and quantum mechanics is confusing, baffling, and just plan hard even for actual physicists, much less a moderately interested layman like me.

Evolution having a predetermined goal; the idea that you can say, “evolve” a human and get a big headed supersmart guy, and that being what our descendants will become.

The self being something that can just be moved or copied from body to body like a computer program. There’s no neat software/hardware division for humans; even if a transfer/copy is possible, it would require physically rewiring the brain, not just a pair of helmets, a blinking box and some wires. It would literally be simpler to just swap brains.

Now, now … there was an entire episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that explained that.

I’ll go with the “glass as a liquid” one.

Well, let’s take for example the notion that humans only use 10% of their brains, which has long been known to be bullshit.

I know this, have known it for a while now, but still can’t bring myself to tell people it’s wrong when they say it. In fact, I have trouble correcting people about lots of bullshit science that’s not really science. I just don’t want to come off as an obnoxious ass.

I am what’s wrong with America.

That plutonium is the most fantastically deadly substance known to man; that a few pounds of it could wipe out all life on Earth, and turn the entire Earth into a radioactive Dead Zone for 24,000 years. Oh, and that it glows a phosphorescent green as well.

That one is fascinating. I have never heard that except from Americans but among them it seems very common. Does anyone know where it comes from? Did all Americans of a certain age see the same Troy McClure film?

I always figured it came from the old Sinclair oil company logo.

The wiki link claims the company sponsored a popular exhibit at the Chicago Worlds Fair way back in the day when such things were all the rage. It’s kind of interesting how these kinds of ideas can be traced to a more or less single source nearly a century ago.

That you catch a cold by not putting a jacket on, that kids get ear infections by not having a hat on, or any of the variations of this.

I used to respond by saying, “Well, the kids’ doctor has switched over to the germ theory of illness, it’s the latest thing.” But only a very few people got it.

Electricity as the “flow” of electrons.

I guess this is a good as time as any to ask. What the hell is electricity then? I know the electrons stay stationary (well, they zip around a bit, but they don’t move down the line), but electricity works exactly as if it were something flowing. I’ve heard it called “electrons dancing” which explains precisely nothing. What is going on in my power lines, people?

Electricity is the propagation of the electric field surrounding the conductors. This moves at the speed of light of whatever medium is in contact wit the surface of those conductors; for air this is about 99% c, while for other typical insulators it varies between about 50-75% c.

And the electric field is one of those things that we know exist and know everything about except what it actually is, right?

I always like to think of it as a kind of Newton’s-cradle effect. Not true, but it helps me sleep at night.

For me it’s the eyeballs popping in vacuum thing, most noticeably perpetrated by Total Recall.