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Science and Technology "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan.

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Old November 20 2009, 10:29 PM   #1
Argus Skyhawk
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Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

"Gravity is caused by the fact that the earth spins."
I heard that from a few people when I was really little. I remember imagining a story in which Superman (or some other superhero, I'm not sure) pushed the earth so that it spun too fast and made us all so heavy we couldn't stand up. Then he stopped the earth and we all started to float.

"Gravity is caused by air pressure pushing us down against the earth."
My sister heard that one from an elementary school teacher. Fortunately, my sister was smart enough to immediately recognize that it was nonsense.

"Seasons are caused by the fact that the earth's orbit is elliptical. When the earth is closer to the sun we have summer, and when it is farther away we have winter."
That one was in one of my elementary school textbooks. I kid you not.

What are some that you heard?
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Old November 20 2009, 10:40 PM   #2
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

I once overheard a woman on the bus express the belief that the reason stormclouds were dark was because of pollution, rather than simply because they were thick enough to block the light. I guess she didn't read enough old books to know that stormclouds have always been dark.
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Old November 20 2009, 10:51 PM   #3
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

A high school biology teacher tried to tell us that an object is a certain color because that's the part of the spectrum that the object absorbs. All the other frequencies are reflected away from your eyes.
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Old November 20 2009, 10:55 PM   #4
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

My favorite: Nitrogen is flammable.

Know why? Because the big cyrogenic tank outside has a DANGER tag showing an explosion, plus they use it to power race-cars and they make nitroglycerin out of it. Nitrogen is a mixture of Nitro and Oxygen that's why they keep it frozen.


Heard from the owner of a company I worked at briefly. The man was so soul-shatteringly stupid I actually walked out during one of his safety lectures.
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Old November 20 2009, 10:57 PM   #5
John Picard
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

Argus Skyhawk wrote: View Post
"Seasons are caused by the fact that the earth's orbit is elliptical. When the earth is closer to the sun we have summer, and when it is farther away we have winter."
That one was in one of my elementary school textbooks. I kid you not.

What are some that you heard?
You lost me on that one.
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Old November 20 2009, 11:00 PM   #6
Canadave
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

John Picard wrote: View Post
Argus Skyhawk wrote: View Post
"Seasons are caused by the fact that the earth's orbit is elliptical. When the earth is closer to the sun we have summer, and when it is farther away we have winter."
That one was in one of my elementary school textbooks. I kid you not.

What are some that you heard?
You lost me on that one.
It's still a common misconception. Eccentricities in the Earth's orbit have nothing to do with seasonality (though they can affect the severity of the weather), but are entirely caused by axial tilt.
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Old November 20 2009, 11:05 PM   #7
Silvercrest
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

Canadave wrote: View Post
John Picard wrote: View Post
Argus Skyhawk wrote: View Post
"Seasons are caused by the fact that the earth's orbit is elliptical. When the earth is closer to the sun we have summer, and when it is farther away we have winter."
That one was in one of my elementary school textbooks. I kid you not.

What are some that you heard?
You lost me on that one.
It's still a common misconception. Eccentricities in the Earth's orbit have nothing to do with seasonality (though they can affect the severity of the weather), but are entirely caused by axial tilt.
It's easy enough to disprove. If it were true, the northern and southern hemispheres would have the same seasons.
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Old November 20 2009, 11:07 PM   #8
Alpha_Geek
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

John Picard wrote: View Post
Argus Skyhawk wrote: View Post
"Seasons are caused by the fact that the earth's orbit is elliptical. When the earth is closer to the sun we have summer, and when it is farther away we have winter."
That one was in one of my elementary school textbooks. I kid you not.

What are some that you heard?
You lost me on that one.
*cough axial tilt cough*
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Old November 20 2009, 11:08 PM   #9
Silvercrest
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

Oh, just thought of another one. When I was in the Army, in land-nav training, someone taught that you can navigate using the North Star while in the southern hemisphere.
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Old November 20 2009, 11:11 PM   #10
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

"There are no such things as atoms." This was at primary (grade) school in 1967, and not 1867. "What about Einstein's work on Brownian Motion, Miss?" I got told to shut up or get walloped with the slipper for contradicting the teacher. Maybe it was 1867 after all. The same teacher also spouted the same nonsense as above regarding how seasons occur.
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Old November 20 2009, 11:13 PM   #11
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

Silvercrest wrote: View Post
Oh, just thought of another one. When I was in the Army, in land-nav training, someone taught that you can navigate using the North Star while in the southern hemisphere.
You can, but it's a LOT of work with that entrenching tool to get a sighting!
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Old November 20 2009, 11:25 PM   #12
Silvercrest
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

^True!


Great Mambo Chicken wrote: View Post
"There are no such things as atoms." This was at primary (grade) school in 1967, and not 1867. "What about Einstein's work on Brownian Motion, Miss?" I got told to shut up or get walloped with the slipper for contradicting the teacher.
What did she believe in -- "air, earth, fire and water"?
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Old November 20 2009, 11:32 PM   #13
Alpha_Geek
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

In her health class, were illnesses caused by an inbalance of the bodily humours?
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Old November 20 2009, 11:33 PM   #14
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood

Silvercrest wrote: View Post
Great Mambo Chicken wrote: View Post
"There are no such things as atoms." This was at primary (grade) school in 1967, and not 1867. "What about Einstein's work on Brownian Motion, Miss?" I got told to shut up or get walloped with the slipper for contradicting the teacher.
What did she believe in -- "air, earth, fire and water"?
She believed that children should be silent until spoken to. We weren't allowed to enquire about anything. We just had to sit there like sponges and absorb whatever she taught. She would have fitted in well in the dark ages.
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Old November 20 2009, 11:36 PM   #15
Silvercrest
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Re: Scientific falsehoods heard from adults during my childhood






Seriously, my heart goes out to you. Even the Army guys were willing to recognize the flaw in their logic when I pointed it out.

With teachers like that, it's amazing you came out OK.

Err... I hope...
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