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Urban Lore Debunked in New E-Book: Fact or Fiction: Science Tackles 58 Popular Myths

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Did NASA really spend millions creating a pen that would write in space? Is chocolate poisonous to dogs? Does stress cause gray hair? These questions are just a sample of the urban lore investigated in our newest eBook, Fact or Fiction: Science Tackles 58 Popular Myths. Drawing from Scientific American’s “Fact or Fiction” and “Strange But True” columns, we’ve selected 58 of the most surprising, fascinating, useful and just plain wacky topics confronted by our writers over the years. Each brief article uncovers the truth behind everyday mythology, starting with Section One, “In the Animal Kingdom,” where we examine some of the more outlandish claims about our fellow earthly inhabitants, such as whether elephants really remember everything and whether a cockroach can live without its head.

Other sections cover reproduction, the environment, technology and personal and mental health. In “Babies and Parents,” the writers advise as to whether or not you should buy The Complete Mozart for your yet-to-be baby and whether or not Dad can help out with the breast-feeding. The sections “Health Habits,” “The Body” and “Mind and Brain” explore just how much of our common conceptions surrounding our selves and well-being are based in fact or aren’t.

Whereas the answers to some questions, such as whether toilets really do flush in the opposite direction south of the equator, may only serve to fill your Trivial Pursuit pie, others, such as whether to wake a sleep walker or whether urine relieves the sting of a jellyfish, may come in more handy. This eBook represents a tiny fraction of circulating folk wisdom and urban mythology, but we hope it’s an enjoyable fraction and encourages you to do some well-informed debunking yourself.





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  1. 1. Mythusmage 6:38 pm 07/30/2013

    Are anti SPAM filters truly reliable?

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  2. 2. krill_pill_q.d. 12:52 pm 07/31/2013

    come on, SA. give us a way to tell YOU when spam happens (see emily127).

    Link to this

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