Things we learnt as children about our bodies that are wrong

The human body is fascinating and there is so much that is yet to be discovered. We are given a lot of rules about our bodies and health, many of which we have learned in school. It turns out not all of them are correct.   Nobody knows where some of these age-old myths came from, but many of these false notions are more widely believed than the truth.

The good news is that we now live in the information age where science can help us to learn more about our bodies.

Let’s start with a quiz…

  1. How many senses do you have?
  2. Which of the following are magnetic: tomato, human or paperclips?
  3. What are the different tastes?
  4. What percentage of the brain do we use?

If you answered the following:

  1. five;
  2. paperclips;
  3. sweet, sour, salty, bitter and,
  4. 10%

you would have got full marks in any school exam. But you would have been wrong.

To set the record straight, we've listed some of the most common myths about the human body.

We have five senses

We all remember learning that we have five senses - sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

Modern scientists argue that humans might have as many as 20 senses. Some of these senses include:

Thermoception - the ability to perceive heat or cold.

Proprioception - the ability to tell where you body parts are in relation to other body parts. So when the police pull you over for drunk driving and tell you to close your eyes and touch your nose - they are basically testing if this sense is impaired.

Equilibrioception - the ability to keep your balance, and sense the movement of your body - the sensory system for this is in your inner ear. When you were a kid and spun around, or when you still do it on your office chair as a grown-up, the feeling that the world is still spinning after you stop - that is because of this sense.

We have only four tastes

That tongue map we all remember of the regions of the tongue that have specific taste buds is wrong. So is the idea that the only tastes are sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

A few years ago scientists acknowledged a fifth taste, which was unique from salty, called umami. Our tongues have receptors for this savoury fifth taste. In July, scientists at the Purdue University in the USA announced that they had discovered receptors on human tongues for a sixth taste, called oleogustus - or the taste of fat.

Humans only use 10% of their brains

A myth perpetuated by movies is that humans only use 10% of our brain, and the possibility exists for us to achieve superhuman intelligence by activating the other 90%.

Scans show that in fact most of our brains are active, and even when we sleep our brains are still active, but they are just in a different state. Even slight brain damage could have disastrous consequences for a person, which goes to show that all of the brain is important. However, if the 10% theory is to be believed, you could remove huge chunks out of a person's brain without any noticeable difference.

So while the idea that a special pill or drug can unlock all the capabilities of the brain might sound like the answer to our nightmares about matric maths exams or the huge pile of work on your desk, we are all just left with having to study or work really hard.

Knuckle Cracking Causes Arthritis

Many people crack their knuckles out of nervous habit, or to annoy those who tell them to stop because it will give them arthritis. However, there aren’t any studies that prove that knuckle-crackers are more likely to develop arthritis, so this myth is false. Doctors do not recommend this practice, however, because of the potential for minor injury if too much force is applied.

Hair and Fingernails Continue To Grow After Death

Tissues such as hair and nails cannot continue to grow without energy; therefore, they cannot grow after death. The reason this myth is perpetuated is because the dehydration that sets in after death can cause the skin around hair and nails to recede, giving the appearance of growth in these areas.

News 24


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