Posts filed under ‘Despite Popular Belief’

Pink wasn’t always for girls

Pink is for girls and blue is for boys—or at least that’s what marketing tells us. Interestingly, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it was the opposite for a long time, with boys being dressed in pink while blue was preferred for girls. No one is completely sure why the colors flipped but as it turns out, catalogue marketing teams may be partially to blame.

Traditionally, pink was associated with boys because it was a shade of red and considered to be a “stronger” color. Blue was thought of as pretty and delicate, making it suitable for girls. In reality, though, children of both sexes tended to be dressed in white for simpler cleanup. Kids’ clothes were rarely gendered during this time period. Even an 1890 copy of the Ladies’ Home Journal (a US publication) reads, “Pure white is used for all babies—blue for girls and pink for boys, when a color is wished.” (more…)

November 10, 2017 at 11:00 am 1 comment

Tomatoes Lose Flavor in the Fridge

Thanks to modern refrigeration, we can keep our food fresh longer. The problem is that the cool temperatures of the fridge don’t preserve all foods equally—as much as we’d like to believe it. People tend to throw almost everything into the fridge, assuming that it can only help. In reality, not every food item is the same chemically or physically and some will actually be harmed when refrigerated. In a few cases, foods will degrade faster in the fridge and the best case scenario is often loss of flavor.

tomatoes

Tomatoes

Store-bought tomatoes never taste quite the same as tomatoes from the garden or local farm. Luckily, scientists have finally pinpointed the reason. Refrigeration actually turns off genes responsible for producing flavonoids, chemicals that contribute to the flavor of foods. When a tomato is exposed to temperatures below 54 degrees Fahrenheit, these genes begin to shut down permanently. Unfortunately, grocery store tomatoes have generally undergone refrigeration at some point, usually during the shipping process. It might be too late to save them from perpetual blandness but there’s still hope for tomatoes that were home-grown or purchased locally. Don’t store them in the fridge, just leave them on the countertop and they’ll be fine. The lost flavors from refrigeration can at least serve as a motivator for growing your own tomatoes. (more…)

April 10, 2017 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Eating Before Swimming Won’t Cause Cramps

Mothers have been repeating the same advice to their kids for decades: “Don’t go swimming after lunch, you’ll get cramps and drown!” Some parents have taken it a step further, declaring that it’s not even safe to bathe after eating a meal. As it turns out, there is zero truth to this “danger” and not a single person has drowned from food-induced stomach cramps.

swimmer

Origin

No one knows for sure how the myth started but the first version actually references baths, not swimming. In the early 1900s, a story popped up that warned parents about the dangers of bathing their children after a meal. The exact details varied with each version but the general idea was that a child should hold off on baths for at least one hour after eating. Over time, this myth got warped into the “no food before swimming” advice. (more…)

February 12, 2017 at 1:15 am 1 comment

There is No “Versus” in Nature Versus Nurture

The “nature versus nurture” debate is alive and well today, even though science has debunked the entire argument. This might seem surprising since people still claim that certain traits are from genetics while others are from the person’s upbringing. On one side, people theorize that genetics affect everything from a person’s personality to their medical problems. On the other side, there’s the theory that everything is determined by how a person is raised: their environment, family, and childhood experience. As with most debates, the truth lies somewhere in the middle—nature and nurture constantly interplay.

planet earth bluray

History

The concept of nature versus nurture was first popularized by John Locke, an English philosopher and doctor. He believed in the “blank slate” theory, which stated that all human behavioral traits were based on their environment and how they had been raised. Later in history, Darwinism was becoming widely accepted and this led scientists to believe that behavioral traits were due to genetics, not the individual’s environment. This theory stated that a person’s personality was caused by genes and already set in stone at birth. Both scientists and philosophers continued the nature versus nurture debate until modern times. Now, scientists generally agree that the argument is a fallacy and reality is much more complicated than genes versus environment. (more…)

January 21, 2017 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

Dogs See Green and Blue not Black and White

When television shows and movies show events from a dog’s point of view, they usually switch to black-and-white. Dogs, like most mammals, actually do see colors—though not quite the same way humans do.

Human eyes contain photoreceptor cells called rods and cones. While both detect light, cones respond to specific wavelengths and are responsible for our color vision. Humans (and other primates) have three types of cones that can detect the red, yellow, and blue wavelengths. Dogs, on the other hand, only have two kinds of cone cells: yellow and blue. This means they have no trouble seeing shades of blue and yellow but have trouble differentiating them from red and related hues. To a dog, a red ball will simply appear to be a shade of green, similar to what a red-green colorblind human might see.

dog wearing sunglasses

People who compete with dogs in outdoor sports often recommend certain colors for equipment based on what the dog will see. Although a human may have an easy time spotting yellow agility equipment on green grass, a dog will struggle to differentiate the colors. Instead, agility experts often choose shades of blue, which will usually stand out against greens and other colors in the yellow spectrum.

Dogs mostly rely on their sense of smell and hearing, which are both superior to our human senses. They still use vision, though, and can see colors—just not as many as we can. Understanding how our pets see the world can help us make things easier for them. Utilizing contrasting colors, for example, may help a dog find a toy during fetch or improve reaction times in canine sports. One day we might finally see an accurate depiction of dog vision in media, with shades of blue and green instead of greyscale.

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photo: Adrian Smalley (CC)

sources: nih.gov, cambridge.org, usdaa.com

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December 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm Leave a comment

The Five Second Rule Works Best on Carpet

The “five second rule” is an unofficial pass to eat food dropped on the floor—provided only a few seconds have elapsed. The general wisdom is that it takes several seconds for bacteria to transfer to the food item, making it safe to eat if picked up quickly. In one survey, 87% of people admitted to eating dropped food at least once. The five second rule was never backed up by science but some researchers have decided to test the idea.

food_on_keyboard

In the first major study, researchers tracked the transfer of common bacteria, including E.coli, to food after it had been dropped. They found that carpet was less likely to transfer bacteria than smooth surfaces. While moist foods could become colonized within seconds, most foods were declared safe. For dry snacks, such as cookies, it could take 30 seconds or longer for bacteria to show up. The researchers decided that the five second rule works—in specific cases. (more…)

October 22, 2016 at 5:00 am 1 comment

Survival of the Fittest is Not Related to Physical Fitness

By Erica Geiger

Almost everyone has heard of evolution and most of us have a vague idea of what it means. Animals with useful traits survive and pass on their genes. Over time, these positive traits become more common and a species evolves. Most of us aren’t scientists, though, and a number of evolution myths have popped up over time.

Myth #1: Evolution is “just” a theory

We usually think of theories as being possibilities, not facts. A “theory” in science, though, takes on a different meaning. I personally like this definition from the National Academy of Sciences:

“a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses”

In other words, a scientific theory is an explanation that has been backed up by many studies and a substantial amount of evidence. We don’t call it a “fact” because science can always change as we learn new information. We’re all pretty sure the Earth rotates around the Sun yet that concept is called the heliocentric theory. It’s pretty unlikely we’ll find any evidence that goes against this “theory” but scientists still don’t call it a fact.

Evolution

Myth #2: Humans evolved from monkeys

This is a common one and often used in an attempt to discredit evolutionary theories. It’s also not true; humans did not evolve from monkeys. We did share an ancestor with African apes (note that “apes” aren’t monkeys) about 8 million years ago but that doesn’t mean we evolved from them. Instead, there was a great ancestor that eventually gave rise to humans and apes. We’re most closely related to chimpanzees because of this ancestor but there were two distinct evolutionary paths.

When the human species began to evolve, the chimpanzee species was evolving separately. We’re related, we didn’t directly evolve from any modern primate species. We do share over 90% of our DNA with non-human primates, including gorillas and other great apes. On the other hand, humans also share 90% of their DNA with mice! That doesn’t mean humans evolved from mice, it’s just a result of most mammals sharing genes.

Myth #3: Survival of the fittest means the strongest will survive

Sometimes people will use the term “survival of the fittest” to excuse a behavior. I’ve unfortunately overheard someone say that we shouldn’t help those weaker than us because “it’s survival of the fittest!” The average person interprets this idea, originally thought up by Charles Darwin, as meaning that the very strongest will survive. The problem is that “fitness” has an entirely different meaning in biology. It doesn’t refer to strength, health, or physical fitness at all. Instead, biological “fitness” refers to the ability to pass on your genes, generally by having offspring.

In evolution, the end goal is to pass on your genes to the next generation. That doesn’t necessarily require being the strongest, however. In fact, animals that get into too many fights might become injured or killed. Even if they won most of those fights and were the strongest in their group, death means they won’t be passing on their genes. Those animals would therefore be considered to have low fitness. On the other hand, a somewhat weaker animal that stays out of danger might be able to successfully raise several offspring. That animal would be said to have high fitness. In primates, including humans, being a good parent will often raise fitness more than being strong. From an evolutionary standpoint, being able to lift heavy weights means nothing if you never settle down and raise children.

If you want to learn more about how evolution works, the University of California in Berkeley (among others) have put together great evolution resources: click here.

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Sources: Science and Creationism, National Human Genome Research Institute, Smithsonian, Natural History

Photo: Wellcome Images UK

July 17, 2016 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

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