Posts filed under ‘Despite Popular Belief’

Poinsettia Plants Aren’t so Bad after All

As the holidays draw near, there are PSAs everywhere about how to protect your pet from the most dangerous of plants: the poisonous poinsettia. While the holidays do bring some extra challenges and risks for our pets, that particular danger is a bit overblown. Think twice before you ditch yours just because of a pet (or curious toddler). As it turns out, the poinsettia’s reputation is rather undeserved.

poinsettia

The poinsettia is naturally found in Mexico and has become a traditional holiday decoration. The plant has bright red and green leaves reminiscent of the Christmas season. For some reason, the poinsettia has been labeled as a toxic plant—dangerous to children, pets, and maybe even your spouse! In reality, there is very little evidence to back up this claim and Snopes believes the myth began as a faked news story about a toddler dying after eating a single leaf.

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November 15, 2018 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

Lone Baby Animals are Rarely Abandoned

The wealth of available resources and mild weather make spring the perfect season for most animals to raise offspring. When these helpless (and often adorable) babies are in danger, it’s natural for people to want to provide aid. Unfortunately, these altruistic actions tend to do more harm than good. Most seemingly abandoned or vulnerable young animals aren’t actually in trouble—in most cases, their parents are nearby and keeping a close eye on them. Although people have good intentions, “helping” these animals generally leads to more problems, especially for the wildlife rehabbers left to pick up the pieces.

bunny

Bunnies

Wildlife rehabilitators tend to cringe whenever someone brings in a litter of “abandoned” rabbit kits. The truth is that it’s very rare that the bunnies have actually been abandoned. Rabbits are prey animals and babies are easy pickings for nearly any predator. Mother rabbits don’t want to draw attention to their nest so they actually stay far away, returning to feed their litter just twice a day for a few minutes. After nursing their young, they go back to foraging far from the nest.

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June 16, 2018 at 4:01 am Leave a comment

Essential Oils Aren’t Essential

Essential oils are popular in all sorts of alternative medicine practices—everything from aromatherapy to oil massages. The name sounds rather scientific as if these are important chemicals for everyday health. In reality, essential oils aren’t so essential after all.

What’s so essential about these oils?

Essential oils sound as if they’d be vital for health just like vitamins and minerals. In reality, the name is a bit of a misnomer. In chemistry, “essential” means “essence of”. In other words, peppermint essential oil is the “essence” of peppermint—it’s a super-concentrated form of the peppermint scent. The terminology does, unfortunately, make it easy to market essential oils as must-have health products. Everything from sandalwood to sage oil can be purchased and some of these products are quite popular. For example, some people buy lavender oil to relax or help with headaches. Eucalyptus oil is used to treat coughs. There are even tips about using oregano oil on your feet to boost your immune system! However, essential oils are volatile chemicals and not cure-all health products.

lavender

Do any of them work?

A few of these oils are actually backed by science. Tea tree oil can treat or prevent specific types of infections and it’s been used this way for a long time. Citrus oil has similar properties, leading some scientists to recommend it as a food preservative due to its bacteria-killing ability. The majority of essential oils have no scientific evidence backing up their uses, however, and this can be dangerous. Waiting for an essential oil to work, rather than going to the doctor right away, can make an illness worse.

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June 4, 2018 at 10:07 pm Leave a comment

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

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