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Anonymous Poster

Myths?

10/12/2006 7:24 AM

Hi all !

In my part of the world, there are many beliefs which are so deep-rooted that it becomes difficult to convince a lot of people that these may be just myths. I am giving two examples for everyone comments about their scientific rationality:

(1) Eating almond kernels improves memory.

(2) Eating bitter naturally occuring items (such as juice of some non-consumable fruits) cleanses one's blood.

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#1

Re: Myths?

10/12/2006 8:54 AM

Interesting post. This is a global phenomenon with many regional variations. For example, there's an old Italian custom of wearing garlic around the neck in order to ward off illness. Scientifically speaking, this just might work. After all, it's hard to get sick if no one will come near you!

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#2

Re: Myths?

10/12/2006 9:25 AM

I'd go for a pint of bitter!

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Anonymous Poster
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Myths?

10/12/2006 10:47 AM

Only if it's warm

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Associate

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#4

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 8:46 AM

I read just this week that almonds are very good for you, but I can't remember the alleged positive effect. If it is memory, I'd better go right out and buy some almonds!

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#5

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 10:06 AM

Does that mean cranberry juice too? I've definitely heard that it is good for your kidneys and/or liver and/or blood. It's not really bitter though, more tart.

Oh well, even if its health effects are overrated I'll still drink tons of it because its delicious.

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#6

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 10:10 AM

Myths, I wish they were only limited to your part of the world! Please don't get me wrong, I just get frustrated when people follow them without asking why.

Not to sound too rude, but myths are what happens when people are too lazy (or too busy scrapping up food and shelter) to think for themselves. It is so hard to get someone to let go of a myth that you know is rubbish, I beleive it is because they need to have something that will explain or something to believe in. If they don't understand how something works then they are in the dark, not a very comfortable place to be; so they make something up, or search for something to connect to the phenomona that makes sence and then beleive in it. If someone comes along and says no, that's wrong not only are we putting them back into the darkness of the unknown area, but also telling them that the false light they had been following for all those years was no good.

I don't want to sound like enlightenment is the solution to all matters, but asking why something is or isn't is one of the greatest parts of being a human being. The scientific method really is a good thing. If you want to get people to stop following myths, do the research and conduct experiments untill you prove it wrong; if you can't prove it wrong, write a hypothosis to explain why it's true and let others try to prove it wrong. That's not really the scientific method, but it's better than saying, "I knew this old guy who ate nothing but almond kernels, and his memory was so good that he could remember what he had for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the last fourty years of his life. So eating almonds must improve your memory." I know, bad example....

It's a pretty well excepted idea that our ability to remember things is heavily dependant on how we "encode" the data. Repetition is a good way to get it to stick, and other factors contribute to how we encode data either in our short term or long term memories. As a whole the study about how we encode things is still being researched and new things are discovered all the time.

It is possible that something in almonds, or something about the way we eat them, or something that has nothing to do with almonds other than it usually happens when we eat almonds could increase our brain's ability to encode data, hence improving our memory.

Eating bitter "non-consumable" fruit juice just might cleans one's bloode, I'm not biological chemist, but when you introduce something into your bloode stream that doesn't belong there, generaly your body says' get it out. So your filtering organs liver & kindeys go to work and you piss out that chemical that you put in your body. Alchohol kindof does the same thing, hot mexican food will sortof do the same only it comes out different.

As for needing your bloode cleansed, if you have a pathogen that you need to get rid of I think bloode letting is the best practice, then you can save your kidneys the work and just let it out directly.

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 10:53 AM

I hope you are joking about the blood letting. This was a primary practice of "physicians" well into the 19th century, primarily because of a lack of knowledge and belief that illness was caused by "humors" that could be let out. Physicians would use razors or leeches to withdraw blood from the body. Discovery of bacteria and viruses as the cause of most illness (at that time) eliminated this "treatment" for unknown ailments. Blood letting usually did more harm and no good. Blood letting actually causes anemia and lowers blood pressure, making it, in fact, harder for the body to fight off disease.

Interestingly enough, leeches are once again being used by physicians. They are used in limb re-attachment. When placed at the site, leeches have three helpful properties: they exude a mild anaethestic which helps the patient by reducing pain and irritation: they produce a vasodilator, which enlarges the blood vessels and allows a larger blood flow to help heal the wound: and they produce anticoagulant, to prevent blood clots that could reduce the blood flow and prevent new blood vessels from forming.

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 11:24 AM

Two things, Jubba-Jubba:

"I don't want to sound like enlightenment is the solution to all matters"

It is.

"I know, bad example...."

Actually, that's a great example. Most "evidence" that people cite to protect their belief in myths or any other faith-based belief is anecdotal, like the example you quoted.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 12:14 PM

I just realized I misspelled your name juba-jabba. Forgive me.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 12:19 PM

No problem.

When I was registering I needed to provide a user name, and it was "one of those days" so I was in a don't give a hoot mood, the first thing that came into my head was this gibberish. The more I see it though the more I like it!

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Anonymous Poster
#7

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 10:15 AM

Dude, where do you live?

Later Sproket φ

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#12

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 12:26 PM

While I do believe in it myself, one problem with "the scientific method" is that often, scientists will not agree with each other, yet, each came to their conclusion or hypothesis using basically the same methods.

That is because some problems are so complex, with so many factors, any of which, if left out of the equation, or if incorrect assumptions are made, might yield different results.

This leads the public to confusion. When scientists can't even agree, then people turn to anecdotal "evidence", i.e. what was the last or best "story" they heard on the subject. Whichever was most persuasive is likely to be the one believed, whether it is "true" or not. Even when scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of one idea, tradition, politics, personal bias, propaganda, or even money, can lead people to believe the other way. Basically, people will believe what they want to believe.

Last night I watched a program on how carbonated soft drinks are made. Traditionally, they had been sweetened with sugar. Beginning in the 1970's, sugar was eventually replaced in almost all soft drinks by High Fructose Corn Sweetener (HFCS), or Corn Syrup as it is commonly known. This was because it is much cheaper than sugar. Many scientific measurements and blind taste tests proved that there is no taste difference between the two. Yet, the program showed people in the food industry who still contended that sugar-based soft drinks, "just taste better"!

BTW, a great program, if you have never seen it, related to this, is "Mythbusters" on the Discovery Channel. The Mythbusters are two Special Effects guys and their assistants who are great at creating working models and machines to recreate myths or urban legends. The myths tend to be more physical than medicinal, but it is still interesting when they are able to prove commonly held beliefs totally wrong. But they are also open-minded. Sometimes they prove the myth is true. Usually it is pretty hard to dispute their methods and results.

One myth they "busted" brings up a good point. Everyone knows that Air Conditioning in cars hurts fuel economy, because it takes energy to run the system. One myth people say is that, on a hot day you will get better fuel economy with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning on, than you will with the windows down for ventilation and no air conditioning. Well, the guys very carefully measured fuel consuption in both cases and concluded that, in fact, air conditioning still gave worse fuel economy, Myth busted.

However, after a storm of protest, they recreated the test, but changed the speed from 40 mph to 50 mph, and got opposite results. Conclusion: at some speed, at least between 40 and 50 for their automobile, the increase in drag from turbulence with the windows open is greater than the loss in fuel economy from running the A/C. Myth proven!

So you really need to know ALL the factors involved that may have an effect before you draw your conclusions. Also, conclusions should be stated to be true within the parameters of the test, with the caveat that other factors could lead to different results.

No wonder people want to believe in myths. Myths are absolute. There is no, well it could be this way if... For a true believer*, that's just the way it is!

*(PLEASE NOTE: This is a discussion of scientific theories and beliefs about the way we live and the world around us. I am not talking about religion, so please leave any religious comments out of this discussion!)

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 12:43 PM

I quote:

*(PLEASE NOTE: This is a discussion of scientific theories and beliefs about the way we live and the world around us. I am not talking about religion, so please leave any religious comments out of this discussion!)

I think that's a good idea.

As for the air conditioning thing I'm glad you caught both of those episodes, GREAT example. Some where there is an function that quantifies the drag of a given shape is (if I remember correctly) proportional to the square of the velocity where the ammount of energy required by the AC is determined by the heat transfer throught the vehicle walls (provided that the cabin temp is roughly down to desired temp.) And that too is affected by the velocity of the fluid on each side of the wall. But I think radient energy from the Sun would be over whelming If it's daytime and sunny... That's a wholenuther can of worms. Point is the same as STL said that you really need to know all the factors and state which ones you compesated for, considered, and deemed insignificant and why. Following riggorus scientific experiment practices is a terribly anal retentive thing that most people have no care for or intrest in and don't even want to hear about it, they just want an answer with no exceptions, if, ors, or buts.

Again kindof supporting STL's comment"No wonder people want to believe in myths. Myths are absolute. There is no, well it could be this way if... For a true believer*, that's just the way it is!"

For a scientist or analytical engineer, proclaiming certainty in all possible situations is serious bussiness, and I prefer to avoid it as much as possible. I like to leave the strings attached; there's good data in those strings and cutting them would be presenting incomplete data.

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#14

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 1:54 PM

Superstition brings bad luck.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 2:14 PM

Ah, artificial paradox and fictional conundrum, or is it the other way around?

Likewise, "I am not biased, I hate ALL people who are not like me EQUALLY!."

OR

I am only paranoid because they ARE out to get me!

OR

Everyone is crazy except for you and me, and I am having my doubts about you!

OR

Every Silver Lining has a Cloud

OR

(one of my favorites) No Good Deed goes unpunished.

OR

I don't believe in The Easter Bunny. Santa Claus told me he is just a myth!

AND

of course, my tagline from "Mad Magazine" favorite coverboy:

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#15

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 2:11 PM

How many others do this? : I need to get back to paying work, but just did a quick check on interesting topics. And here is this interesting topic.

Recently, I posted a mini-challenge re "proving" flight is possible using the classic Bernoulli principal description in which flow splits at the leading edge and rejoins at the trialing, after having traveled further over the top. If you do the calculations, you find that the resulting lift is a very small fraction of that required to get a plane off the ground. (Bernoulli effects do come into play, but there are other effects as well that account for the actual lift values.) The "myth" was apparently created by none other than Van Karman (famous aerodynamicist) who said: "When you are talking to technically illiterate people you must resort to the plausible falsehood instead of the difficult truth."

So even in science, myths are created and perpetuated.

As for how to overcome them: 1. Consider that there may be some value to them. Do nothing. 2. Consider that even if there is no value, there may be no harm done by believing them. Do nothing. 3. If there is apparent harm done, then muster all the tact you can. Try to get the believer to come to his or her own conclusion, and to convince himself that there is a better explanation, a new truth. Accept that you may have little luck in accomplishing this.

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#17
In reply to #15

Re: Myths?

10/13/2006 2:19 PM

Right. This is why I talk to my 3-year-old daughter about the sun rising and setting. For her purposes, at that age, it is just enough to know that the sun "moves" relative to her frame of reference. To try and explain how the earth actually revolves and orbits around the sun is too complex.

Unfortunately, some people never outgrow this stage of mentality!

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