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10 Things You Thought Were Right That Are Wrong

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No, 10,000 Hours of Practice Won't Make You An Expert: 10 Facts That Really Aren't Facts

by David Bradley
26 November 2012 8 Comments

Dandelions make you wet the bed, goldfish have a thirty-second memory and more "facts" that are actually just fiction...

 

10,000-hours of practice will make you an expert

The Deceived Wisdom is that a 10,000-hour rule applies to become an expert or virtuoso. The idea was made popular by Malcolm Gladwell apparently based on the research of psychologist Anders Ericsson of Florida State University. Ericsson never mentioned 10,000 hours and says there is more to perfection than simply putting in the hours. Most people do a relatively limited amount of practice to ‘perfect’ their art, whether wielding a cricket bat, playing chess, singing or programming computers. It can make you perfectly competent – but not necessarily excellent.

 

Picking Dandelions will make you ‘wet the bed’

Dandelions do contain a mild diuretic, a natural chemical that increases the production of urine. However, simply picking the flowers will not lead to the ingestion of sufficient quantities of this chemical to cause uncontrolled nocturnal urination. Ironically, despite the origin of the English name for the plant being old French dent-de-lion, ‘lion’s tooth’, the modern French for this species (Taraxacum) is pissenlit, the English folkname is ‘piss-a-bed’.

 

Shaving makes hair grow back thicker

Hair is dead tissue, so shaving can have no effect on the shape or size of the follicles from which the hair grows. If this deceived wisdom were true, bald men might shave their heads regularly in order to remedy their lack of cranial hirsuteness.

 

Lightning never strikes the same spot twice

The maintenance team at the Empire State Building in New York City will testify that their building is struck by lightning at least twenty-five times each year. Other high points on the landscape suffer an equally discouraging succession of bolts from the skies, and there are several reports of people who have survived multiple strikes. Worldwide, there are about thirty lightning strikes that reach the ground every second.

 

You could drown if you swim right after eating

Although the gut does divert blood to help with digestion, there is no evidence that this has ever affected anyone’s ability to swim, and there is no valid official recommendation on not eating before swimming from any sports or safety organization. Of course, some people find exercising after eating uncomfortable, but it is not physically dangerous. Children will often jump down from their place at the dinner table and be running, swimming, bouncing and jumping without any ill effects.

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Most of the body heat you lose is through the top of your head

If you are brave enough to go outside naked on a cold day, the rate of heat loss from any part of your body will be approximately the same from any given area. However, on cold days we tend to wrap up warm with trousers, tops, shirts, pullovers, coats and woolly socks. If you don’t add a hat to the mix, then the rate of loss of heat from your head will, of course, be higher than from your other covered body parts, but put on a thick, insulating hat and you will stay cosy and warm. Incidentally, going outside with wet hair on a cold day will not increase the risk of your catching a cold. Exposure to the cold-causing virus is the only thing that increases that risk.

 

Teflon was a spin-off of the Space Race

The non-stick plastic polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon ) was invented serendipitously in 1938 by Roy Plunkett of Kinetic Chemicals in New Jersey. It was used in engineering and for ‘non-stick’ cooking utensils long before the space race.

 

Your tongue is divided into areas for tasting sweet, sour, bitter, and salt

Although popular science books and school textbooks often show a ‘map’ of the tongue with the sweet taste buds at the tip and bitter at the back, and other regions demarcated for salt and sour, this is a misconception. The relative sensitivity of different regions varies insignificantly, a fact known to scientists since the work of Virginia Collings in 1974. All areas on the tongue can taste all the different types of taste, including the fifth taste known as ‘umami’, or ‘deliciousness’, knowledge of which emerged from research into Japanese cuisine. Scientists also think we might have a taste for ‘fat’.

 

Goldfish have a thirty-second memory

This particular  piece  of deceived  wisdom  has  been  debunked  on several  occasions  by scientists  and  others  who  have  trained goldfish  to  swim  through mazes,  push  levers  to  obtain  food and carry out other tasks. If their memory lasted just a few seconds, they simply wouldn’t remember the route or what to do to get the food.

 

Your fingers go ‘pruney’ after a long bath because they absorb water

Until recently it was assumed that the reason your fingers and toes wrinkle up temporarily when you are in the bath or go swimming is that water is absorbed by the skin, and this causes the different skin layers to buckle. However, since 1935 scientists have known that the fingers of people with damage to the median nerve do not go completely pruney. Researcher Mark Changizi has put forward a theory that the wrinkled-finger effect is a reaction by the brain to our being wet whichmakes our fingers and feet wrinkle up to get a better grip on surfaces covered by the water, like the grip of a car’s tyres in the wet.

Deceived Wisdom by David Bradley is published by Elliott & Thompson £11.99 hb/ebook available.

 

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Shaun 6:10 pm, 2-Dec-2012

I don't understand the 'drowning after eating one'. Isn't it because you can get cramp, which leads to difficulty swimming? Which means that there is a higher possibility that you could drown after eating. Also isn't the lightning striking in the same place referring to during the same storm? I always assumed it was.

David Bradley 11:23 am, 3-Dec-2012

Why would eating and then swimming lead to cramp? As far as I know it doesn't. The lightning strike may well refer to the same storm, but not necessarily, either way, even within a single storm there can be several strikes on the same spot.

DevilsReject 9:14 pm, 7-Dec-2012

Just to debunk the pruney finger debunk: Dead tissue, also called callouses, also get pruney after prolonged submersion in water. The brain doesn't influence dead tissue, so that car analogy is really out of the question.

Diana 10:00 pm, 9-Jan-2013

I have a degree in exercise physiology and when one exercises blood is diverted to the striated muscles and away from digestion. This increases your risk of vomiting and aspiration of your vomit which can lead to drowning. Lets look at the 10,000 hour rule comment, I have done some study in neural muscular control and neurology. Practice not only makes perfect it makes permanent. When considering the neuron, practice increases the amount of dendrites and increases myelination of the axons.

Diana 10:15 pm, 9-Jan-2013

Regarding the 10,000 hour rule: As Ericsson wrote in his influential review article “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”: “The differences between expert performers and normal adults are not immutable, that is, due to genetically prescribed talent. Instead, these differences reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance.”

Diana 10:19 pm, 9-Jan-2013

Ok, last post regarding the 10,000 hour rule: For practice to improve performance, four conditions must be met (Hunter, 2004): 1.The learner must be sufficiently motivated to want to improve performance. If the learner has not attached meaning to the topic, then motivation is low. 2.The learner must have all the knowledge necessary to understand the different ways that the new knowledge or skill can be applied. 3.The learner must understand how to apply the new knowledge to deal with a particular situation. 4.The learner must be able to analyze the results of that application and know what needs to be changed to improve performance in the future.

taskmaster 3:32 pm, 11-Jan-2013

@ Diana, Thanks for posting and saving me the time of making my own lengthy response. One was needed. It's always annoying to read this kind of article claiming research is false when they clearly have not read, or actually understood it themselves. No, practicing the same beginner level skills over and over without motivation, coaching, and constant self evaluation will not make you a professional. But this was never claimed by the researcher. So all this article has really uncovered is the ignorance of the author.

Mickey 3:37 pm, 6-Feb-2013

"If you are brave enough to go outside naked on a cold day, the rate of heat loss from any part of your body will be approximately the same from any given area." Sorry, but you're (slightly) wrong on this one. Heat transfer (in this case, specifically, free convection from a constant temperature surface) is proportional to the temperature differential between the surface of the body (skin) and the cold air. Yes, it's true that the genitals and chest area have the highest surface temperatures on the human body, but a fairly close 3rd is the head. So the brave soul who ventures naked out into the cold will lose the most heat from their genitals, then their chest, then their head. These rates (in mW) would dwarf the rates of heat loss from very cold extremities like, say, one's fingers/toes... http://evehealthytips.blogspot.nl/2010/09/hottest-and-coldest-part-of-human-body.html

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