Tag Archives: myths

NO, Mars Will NOT Appear As Large As The Full Moon In The Night Sky

Certain wonderful events come just once a year, like birthdays, Thanksgiving, anniversaries, and back-to-school sales for office supplies. Sadly, a new annual tradition has emerged: claiming that Mars will appear to be the same size as the full moon at the end of August. 

Chances are, you’ve seen something like this floating around:

(Over 626,000 shares?! I’m starting to think people are doing this just to fuck with me. Mission accomplished. Now stop it.)

So where did this nonsense originate? The closest approach for Mars and Earth in 2003 was the closest it been in nearly 60,000 years and was the best time to view the red planet through a strong telescope. Phil Plait explained last year:

“On that date, through a telescope that magnifies an image 75x, Mars would look as big as the Moon does to the naked eye. … But this being the Internet, that got all mished and mashed up, and somehow became this idea that if you went outside Mars would look huge in the sky, looming over the world like something out of an H. G. Wells novel.”

While it is reasonable that someone could make a silly mistake, it is entirely unclear how it could have persisted this long. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why. The only important thing to remember is that Mars will never appear as large as the full moon in the night sky. Not in 2014; not in 2287. Not ever.

The respective orbits of Mars and Earth make their closest approach with one another once every 26 months. The most recent event was this past April, when it just happened to coincide with a total lunar eclipse. This year, that approach left a distance of 92 million kilometers (57.2 million miles) between the planets, and while Mars could be seen with the naked eye, it was still just a small smudge of red light.

August 27 also happens to fall two days after the new moon, so the moon will be in its waxing crescent phase; certainly not full. These dark sky conditions will make it a great time to grab a blanket and a telescope to check out the stars, but don’t be fooled into thinking that Mars will be an extraordinary feature. Astronomy is plenty cool all on its own; these gimmicks just undermine that. (There’s also a lot to be said for such rampant serial sharing without any fact checking. Slate’s Scott Huler hits the nail on the head with that topic.)

Just for kicks, how close would Mars need to be to appear as large as the full moon in the night sky? About 780,000 kilometers (485,000 miles), which is approximately 118 times closer than it will ever be. Heck, the Moon’s average distance is about 363,100 kilometers (225,600 miles), so we’d all be in pretty big trouble if Mars got that close. 

[Hat tip: EarthSky.org, Phil Plait]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/no-mars-will-not-appear-large-full-moon-night-sky

Can Children Really Be Raised By Animals Like In “The Jungle Book”?

The new Jungle Book movie is now in cinemas, and once again it features the century-old tale of Mowgli, an orphaned boy raised by the inhabitants of the jungle. Apart from the astoundingly awesome fact that Bill Murray is voicing Baloo, the soft-hearted bear, the movies story will never fail to win viewers over thanks to its fantastical take on a human living among a menagerie of exotic animals in the wild.

Although such a complex collection of animals makes for a piece of visually resplendent fiction, you may be wondering if theres any truth behind a boy being raised by wolves. There are various mythological or literary whisperings about babies being reared in this way, including Tarzan looked after by great apes and Romulus and Remus, the supposed founders of Rome, who were also tended to by wolves.

So is there any evidence or science at all behind the tales of the so-called feral children, or is it all just the stuff of legends? Lets take a look.

Once Upon A Time In Ukraine

Oxana Malayas story. Animal Planet via YouTube

Oxana Malaya, as the story goes, was abandoned by her parents in the village of Novaya Blagoveschenka as a 3-year-old child. She was left outside in the cold, so she moved to where there was warmth and food, which in this case was a hovel sheltering dogs eating raw meat. She supposedly joined them and spent five years gradually losing human linguistic and behavioral traits and adopting far more canine ones.

When she was found in 1991, the eight-year-old Oxana was more dog than human, and nowadays she is assigned to a foster home for the mentally-disabled, where she helps out on the farm. Multiple documentaries have been made about her, and although she used to frequently bark, ran around on all fours, slept on the floor, and ate like a dog, she is now able to suppress such behaviors.

The problem is that theres no documented proof of any kind that she lived with dogs in this way. Although her behaviors seem real, this could all be the result of her being mentally impaired, and there would be no way to tell the difference.

Raised By Wolves

A captive Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). Pavan Kunder/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY 2.0

Of the other feral children stories drifting around, one of the most intriguing is that of a boy named Ramuwho, just like Mowgli, was raised by Indian wolves or so it seems.

In 1976, he was said to have been found by wolf cubs, behaving as they did; he even had claw-like nails. The missionaries that adopted him noted that he learned how to bathe and dress, but never to speak. At night, hed raid the nearby chicken coops. He died in 1985, and his obituary made the front page of the Times of India.

An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that the story began to unravel with weird parallels to the Rudyard Kipling collection of stories the Jungle Book first written in 1894. People at the missionarys retreat, including an elderly lawyer, spoke about another wolf boy called Bhaloo who was found running alongside aggressive wolf cubs, who was adopted by another person in a nearby village.

Ultimately, the tales of Bhaloo and Ramu could not be confirmed. It seems that there are plenty of legends of feral children out there for anyone to peruse, but few of them have documented evidence of their occurrence.

Adoption In The Wild

Chimpanzees are like us in many ways so would they adopt a baby that isnt theirs? Gudkov Andrey/Shutterstock

In any case, the crux of the matter here is not that children can be abandoned and survive in the wild because this does happen but whether animals of completely different species would want to share their resources and even protect someone who isnt one of their own in any way.

Chimpanzees, with their remarkable genetic, social, intellectual and behavioral traits, are seen as the closest living evolutionary cousins to humans, but this doesnt mean theyd adopt a human child. They certainly show empathy and kindness, but theyre also documented as engaging in both murder and warfare, either to displace another male rising up the social hierarchy or to defend their territory, respectively.

Theyre also known to engage in infanticide, as are types of monkeys, bears, penguins, and a whole host of animals. Nevertheless, chimpanzees have been known to adopt other orphaned chimps, both in captivity and in the wild.

Speaking less horrifically, even though they may not kill you, if you dont serve a use to some animals like cats, who see humans as inessential landlords they may simply discard you entirely, leaving you to fend for yourself. These things considered, it seems pretty unlikely that animals would be willing to adopt an alien-looking, resource-swilling human child.

However, there are plenty of cases of animals actually adopting or at least befriending members of other species. Captive dogs have nursed baby squirrels and owls, and one particular captive gorilla has a penchant for adopting kittens, for example. Even the wild has its share of adoptions, including a pod of sperm whales that took care of a deformed bottlenose dolphin.

Researchers have noted that one of the main forms of animal adoption is when a creature adopts a member of its own species, something known as instinctive adoption. Looking after your own is a way to ensure DNA that is at least somewhat similar to yours is passed on to the next generation.

Mutual benefit also helps; in the case of the deformed bottlenose dolphin, it was likely adopted because it made the group stronger overall. As long as you arent taking up too many resources, youd likely be fine, it seems. In many cases, adoption of an individual occurs when a new mother takes on a young orphan, perhaps due to their temporarily higher levels of oxytocin, a hormone known to promote social bonding.

Youre Either With Us Or Against Us

In the wild, mutual benefit may be the answer to this tantalizing question. Peter Batarseh/Shutterstock

With respect to mutual benefit, one tale of feral children stands out: Between the ages of 4 and 6, Ivan Mishukov befriended some wild dogs on the streets of Moscow. He eventually gained their trust completely and became their pack leader; they protected him like he was one of their own, and they all shared food together.

Although its still difficult to verify the truth of this story, theres less skepticism floating around the Internet than usual when it comes to tales like these. So perhaps a young human could be adopted by a wild animal, as long as they pulled their weight in their new society we just havent seen verifiable, convincing, documented evidence of it just yet.

In Mowglis case, it could just possibly be true: wolves have been observed adopting other pups. Tiny humans, though, may be seen as little more than a tasty amuse-bouche.

Main image: The Jungle Book, Disney via YouTube

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/can-children-really-be-raised-animals-jungle-book

How Myths And Tabloids Feed On Anomalies In Science

UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH: What do we actually mean by research and how does it help inform our understanding of things? What if research throws up a result that calls for a new way of thinking? How do we handle that?

There are many misconceptions about science, including how science advances. One half-truth is that unexpected research findings produce crises, leading to new theories that overturn previous scientific knowledge.

Sometimes science progresses in this neat tidy fashion. But not very often. Assuming science is always so simple fuels misunderstanding of science, and provides ammunition to those who attack science, from cosmology to climate change.

Contrary to the myth, most anomalous findings have modest consequences. The vast majority of peculiar findings are usually the result of errors in data, methodology or misunderstanding the implications of existing theories.

Even when anomalies do prompt radical change, it is rare for them to completely upend large swathes of scientific knowledge.

Strange forces and Pioneers
In the 1970s, NASA’s Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft flew by Jupiter and Saturn before speeding towards interstellar space. As they coasted away from the sun, a strange “Pioneer Anomaly” was observed to be gently slowing the Pioneers. What was going on?

The Pioneer Anomaly has led to hundreds of papers, with many speculating on modified forms of gravity and relativity.

An artist’s impression of Pioneer 10 racing from the Solar System. NASA Ames/Donald Davis

In principle the Pioneers could measure tiny accelerations, as they cruised through space. But they were never designed for precision tests of relativity, nor were they tested (prior to launch) to see if the spacecraft themselves produced tiny accelerations.

After decades of study, it appears the Pioneer anomaly had nothing to do with new physics. The Pioneers generate heat, and thus infrared light (photons), which were subtly pushing on the spacecraft (including via reflections). The Pioneer anomaly, rather than provoking a crisis and new physics, is a triumph of century old physics.

Other anomalies have appeared and disappeared in a similar fashion. But despite this history, media reporting of anomalous results often emphasises how the laws of physics could be overturned, rather than the likelihood of anomalous results disappearing. “Einstein Wrong!” works as click-bait for headlines, but is usually not true.

A personal tale of dark matters

I measure how galaxies grow, and at the end of the 20th century something seemed very wrong with galaxy growth research.

Simulations predicted the biggest galaxies should grow rapidly, as their vast gravity dragged in gas and neighbouring galaxies. In contrast, many observational studies found massive galaxies weren’t growing at all. What happened to all that gravity?

Some speculated that the dark matter paradigm was in trouble. Perhaps galaxies were less massive than people imagined. But instead of prompting radical change, this “crisis” has slowly faded away.

In 2007, I used a vast sample of distant galaxies to detect the slow growth of massive galaxies, and others have mitigated errors that have hampered observational studies of galaxy growth. Observational evidence for dark matter also improved, including cosmic microwave background measurements and the mass distribution within colliding clusters.

As computing power improved and simulations incorporated more complicated astrophysics, including supernovae and black-holes, the growth of simulated galaxies slowed down. So the gulf between simulation and observation closed.

Not so fast big guy! The biggest galaxies don’t grow as quickly as astronomers originally expected. Sloan Digital Sky Survey/Michael Brown

The demise of this anomaly wasn’t as clean as that of the Pioneer anomaly. There were gradual improvements in both simulation and observation, and no single study tied up all the loose ends.

This gradual identification and resolution of anomalous results doesn’t always generate headlines, but it is often how science advances.

The scope for radical change

While most anomalous results fizzle and die, some do spark radical change.

The understanding of the world has been upended when scientific observations and theory have replaced pre-scientific ideas. For example, Galileo’s observations of planets resulted in heliocentric (sun-centred) models of the solar system replacing geocentric (Earth-centred) models.

Truly radical change can also happen when very limited data supports the previous hypothesis. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren won the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine for establishing that most stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria, not stress. While the stress causing ulcers had been widely accepted for decades, that hypothesis actually hadn’t been systematically tested.

Einstein’s theories had huge implications for physics, but didn’t upend all previous scientific knowledge. NASA

As a science becomes more mature, with a wealth of supporting data, the implications of anomalous results become more limited. An example of this is Einstein’s general theory of relatively, which was (in part) motivated by odd measurements of the speed of light and the behaviour of Mercury’s orbit.

While general relatively has had huge implications for physics, it didn’t completely upend all previous physics. Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism are still in use and Newtonian mechanics provides a good approximation of how satellites orbit the Earth.

The apple may have fallen on Newton’s head, but Einstein didn’t make the apple fly away.

Icy anomalies and the tabloids

While anomalous scientific results may seem a curiosity, they are central to public debates about science. To see why, go south!

Temperatures have increased over the past century as a result of increasing atmospheric CO2. The evidence includes (but is not limited to) lab measurements of CO2, measurements of atmospheric CO2, the spectrum of light radiated the Earth, planetary temperatures, and the pattern of temperature increase across the globe.

Increasing sea ice around Antarctica has less implications for global warming that some imagine. Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons

As a consequence, Arctic sea ice is decreasing, Antarctica and Greenland are losing land ice and sea levels are rising, and yet sea ice area around Antarctica has increased.

The increase in Antarctic sea ice area has been the subject of numerous articles by Andrew Bolt in the Herald-Sun and David Rose in the Daily Mail, among others. Some journalists believe this increase in sea ice is a fundamental flaw in global warming. But what can we conclude from this anomalous result?

The world isn’t getting any colder, so that doesn’t explain the increase in Antarctic sea ice. While simulations didn’t predict the increase in Antarctic sea ice area, they also didn’t predict the unexpectedly rapid decrease in Arctic sea ice either.

Sea ice area depends on air temperature, winds, ocean temperatures and currents, complicating the modelling of sea ice area. A simulation correctly modelling the greenhouse effect can fail to predict sea ice area if it doesn’t correctly model polar winds and oceans. While scientists are aware of this, such nuance is often absent from the tabloid media and blogsphere.

The tabloid media and blogsphere too often falls back on the simplicity of the myth, assuming the anomalous results will upend well-established science. This approach makes for good headlines and political point scoring, but the history tells us that science is very rarely upended in the manner some are wishing for.

This article is part of a series on Understanding Research.

Further reading:
Why research beats anecdote in our search for knowledge
Clearing up confusion between correlation and causation
Where’s the proof in science? There is none
Positives in negative results: when finding ‘nothing’ means something
The risks of blowing your own trumpet too soon on research
How to find the knowns and unknowns in any research
The 10 stuff-ups we all make when interpreting research

The ConversationMichael J. I. Brown receives research funding from the Australian Research Council and Monash University, and has developed space-related titles for Monash University’s MWorld educational app.

The Conversation

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/how-myths-and-tabloids-feed-anomalies-science

Has a Chupacabra Been Captured in Texas?

No, it hasn’t.

A Texas couple claims to have captured a living chupacabra in their backyard. Seriously. It isn’t even April Fools Day anymore. Here’s the report that aired on the local news channel, KAVU-TV:

For those of you who don’t know what a chupacabra is, here’s a little cryptozoology history. Sightings of the rumored chupacabra began nearly 20 years ago in 1995. A woman in Puerto Rico claimed that a 5-foot-tall hairless creature that looks like a combination of a reptile/dog/alien kills livestock by biting the neck and sucking the blood out. In fact, the creature’s name actually translates to its alleged diet. Chupar is Spanish for “to suck” while cabra means “goat.” And so, the first stories that emerged about the so-called “goat sucker” include a creature that is rarely seen, but leaves a trail of dead livestock in its wake.

The chupacabra, as it was first described, looked like this:

Chupacabra drawing. Credit: LeCire, WikiMedia Commons

A few years after the first “eyewitness” report, the chupacabra’s appearance began to evolve. It shrunk from a tall, spiked “Creature From the Black Lagoon” type into a hairless canine-like species. Witnesses began to note losses in their livestock. The animals weren’t completely eaten, but did suffer bite marks to the neck, feeding fuel to the hypothesis that the chupacabra sucked blood. 

Before the most recent case in Texas, there hadn’t been any live captures of the animal. Deceased specimens that were thought to be evidence of the chupacabra actually turned out to be coyotes or wolves with mange, resulting in a loss of their hair. Mange can also be extremely itchy, resulting in animals who would rather scratch than try to find food. This, combined with a decline in overall health, could explain why these hairless animals target livestock: it’s just easier. Also, their poor health might prevent them from successfully taking down and eating the animal. Thus, all that is left on the livestock would be bite marks on the neck. Many animals attack the neck first, because that is the most vulnerable. 

Though the animal in the video was described as being a canine, that’s probably not the case. The wildlife expert who commented had only seen the animal through video and had not observed it in person for himself. The feet and eating habits very closely resemble members of the raccoon family, but it could very well be a hybrid of two species as well. Most animals suspected to be chupacabras have been hybrids of coyotes and wolves. 

Those who believe it is a chupacabra claim that the animal looks a bit too docile to have mange, but it could also have lost its hair due to a genetic mutation. DNA testing will need to be conducted in order to be sure of the creature’s identity and any malady it may have. But let’s get real here for a second—this is not a goddamn chupacabra. 

The couple claims that the animal was spotted sitting up in a tree, eating corn. Does that really sound like the behavior of a blood-sucking monster? I know that the neighbor said in the interview that he has never seen a raccoon like that or heard it make that sound, but there’s a hell of a difference between someone who hunts them on occasion and someone who actually keeps them alive and studies them. 

Until the animal is identified, it will remain at the couple’s home where it is fed corn and cat food. There hasn’t been any information released on if it has been moved to a larger cage or if it is still confined to the small trap that it was originally caught in on Sunday night.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/has-chupacabra-been-captured-texas

Common Science Myths That Most People Believe

There are a number of old wives’ tales out there regarding some basic scientific principles. Though most of them were refuted years ago, these rumors just won’t go away. Here are some of the top myths floating around out there that just aren’t true:

We only use 10% of our brains.

It’s true that there’s a great deal we don’t know about the brain, but we certainly do know that we use our entire brain. Even if we didn’t have a wealth of data from brain scans to show this 10% figure is completely false (we do), it doesn’t even make sense using basic logic. Though the brain only weighs a couple of pounds, it is incredibly energetically demanding, requiring about 20% of all of the oxygen and glucose brought into the body. It is extremely unlikely that the brain would have evolved as it did if it were mostly useless. 

Additionally, there is no evidence that someone was ever diagnosed with a brain tumor but was told: “Great news! The tumor is in a part that you don’t use!” Trauma to the brain would also rarely have devastating results if it were mostly unused, but very few survive gunshot wounds to the head, and it isn’t without some serious side effects. 

While you might not be using every bit of your brain at all times, but you do use the entire brain over the course of the day. Feeling like someone isn’t living up to his or her full potential is a different matter, but that still doesn’t mean they aren’t using their entire brain each day.

There is a dark side of the moon.

Oh, Pink Floyd, how you have led us all astray. 

From our perspective on Earth, we are able to view about 59% of the moon’s surface (though not all at the same time). The remaining 41% is completely hidden from this vantage point. That 41% must be shrouded in freezing darkness, never to feel the Sun’s warmth, right? No.

This confusion is due to tidal locking, which makes it seem as if the moon isn’t rotating. The moon actually is spinning quite slowly, completing a rotation in about the amount of time it takes it to make a revolution around Earth. While one side (more or less) is forever shielded from Earth, that has nothing to do with the amount of sunlight it receives. After all, we do have different phases of the moon

Except in the case of a lunar eclipse, sunlight falls on half of the moon (exactly how half of Earth receives daylight at once) all of the time. While the Sun fully illuminates the side of the moon we can see, we appropriately call it the full moon. When parts or all of the moon appear to be missing, some or all of the sunlight is falling on the side of the moon we can’t see. While there is most definitely a region we could refer to as “the far side of the moon” it is no more or less dark than the side we can see.

The full moon affects behavior.

It has been a longstanding myth, particularly among individuals working with the elderly or those with mental disabilities, that the full moon draws out strange behavior in people. This myth has a wide variety of supposed causes, including that the water in the brain is affected by tidal forces of the moon. Many people claim that violent crime increases during this time, and even police stations in the UK once increased staffing for a full moon to prepare for the influx of crime and accidents.

The topic has been studied many times over, and there is very limited correlation between the full moon and increased erratic behavior and certainly no causation discovered. While a few studies have indeed shown a spike in crime and the full moon, it was typically explained by falling on a holiday or weekend. Once that was taken into account, the connection crumbled. There is nothing to fear about erratic behavior and the full moon, unless, of course, you are a werewolf.

Sugar makes children hyperactive.

Attending any child’s birthday party where cake, ice cream, and sugary drinks about would make just about anyone a believer that sugar influences hyperactivity. There has not been much evidence to suggest that the so-called “sugar buzz” is actually real for children (aside from a small subset with an insulin disorder coupled with certain psychiatric disorders). The ramped-up energy seen following birthday parties or Halloween could be excitement over getting a treat or being around other kids. It is also possible that other ingredients, such as caffeine, are to blame. 

That’s not to say that sugar intake shouldn’t be limited. The average American consumes 156 pounds of sugar every year. As a comparison, Americans 200 years ago consumed about 3-5 pounds per year. Too much sugar is associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, hypertension, and even an increased risk for certain cancers.

Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

“Lightning never strikes the same place twice” is a common idiom used say that something bad happened once, but it can’t happen again. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with actual lightning strikes.

Lightning is a huge electrostatic discharge searching for a way down, and it isn’t particularly interested in whether or not it has been hit before. Taller objects, such as trees and skyscrapers, are usually choice targets because there is a shorter distance between that and the origin of the lightning. The tallest tree in a forest can get struck several times until the storm passes. In fact, lightning strikes the Empire State Building around 100 times per year.

NASA released a study in 2003 involving 386 cloud-to-ground strikes and found that over a third of the strikes branched and hit multiple locations at once. Not only does lightning strike twice, but it can also strike two places at the same time!

Dropping a penny from a tall building will kill someone.

If you were to head to the top of the Empire State Building (hopefully after it’s done being bombarded with lightning) and fling a penny down to the sidewalk below, it won’t kill anyone. Pennies are fairly lightweight at around one gram and being a flat circle doesn’t bode well in terms of aerodynamics. Because it would tumble and flip the entire way down, its low mass and relatively low terminal velocity (105 km/h) wouldn’t do much damage to the bystander on the sidewalk. It would feel similar to getting flicked in the head. Annoying, yes; but not lethal.

However, throwing items down to the ground that are more massive or more aerodynamic would increase the object’s terminal velocity and could do quite a bit of damage. Construction zones require hardhats in order to protect workers from stray rocks or bolts that are accidentally dropped from great heights.

Hair and fingernails continue growing after death.

In order for fingernails and hair to grow after someone is dead, the person would need to still be eating and digesting nutrients and performing cellular processes. Of course, that would interfere with the whole “being dead” thing. So there’s no way the body is producing more keratin in order to make hair and fingernails.

However, skin and hair can appear to grow post-mortem. As the dead skin begins to dry out, they retract and pull away from the hair shafts and nail beds. The hair and fingernails are not affected by the lack of moisture and do not shrink, which can make it seem as if they had grown. This also makes clean-shaven men appear to have grown stubble. Many funeral homes will apply moisturizer after the corpse has been washed in order to reduce the amount of drying prior to the memorial service.

Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis.

While it makes sense on the surface that repeatedly pushing and stretching joints to make them crack would eventually lead to osteoarthritis, which is the painful deterioration of the joints, studies that have been performed on the topic have not been able to show a connection. In 1998, Donald Unger published a paper that revealed he had been cracking the knuckles in his left hand every day for 60 years, but not at all on his right hand. There was no difference in the joint health between the two hands, and Unger received the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work.

Synovial fluid is a substance that acts as a cushion and reduce friction in synovial joints, such as knuckles, elbows, knees, and hips. When the joints are stretched and the joint capsule separates, the decreased pressure within the capsule releases gas, forming a bubble to make up for the dead space. Pressing on the joint can create a loud, audible pop as the bubble breaks and the joint capsule returns to its normal size. If cracking knuckles is associated with pain, it may indicate damaged joints that need to be addressed. The cracking sound can also come from tendons, which can reduce their strength over time.

It takes seven years to digest swallowed chewing gum.

Chewing gum does not take seven years to digest. In fact, you don’t even digest it at all. Aside from a small amount of sweeteners and flavorings, there’s really not a lot inside the gum that the human body can actually break down and use. The bulk of gum is made out of rubbery polymers known as elastomers along with glycerin and vegetable oil-based ingredients to keep the gum soft and moist. Once the body has extracted what little it can from the gum, the rest is passed along as waste, just like anything else. 

However, that doesn’t mean swallowing gum is a great idea. Swallowing large amounts of gum can cause constipation and gastrointestinal blockage that needs to be removed by a physician. Gum can also fuse with other non-digestible items in the digestive tract such as coins, small toys, and sharp sunflower seed shells, which could contribute to gastrointestinal blockage or injury. While gum won’t stick around in your gut for seven years, it’s probably still safer to spit it out in a garbage can and wait to give it to children until they are old enough to know not to swallow it.

Antibiotics kill viruses. 

This one pops up every cold and flu season. Antibiotics, by their very definition, kill bacteria. The common cold and influenza are viruses and are not affected by antibiotic use. While some might think that taking antibiotics could be helpful on some level and want them for viral disease, that is dead wrong and could actually bring on more problems. Taking antibiotics in a manner contrary to their intended purpose or dosage instruction could cause other common bacteria within the body to become drug-resistant, which has become critically important. This could create “superbugs” that cause illness much worse than the primary 

The CDC has reported that physicians write tens of millions of antibiotic prescriptions each year for illnesses that are viral. This is partly due to uncertainty of the cause and badgering from the patients (or the parents of children). Some doctors are slightly more justified in prescribing antibiotics for a condition that can be bacterial or viral without making the patient wait days for lab results to return determining the cause. However, it is important for patients to understand why antibiotics don’t kill virus and to not demand drugs that will likely do more harm than good.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/common-science-myths-most-people-believe