Top 10 Common Misconceptions

Following the popularity of our historical misconceptions, we offer you another list – top 10 common misconceptions. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

10. Napoleon was unusually short


Much of the reason for the rumours that Napoleon was a short man (and thus had to compensate by invading countries and becoming ruler of Europe) comes from the confusion between old French feet and Imperial (British) feet. Measured shortly after his death in 1821, Napoleon was recorded at 5ft 2in in French feet, which corresponds to 5ft 6.5in in Imperial feet, or 1.69m. This makes him slightly taller than the average Frenchman of the 19th century. Napoleon’s nickname of ‘le petit caporal’ has also perpetuated the rumour, with non-francophones interpreting ‘petit’ to refer to his height, when it was actually a term of affection referring to his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers.

9. Danish Pastries come from Denmark


Arguably the world’s most misleadingly named food, Danish pastries actually originated in Austria, inspired by Turkish baklava. Their name comes from Danish chef L.C. Klitteng who popularized them in Western Europe and the United States in the early 20th century, including baking it for the wedding of US President Woodrow Wilson in 1915. In Denmark and much of Scandinavia, Danish pastries are called ‘Viennese Bread.’

During the Islamic cartoon controversy of 2006, Danish pastries were renamed ‘Roses of the Prophet Muhammad’ in Iran, due to its association with the offending country.

8. Meteorites are hot when they hit Earth


We’ve all seen the cartoons where a meteor falls to Earth (at which point it becomes a meteorite) with a red-hot tinge and smoke blowing off it in all directions. In truth, small meteorites are cold when they hit Earth – in fact many are found with frost on them. A meteorite has been in the near–absolute zero temperature of space for billions of years, so the interior of it is very cold. A meteor’s great speed is enough to melt its outside layer, but any molten material will be quickly blown off, and the interior of the meteor does not have time to heat up because rocks are poor conductors of heat. Also, atmospheric drag can slow small meteors to terminal velocity by the time they hit the ground, giving them time to cool down.

7. Water spins in different directions


Another bane of cartoons. Toilet water does NOT spin in a given direction due to being in a particular hemisphere of the Earth. That phenomenon only occurs in weather patterns of hundreds of miles in size like hurricanes, due to the rotation of the Earth. So there.

6. Bats are blind


A common misconception perpetuated by its use in metaphors and similes (see also 5), bats actually have fairly normal eyesight, although they are very photosensitive and often dazzled by excessive light. However, bats do often use echolocation in situations where their eyesight fails them, such as times of darkness.

5. Chameleons change colour to match their surroundings


An interesting and fun idea, sure, but simply not true. While chameleons can be perceived to change their colour to match their background, a chameleon’s colour change is actually the expression of the physical and physiological condition of the lizard. Chameleon’s are already naturally camouflaged to match their surroundings, and change their colours depending on their mood, and sometimes a sign of communication. A chameleon that is frightened, for example, will turn black.

4. A duck’s quack doesn’t echo


Sounds ludicrous right? Well this rumour somehow worked up a cult following on the Internet who protested its factuality with an almost religious fervour. It got to the point that a respected scientist actually decided to take valuable time out of his day, when he could be curing cancer or something else unimportant, to test this theory. Trevor Cox, of the University of Salford, England, confirmed what all us logical people knew all along – a duck’s quack DOES echo.

He placed a duck in a reverberation chamber and tested its quack. Sure enough he concluded that a duck’s quack does echo, though the sound that comes back is very soft due to the fading nature of the actual quack. Hooray for science.

3. Hitler was an atheist

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“We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”
– Adolf Hitler, Berlin, 1933

Christianity – a religion of peace and tolerance that preaches moral values and love for one’s enemies. Well clearly, from a historical perspective, this has certainly not always been the case, although it’s not so much the religion’s fault as the people who attempt to follow it. With over a billion worldwide adherents, is it really probable that everyone who considers themselves a Christian is a pious, holy and moral human being?

One of the most damning criticisms of Hitler and of atheism in general is that Hitler, as an atheist had no morals and thus could kill freely without care or feeling. Well Hitler was certainly not an atheist; he was born a Roman Catholic, although how religious he actually was is debatable. It is clear though that Hitler was an evil man, and that his religion was irrelevant to his malevolent personality.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote fondly of his experiences in Church festivals, and as leader of the Nazi party made many references to the glory of Christianity in his speeches. Including making references to Jesus’ death at the hand of the Jews in an attempt to rile up anti-Semitic sentiment in his mostly religious audiences. He adopted many aspects of Catholic hierarchy, liturgy and symbolism, though he was very critical of Catholicism in private. In fact, Hitler favoured Protestantism, due to it being open to interpretation. He also ridiculed occultism and neo-Paganism that was relatively popular in Germany at the time.

Strangely enough, Hitler greatly admired the Muslim faith and tradition saying, “the Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?”

2. Humans evolved from monkeys


One of the most common misconceptions about Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is that Darwin claimed we evolved from chimpanzees. Darwin never actually said this, nor will any respectable biologist. This myth was actually spread by religious zealots during the 19th century in order to try and discredit Darwin and promote anti-evolutionism among the religious. Humans and chimpanzees are actually cousins (we share about 94% of our DNA with them) and both evolved from a common ancestor, thought to be Sahelanthropus tchadensis, around 7 million years ago.

1. “Just Desserts”


‘Just desserts’? Does that even make sense in context? The correct phrase is actually ‘just deserts’, and don’t worry if you didn’t know that because you’re not alone, and the chances are that someone much more intelligent than you didn’t know it either. The reason for this misunderstanding comes from the rarely used noun form of the verb ‘to deserve’; something which is deserved is a ‘desert’ (pronounced dessert). It’s hard to tell when the usurpation of the original word was made, but it probably had something to do with witty restaurateurs naming their businesses ‘Just Desserts’ as a pun, and the phrase catching on as the original is forgotten.

Contributor: JT

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10 Iconic Bits Of History We Could All Be Picturing Incorrectly

There’s much we still don’t know about history. From the life of Thomas Kyd to the secrets of the Olmec people, plenty of events have shaped the world without ever being recorded.

Then there are those events that we think we know, which we may actually be mistaken about. The following theories may not definitely be true, but they all raise the possibility that we’ve been picturing our past completely wrong.

10The Library At Alexandria
Destroyed By Budget Cuts?

The fate of the Library at Alexandria is a powerful symbol for the triumph of barbarianism over civilization. The greatest repository of information in the known world, the library was burned to the ground by Julius Caesar in 48 B.C. Alternatively, some think that it fell at the hands of Caliph Umar in A.D. 640, although this is much less likely. Both theories say that the library did burn. But did it?

Although the Library undoubtedly suffered damage over the centuries, another school of thought suggests that it was destroyed by budget cuts. The theory goes that the “40,000 lost scrolls” were actually stored in a separate warehouse that the emperor torched.

The real end for the Library came when Marcus Aurelius Antoninus suspended its revenues in the second century and expelled all foreign scholars. At the same time, its invaluable Greek scrolls were lent out to distant centers of learning and replaced with drab texts reflecting the religious values of the time.

With few scholars left to read the scrolls, and nothing much worth reading anyway, the Library fell into decay and decline before finally petering out altogether.

9Machu Picchu
Just Some Weekend Retreat?

Machu Picchu is the most iconic site in South America. Every year, millions flock to visit the ruined Incan complex stranded far up in the Andes. Yet there’s a good chance that all they’re really seeing is some rich guy’s hunting lodge.

When American historian Hiram Bingham first reached Machu Picchu in 1911, National Geographic responded with a gigantic story about the fabled “lost city.” As the discovery captured the public’s imagination, the label stuck, and many assumed that Machu Picchu had once been a thriving metropolis. However, subsequent expeditions revealed that the site was smaller than this description suggested. At most, maybe 750 people lived and died there—a number so tiny that you’d be hard-pressed to call the site a town, let alone a city.

Modern scholarship has several theories about Machu Picchu, but the most interesting one is that it was built as a weekend retreat for the ruler Pachacuti. If true, that would make the site the ancient equivalent of a Wall Street CEO’s Florida getaway.

8The Ancient Greeks
Drank Blue Wine?

The Ancient Greeks loved wine so much that they even had a god for it, the boozy frat boy Dionysus. He’s the archetypal member of the pantheon, celebrated in paintings and cartoons as the epitome of ancient good living. Only our images of him may be slightly off. In reality, the color of the wine he dished out may have been deep blue.

The theory stems from a troubling inconsistency in the poems of Homer. Throughout the Iliad and Odyssey, the narrator refers to “the wine-dark sea,” an image at odds with everything that we know about the ocean. Classicists and scientists have been trying to reconcile Homer with reality for decades, suggesting everything from the Greeks suffering mass color blindness to an outbreak of red algae across the shores. But one theory holds that it’s not the ocean or the Greeks that were odd—it’s the wine.

The Greeks seldom took their wine straight, preferring to dilute it with about seven parts water. Since many epics take place at Peloponnesus, where the ground contains plenty of limestone, the water would have been alkaline. In sufficient quantities, this would be capable of turning wine blue—a sight that possibly inspired Homer.

7The Romans
Only Rarely Wore Togas?


If we associate one garment with the Romans (along with their fabulous plumed helmets), it’s the toga. Virtually every film or TV series set in the Republic features the main cast romping around in flowing garments, their nether regions one gust of wind away from permanent display. Yet a theory suggests that we’re overdoing all this toga love.

Although the toga was a symbol of Roman citizenship (slaves couldn’t wear one, for starters), it was also highly formal. It’s been suggested that togas were in fact only worn on very special occasions and eventually only by senators. According to this theory, the idea that most freeborn men wore togas is akin to some future historian thinking that 21st-century Americans wore white tuxedoes at all times.

Destroyed By An Earthquake?

Troy is remembered for the Trojan War, a mythological battle ending with the destruction of the city at the hands of the Greeks. That’s what the ancients believed, and it’s survived on in popular culture to this day. However, another school of thought suggests that Troy was destroyed by something else entirely: an earthquake.

Late in the 19th century, archaeologists began excavating the modern site of Troy. What they uncovered was puzzling and unexpected. Instead of a single city, Troy had consisted of seven different cities destroyed one after the other. Of these seven ruins, only one (“Troy 6″) matched the city sacked in the Iliad. All evidence points to this city perishing in an earthquake.

Perhaps Homer simply invented the ending of the Iliad to give his epic a suitable climax. Perhaps the historic Troy of the battle was really tiny Troy 7, which Homer melded with stories of the more opulent Troy 6 to make his poem more impressive. Perhaps no Greeks fought in the battle at all, and it was really the Sea Peoples who did the sacking. Whatever the truth, it’s highly likely that our mental picture of Troy is completely wrong.

5The Hanging Gardens
Completely Made Up?

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the most infuriating of all the ancient wonders. While we have plenty of evidence for the others, not a shred of proof exists that Babylon contained such an impressive engineering project. This has led many historians to speculate that the Gardens were really an Assyrian innovation that was accidentally credited to Babylon. Other historians go even further. According to them, the Gardens never existed at all.

All the information that we have on the Gardens comes from five ancient writers. We have no conclusive proof that any of them visited Babylon. In fact, most of them seem to have gotten their information from second- or thirdhand sources. The theory goes that tales of various Mesopotamian gardens blended together and were embellished by travelers until the idea of a super-garden emerged.

4Early Christians
Never Persecuted?

Nero famously burned Christians alive to light up the streets. Countless emperors threw them to the lions. Ancient Rome was a bad place to be Christian.

Or was it? A school of thought claims that the tales of persecution were simply made up.

Our six supposedly authentic accounts of early martyrs such as Polycarp are filled with anachronisms and flatly contradict everything that we know about Roman life. The anti-Christian edicts of Diocletian—allegedly the only emperor to genuinely persecute the fledgling Church—included throwing Christians out of public office. This suggests that they must have been previously respected enough to hold such positions.

Back then, anyone could be gruesomely executed for minor infractions. The only reason that we remember the Christians dying is because the Church made sure to pass the accounts on. The thousands of non-Christians who suffered identical fates on a daily basis have simply been forgotten.

3The Aztecs
Only Rarely Sacrificed Humans?

The mechanics of Aztec sacrifice are almost too much to contemplate. Victims had their hearts torn out, had their heads cut off, and were sometimes even skinned alive. Thousands of people could be slaughtered in a single ceremony. They even ritually murdered children. At least, that’s the common view. An alternative theory holds that the Aztecs were way less brutal than their reputation suggests.

Although no one denies that the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice, some historians claim that the number of victims has been severely exaggerated. In particular, they claim that the Aztecs were no more prone to ritual murder than the Andeans, Egyptians, Japanese, or even Greeks, cultures that we rarely associate with sacrifice. Instead, the theory states that accounts were inflated by the Spanish to cover up their own atrocities.

Most archaeological evidence seems to refute this, supporting the more common view. However, the evidence is not completely conclusive, raising the possibility that we may be picturing the Aztecs as much worse than they really were.

2Noah’s Ark

Variations on the story of Noah’s Ark pop up across many different ancient cultures. No evidence suggests that there’s any truth to the myth, but Noah and his ark crop up in thousands of books, cartoons, and movies. Every single one of them likely depicts the ark differently from what the original writers intended.

Although most of us associate the ark with the Bible, the earliest extant description of it is found on an ancient cuneiform tablet in the British Museum. Aside from featuring a Mesopotamian god telling a human subject to build a boat to survive an apocalyptic flood, it contains a reference to animals going in “two by two.” It also insists that the ark be round.

According to translator Irving Finkel, a round ark would have made perfect sense in the context of the time. People then usually crossed rivers in circular coracles. Finkel further believes that the story was passed on to Jewish exiles in the sixth century B.C., eventually becoming part of the Torah.

1The First Temple
Never Built?

Roughly 3,000 years ago, King Solomon constructed one of the grandest temples in history. The First Temple reached 20 stories into the sky, incorporating huge amounts of cedar wood, hewn stone, and sheer manpower. It was likely the most magnificent building in the Middle East until the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. Today, the site where it and the Second Temple once stood is one of the holiest places on Earth. But a school of thought suggests that it never even existed.

There’s no physical evidence for the First Temple. Aside from the Old Testament, no ancient works mention it. It’s also impossible to do any excavations in the area, as searching for its remains would require first destroying two of the holiest sites in Islam and Judaism. Thanks to this lack of hard evidence, some have now begun to theorize that the Temple was either built somewhere else or was a complete fabrication.

This is a very sensitive topic. “Temple denial” has been compared to Holocaust denial, and some perhaps use it as a way of denying Jewish claims to Jerusalem.

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10 Common Misconceptions About Suicide

Suicide is on the rise around the world. Europe, Australia, China, and the US are all experiencing increasing suicide rates. It’s a growing problem for society and will be more and more likely to affect your life directly—if it hasn’t already.

If you are reading this because you have contemplated or are contemplating suicide, or if someone you know has, we urge you to visit, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the US at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or speak to a professional or a loved one.

10Suicide Is Largely Something Teenagers Do


The Misconception: Since suicide is a leading cause of death among teenagers in America, and since we view teenagers as more or less constantly irrational, it makes sense that they would be the ones most likely to take their own lives. This myth has also been used to trivialize suicide by dismissing it as something only people with little perspective and life experience would do.

The Reality: Elderly people account for more suicides in the US than any other age group. Among white males over 65, the suicide rate is 31.1 per 100,000, more than twice the national average. This is at least partly because the elderly attempt suicide using much more effective methods than young people. Teenagers often create situations where it is possible for someone to save them, whereas the elderly usually don’t. It’s not just an American issue—in China, suicide rates among the elderly have grown drastically in recent years.

9Suicidal Tendencies Should Be Toughed Out


The Misconception: As the suicide rate climbs, there has also been an increasing trend to bemoan the “New Age” values that have led to a supposedly coddled younger generation. Perhaps teenagers are naturally turning to suicide because they haven’t had the experience dealing with hardship that would allow them to resist the impulse to end their lives. Suicidal thoughts, the traditional view might be, are something that can just be toughed out.

The Reality: In fact, suicide rates are higher in rural areas where traditional values are more prevalent. For example, in Wyoming, one of the most rural and traditionalist states in America, the suicide rate is three times the national average. In rural China, it’s as much as five times higher than in urban areas, particularly among women. It seems that being in an environment where people feel comfortable expressing suicidal thoughts might be a good preventive measure regarding suicide.

8Suicide Rates Are Lower In Africa Than The Rest Of The World


The Misconception: Another myth that effectively belittles suicide makes the claim that suicide rates are lower in developing African countries than in developed countries. If people living in some of the world’s poorest countries still find the strength to go on, why can’t people born into relative luxury?

The Reality: The evidence indicates that suicide isn’t so much rarer in Africa as much as it’s less often reported. A large contributing factor is that suicide in many African nations can be seen as more of a taboo than in the West, so less disclosure when it happens is all but inevitable. In addition, circumstances in some African nations are inconsistent with this alleged low suicide rate. Alcoholism is a growing problem in many African nations and, as seen in the previous entry, a large rural population is not conducive to low suicide rates. The World Health Organization has also pointed to the AIDS epidemic as a major contributing factor to suicide rates in the region.

7Suicide Is A Person’s Own Business


The Misconception: Because many cannot empathize with suicidal people, there’s a level of emotional detachment that can cross over to contempt. Some people argue that it should be a person’s own business whether they end their life. If somebody is so selfish as to commit suicide, maybe the world is better off without them in the long run.

The Reality: Anyone who has been close to someone who attempted or committed suicide knows the heartbreak that such a departure can cause. We know that we would give anything to have that person back, to be able to ask them what we could do, or help them find another option. Sometimes, suicides can draw together those left behind, and other times, it can push them farther apart. Regardless, the idea that the person in question is making a decision that will only affect himself or herself is completely wrong.

In addition to the obvious personal aspects, there is a quantifiable metric appreciable even to people not emotionally engaged by the suicide issue.

In economic terms, suicide’s status as the 10th leading cause of death in America costs the nation a fortune. Due to lost productivity, medical costs, police investigations, counseling costs for family members and loved ones, and many other factors, the average suicide costs $1,061,170, for a total of about $38 billion in 2010 alone. To put that into perspective, in 2012 the New York Times reported that the US government spent $25 billion per year on the entire War on Drugs. These figures naturally vary from nation to nation, but the overall message doesn’t. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health reported that the 460 suicides and 5,095 suicide attempts in 2005 cost the nation over a billion US dollars, or roughly $2,508,373 for each person that ended their life.

6Suicides Increase During The Holidays


The Misconception: “The suicide booth is that way, sir. Course, this time of year, there’s a line,” says an incidental character during a Christmas episode of the popular cartoon Futurama. The idea seems to make sense, since people’s problems will stand out in sharper relief against the festivities going on around them. There’s a rich irony that a time which is supposed to instill joy causes people to lose hope instead.

The Reality: In fact, the evidence suggests that suicide rates in America are lower during holidays (specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas). The real high-risk period in America seems to be April and May. Interestingly, that’s also when when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a major suicide factor, ends for most of the population.

Despite the widespread debunking of this holiday misconception, a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 50 percent of articles in 2010 continued to perpetuate the myth. In 2012, it was back up to to 76 percent. The truth won’t be allowed to get in the way of a good story.

5Openly Suicidal People Are More Likely To Commit It


The Misconception: It makes sense that someone who is openly suicidal is more likely to kill themselves. They’ll have worked out the variables and risks to ensure the most effective method of self-termination. They are also the ones least likely to make calls for help.

The Reality: While it is certainly true that people who frequently contemplate putting themselves out of their misery attempt suicide often, people who attempt suicide impulsively tend to be vastly more successful. In fact, methods that require the least amount of planning tend to be by far the deadliest. These impulsive methods include self-inflicted gunshots and jumping from a tall height—this being a significant reason why putting up barriers along bridges and other “suicide hotspots” is so effective at lowering suicide rates.

Interestingly, such barriers tend to be effective even if there is an alternative place to jump a short distance away. Even a small obstacle can be enough to thwart a spur-of-the-moment suicide. In Britain, for example, the suicide rate plummeted after the country phased out potentially lethal carbon monoxide gas in stoves. Previously, it had been relatively simple for British people to impulsively commit suicide by sticking their head in the oven.

At the risk of being overly political, this is one reason why it can be enormously dangerous to keep a gun in your home. Simply owning a gun makes a successful suicide attempt 17 times more likely. Even a brief, impulsive moment of despair could very well mean death even for a normally healthy person.

4People Who Commit Suicide Always Leave Notes


The Misconception: Suicide notes permeate popular culture. Books of them have been assembled, popular comic bits treat them as routine, and so on. As technology has changed, people have even been known to post video suicide notes online.

The Reality: While suicide notes are hardly an anomaly, a large majority of suicides do not leave behind any final message. A report by Dr. Antoon Leenaars of the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention estimates that suicide notes are only found 12–30 percent of the time. The tendency seems to be that people suffering from a form of mental illness don’t leave a note, while those ending their lives because of a personal conflict are more likely to create a final message. These percentages have reportedly remained constant as the suicide rate has fluctuated—and as communication technology has become more widely available.

3Suicidal People Should Have Sought Medical Help


The Misconception: Rather than selfishly seek to end it all, suicidal people should have taken it on themselves to seek a solution. After all, it’s impossible for everyone else to know if a person has a problem if they won’t seek help. And it is reasonable to assume that a person that acts on suicidal feelings is imbalanced—75 percent of people that attempt to self-terminate are estimated to have been suffering from serious mental disorders.

The Reality: The majority of suicidal people do seek out help in a serious manner. A major suicide awareness group reports that more than half of suicide victims seek aid in the last month of their lives. According to the Mental Health Research Network, the problem might actually be that the victims had a strong tendency not to be properly treated. While 83 percent of American suicide victims received some form of health care treatment in the year leading up to their deaths, only 15 percent received any form of hospitalization.

2Suicide By Self-Poisoning Is Reliable


The Misconception: Most people that intentionally try to kill themselves do so via drug overdose. Most substance overdose suicides—79 percent—involve prescription drugs, while over-the-counter drugs are used in 10 percent of cases. It’s easy to see the attraction—compared to more violent methods, an overdose seems painless, easy, and effective.

The Reality: The mortality rate among people that attempt suicide by poisoning is around 2 percent. Sleeping pills are frequently used in such attempts, apparently based on the outdated belief that they are full of potentially fatal barbiturates. The truth is that most overdoses won’t kill you—but may cause painful long-term health problems.

1Almost Everyone That Survives Suicide Regrets Attempting It


The Misconception: Because the fear of death is so deeply ingrained, we tend to believe that pretty much anyone directly confronted with it will shrink away, never to approach it again. Almost anyone that attempts suicide must do so out of ignorance of the true implications of their actions. The pain if they survive, and the responses of those around them, will provide enough perspective to put it out of their minds.

The Reality: A third of all people who attempt suicide attempt it again within a year. And bear in mind that this is during a time when we know that people need to be put under close observation after a suicide attempt. Around 80 percent of people who successfully commit suicide have made a previous attempt. Whatever the degree of fear that suicide instills, it does not provide a significant section of the suicidal population with the will to go on.

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15 Bad Arguments We All Abuse

A logical fallacy is an argument that uses a false basis in an attempt to persuade. We all sometimes fall into logical fallacies but in order to avoid them in our own arguments, and defend ourselves from them when they are used against us, it’s necessary to be able to recognize them. Here are fifteen common cases of logical fallacy.

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1. Ad hominem – ‘To the man’ arguments are ones which attack the opponent to discredit him without addressing the dispute. “Dr Madeup is an adulterer, therefore you should ignore his medical advice.” Occasionally a person’s character is meaningful to a discussion but only when directly related to the matter at hand. Ad hominem attacks are always amusing to spot because they make the arguer appear like a petulant child.

2. Tu quoque – ‘You too.’ This argument is one which occurs when a person attempts to defend themselves by accusing their accuser. “I may be a thief, but you are gambler.” This is a special case of the ad hominem attack and works on the principle of the moral high ground. It appeals to our sense of character. If the accuser is flawed, why should we believe him? Again the defense, as with most of these fallacies, is to stick to the matter at hand.

3. Appeal to popularity – ‘Ad populum.’ This argument, that if a majority believes something it must be true, is a very tempting one. There is safety in numbers. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, reality is not a democracy. Even if everyone believes in unicorns it is still necessary to produce one if your argument depends on having a horny horse.


4. Appeal to tradition – Simply because something is old does not necessarily make it better. “Slavery has existed for most of human history, therefore I should have some slaves to do my gardening.” The problem here is that dying of bacterial diseases was also popular for most of human history, but now we have antibiotics.

5. Argument from authority – ‘Ipse dixit – He said it.’ The appeal to authority can be useful only when the authority a person holds is directly related to the argument. For instance “He has a medical degree, take the medicine he prescribed” is not unreasonable. But “He is a doctor and he says that God is real, therefore there is a chap in the sky” is simply an attempt to add a veneer of respectability to an otherwise unsupported statement.

6. False dichotomy – Also known as the false dilemma, this argument attempts to pin the opponent into a position by offering a biased choice that will undermine them. “Either you are for a total ban on pornography or you want children to watch it.” It is because of this argument that politicians can so often be heard to tell interviewers “I reject the premise of your question.”


7. Post hoc ergo procter hoc – ‘After it, therefore because of it.’ This fallacy is hard-wired into our brains. All humans, and many animals, have a strict sense of causation. That is how superstitions form. “I was wearing these pants when I took the test. I got an A. Therefore these pants will help me get an A on this test.” Just because things fall into a sequence, however neat or comforting it might be, does not prove a direct relationship.

8. Generalization – “The politician cheated on his expenses, therefore all politicians are cheats.” This is an assertion of group guilt where it is necessary to prove each individual case. It hardly needs to be pointed out why this is a bad idea but the continued existence of racism suggests that arguments from generalization are effective.

9. The straw man – A straw man argument is one which sets up a position the opponent does not hold to discredit them by demolishing it. “My opponent wants to retire the Trident submarine. He wishes to leave us without any form of defense.” Since few people are for total disarmament the opponent is made to look weak. People like to watch straw men being torn down. It’s far easier than attacking real positions and just as fun.


10. The false middle – If presented with two arguments we might be tempted to assume that the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. “Stabbing someone in the heart is almost always deadly.” “Stabbing someone in the heart is perfectly safe.” The fallacy here would be to assume that perhaps a little stabbing is acceptable. A more reasonable example would be when a TV debate introduces someone with a very extreme view in an attempt to appear balanced. This introduces the notion that either side of the debate is a valid view and so perhaps the truth is a mixture of both.

11. Composition – The argument of composition is one which attributes the characteristics of a part to the whole. “Atoms are invisible, the wall is made of atoms, therefore the wall is invisible.” This argument is often a form of generalization where guilt of one person is used to paint a whole group as guilty.

12. Burden of proof – When somebody makes a claim it is up to them to produce evidence in favor of it. This logical fallacy is often used in the form of “Prove it doesn’t exist!” Here the arguer is attempting to move the burden of proof from himself to his opponent. Since it is almost impossible to prove that something does not exist the opponent becomes stuck. It is always for the person making the positive statement to produce positive evidence.

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13. Non sequitur – ‘Does not follow.’ The non sequitur is an argument which does not follow logically from its premise. It is often used to sneak a contentious point by hiding it next to a point of agreement. “Murder is illegal and wrong. Cannabis is wrong.” While the second point may be true it is not related to the first, but would be used here to associate both the arguments and attempt to win support for the second.

14. Slippery slope – The slippery slope is a common argument. “If we let homosexuals marry then soon people will be marrying toasters and horses!” The error in the slippery slope is that there are often common sense steps between what the person is arguing against and the hypothetical fear they are introducing.

15. Fallacy fallacy – This fallacy can occur when you catch an opponent on using a fallacy. “You used a fallacy, therefore all that you said is wrong.” To avoid it you have to use your judgment on each assertion you opponent makes and not generalize their argument. In fact judging each thing we encounter on its individual merits would probably help us all avoid most fallacies.

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Top 10 Common Myths About Cannabis

Cannabis is probably the world’s most popular casual use drug that is illegal in most nations. It has become so widespread that many people wouldn’t think twice about asking to light up at a friend’s or to smoke in public places. It is an ancient drug that has been used throughout history for medical, magical, and pleasurable purposes. Thanks to the scare-tactics of propaganda in the 1960s and 1970s, there are many myths surrounding the drug – this list intends to put things straight once and for all.

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Myth: Cannabis’ active ingredient THC gets stored in body fat and its effects can last days or even weeks

Fact: It is true that cannabis (like many other drugs) enters the body’s fat stores, and it is for this reason that it can be detected long after use, but that is the only part of this myth which is true. The fact is, the psychoactive aspects of the stored cannabis are used up quickly and while the residue of the drug remains, it no longer has any effect on the person. Furthermore, the presence of THC in body fat is not harmful to the fat, the brain, or any other part of the body.


Myth: Cannabis use causes memory loss and a general reduction in logic and intelligence

Fact: This is another myth which has elements of truth to it – no doubt the reason it is believed by so many. Laboratory tests have shown that cannabis diminishes the short term memory – but only when a person is intoxicated with it. A person who has taken cannabis will be able to remember things learned before they took it but may have trouble learning new information during intoxication. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to suggest that this can become a long-term or permanent problem when sober.


Myth: Cannabis has been scientifically proven to be harmful

Fact: Let us start with a quote: “the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health.” This quote comes from the peer-reviewed British medical journal The Lancet (founded in 1823). There is certainly no scientific consensus on cannabis use, and certainly no scientific proof that casual use is dangerous to health.


Myth: Cannabis use causes apathy and a lack of motivation

Fact: In fact, studies done on test subjects in which they were given a high dose of cannabis regularly over a period of days or weeks found that there was no loss in motivation or ability to perform. Of course, abuse of any intoxicating substance over long periods will reduce a person’s ability to function normally, but cannabis is no better or worse. Furthermore, studies indicate that cannabis users tend to have higher paid jobs than non-users.


Myth: Cannabis causes crime

Fact: Some people believe that cannabis use leads to violence and aggression, and that this, in turn, leads to crime. But the facts just don’t stack up. Serious research into this area has found that cannabis users are often less likely to commit crimes because of its effect in reducing aggression. Having said that, because of the number of nations that have outlawed cannabis, most users in the world are technically classified as criminals merely for possessing the drug.

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Myth: Cannabis kills brain cells

Fact: Cannabis does not cause any profound changes in a person’s mental ability. It is true that after taking the drug some people can experience panic, paranoia, and fright, these effects pass and certainly don’t become permanent. It is possible for a person to consume so much of the drug that they suffer from toxic psychosis, but again this is not unique to cannabis and is very rare.

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Myth: Cannabis is a gateway drug – in other words, it leads to abuse of more potent drugs

Fact: For most people, cannabis is a terminus drug, not a gateway drug. Users of high strength drugs such as heroin or LSD are also statistically more likely to have used cannabis in the past, but this is just toying with statistics; when comparing the number of cannabis users with hard-drug users, the numbers are extremely small – suggesting that there is no link at all.


Myth: Cannabis is more potent now than in the past

Fact: The reason that this myth has come about is that samples taken by drug enforcement agencies are used to test for potency but they are a tiny sample of the cannabis on the market. The vast majority of cannabis taken today is the same potency as it has been for decades. In fact, even if the potency were greatly higher, it would make little difference to the user as cannabis of varying potency produces very similar effects. Furthermore, there is statistical data on cannabis potency dating back to the 1980s which is more reliable than present methods of detection, and that shows little or no increase.


Myth: Cannabis is more damaging to the lungs than cigarettes

Fact: First of all, people who smoke cannabis but not cigarettes tend to smoke far less frequently – thereby limiting their exposure to the dangers in the smoke. Furthermore, smokers of cannabis are not inhaling the many additives that go into commercial cigarettes to make them burn down faster or to stay alight. There has even been some evidence that marijuana smoke does not have the same effect on the bronchial tubes as cigarette smoke, so even heavy use may not lead to emphysema.

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Myth: Cannabis is highly addictive

Fact: Less than one percent of Americans smoke cannabis more than once per day. Of the heavy users, a tiny minority develop what appears to be a dependence and rely on the assistance of drug rehabilitation services to stop smoking but there is nothing in cannabis which causes physical dependence and the most likely explanation for those who need assistance is that they are having difficulty breaking the habit – not the “addiction”.

This list was inspired by the excellent work of the Drug Policy Alliance Network.

1. Mellinger, G.D. et al. “Drug Use, Academic Performance, and Career Indecision: Longitudinal Data in Search of a Model.” Longitudinal Research on Drug Use: Empirical Findings and Methodological Issues. Ed. D.B. Kandel. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1978. 157-177.
2. Johnson, L.D., et al. “Drugs and Delinquency: A Search for Causal Connections.” Ed. D.B. Kandel. Longitudinal Research on Drug Use: Empirical Findings and Methodological Issues. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1978. 137-156.
3. Schreiber, W.; A. M. Pauls and J. C. Kreig (February 5, 1988). “[Toxic psychosis as an acute manifestation of diphenhydramine poisoning]“. Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift 113 (5): 180–183. PMID 3338401.
4. Degenhardt, Louisa, Wayne Hall and Michael Lynskey. “Testing hypotheses about the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 71 (2003): 42-4.
5. King LA, Carpentier C, Griffiths P. “Cannabis potency in Europe.” Addiction. 2005 Jul; 100(7):884-6
6. Turner, Carlton E. The Marijuana Controversy. Rockville: American Council for Drug Education, 1981.
7. Stephens, R.S., et al. “Adult marijuana users seeking treatment.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 61 (1993): 1100-1104.

Contributor: JFrater

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Yet Another 10 Fascinating Facts That Are Wrong

Use these 10 facts (or are they officially factlets yet?) at your next party or office meeting and you’ll be guarantied an argument. People will insist that you’re wrong because, “Everyone knows…” Incidentally, I use number 2 when I teach logic to get students to discuss the nature of truth.

New Deal

The error: Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was not built upon the ideas on John Maynard Keynes.

I put this one first since it is probably the most open to dispute.

Marriner Eccles was a prominent banker who saved his family bank from ruin when the Depression hit. It was he who told the Senate in 1933 that the key to stopping the Depression was spending. Roosevelt later rewarded Eccles with the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve and he wrote the Banking Act of 1935, a post he held for fourteen years. In honor of his work, the headquarters of the Federal Reserve is housed in the Eccles Building.

Although Keynes’ papers had been around in some form for the three years before the New Deal, the evidence indicates it was not a major influence on national economies until 1936. Keynes work during the Depression consisted primarily with unemployment as a function of savings and investments (1930) and public spending (1933). His book “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” did not come out until 3 years after Eccles’ testimony and the New Deal had started.

Prince Charles

The error: Prince Charles will not be Charles III when he assumes England’s throne

It has been officially denied (imagine talking about what name you’ll have when your mum dies), but it is believed by many sources based on reports from Charles’ friends that he will take George VII as his regnal name when he assumes the throne. There are many theories as to why with the two most popular being: Charles is an unlucky name for English monarchs (Charles I was deposed and Charles II very nearly so) and that George is to honor his grandfather George VI.


The error: The 18th Amendment to the Constitution (Prohibition) did not outlaw drinking.

Drinking alcohol was never outlawed – only making, transporting, and selling it. Liquor could legally be consumed provided it was purchased before Prohibition. If you want to get pedantic about it, the 18th Amendment did not even outlaw that. It was the Volstead Act that implemented Prohibition that made making, transporting and selling alcohol illegal. The 21st Amendment would later repeal this amendment but still make it illegal to transport alcohol in areas where it was still banned (so-called “dry counties”).

From time to time, the 18th/21st Amendment still is the basis for lawsuits between a state and the federal government. For example, in South Dakota v. Dole (1987), South Dakota claimed that the federal government’s national minimum drinking age of 21 was a violation of the 21st Amendment but the federal government’s position was upheld 7-2 under the Tax and Spend clause.


The error: Paul Revere did not ride all the way to Concord on 16 April 1775 to warn American Minutemen that the English army was invading. And Charles Dawes didn’t finish the ride either.

Dr. Joseph Warren sent Paul Revere and Charles Dawes to Concord to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the invasion and soon met Dr. Samuel Prescott returning home from an evening out. All three were soon captured by the British, but Dawes and Prescott (not Revere) quickly escaped. Some say that Dawes was then thrown from his horse and had to walk back to Lexington but others claim after the escape he was lost and had to ride back to Lexington. Of the three, only Prescott finished the ride all of the way to Concord.

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The error: Abraham Lincoln was not a Republican when he won the 1864 election.

By changing the name of his party to “National Union Party”, Lincoln was able to court Copperhead (War Democrat) voters who would never vote Republican. More than just a name change, he selected the only southern Democrat senator not to resign his seat , Andrew Johnson, to run as vice-president. Despite a convention to raise support for mid-term elections, the Republicans in the party joined the ranks of the radicals. By March of 1867, Johnson was the only Unionist in office that had not defected and it became a splinter group of the Democratic Party although ironically the Republicans kept the name of National Union Republicans for a while and consider it part of their lineage.


The error: American colonists did not protest the Tea Tax with the Boston Tea Party because it raised the price of tea.

The American colonists preferred Dutch tea to English tea. The English Parliament placed an embargo on Dutch tea in the colonies, so a huge smuggling profession developed. To combat this, the English government LOWERED the tax on tea so that the English tea would be price competitive with Dutch teas. The colonists (actually some colonists led by the chief smugglers) protested by dumping the tea into Boston Harbor.

Robert Fulton Clermont

The error: Robert Fulton’s famous steamship was not named the Clermont.

All of the official records list the boat as North River Steam Boat and even Fulton called it the North River. A later biographer accidentally called it the Clermont, which was the city it was berthed at. There were other steamboats before the North River and but like many inventors, Fulton is given credit because he made the first practical one. His boat ferried passengers on the New York City/Albany run and usually took all day including an overnight stop. Two side note: the engine for the North River was built by another famous inventor who took an existing idea and made it practical – James Watt. Also, Fulton built a working submarine and called it the Nautilus.


The error: The US President that dealt with the Great Depression by asking employers to reduce profits and not lower wages, promoted public works programs, and creating the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was not Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Despite the fact that he started federal programs that were the precursor of the New Deal, President Herbert Hoover never really felt that the Depression would last as long as it did. Many people felt that Hoover was uncaring of the plight of the poor; however Hoover was independently wealthy before entering politics and gave all of his government checks to charity. He believed in charity as his work in Europe during and after World War I shows and when he became Secretary of Commerce in the United States he worked to foster ties between business and government to improve service throughout the nation. Herein lies the fundamental problem that Hoover had with dealing with the Depression; when the Great Depression hit, he counted on the generosity of all Americans to help the country through and unfortunately, he was sadly mistaken.

It’s interesting to note that in Barack Obama’s current handling of the Recession, he is more like Hoover than Roosevelt including counting on banks to increase loans (which they were hesitant to do for both Hoover and Obama) and running deficit spending (it was campaigning against deficit spending that helped Roosevelt win the presidency in 1932).


The error: Joan of Arc was not convicted of heresy.

Joan denied all of the heresy charges and she was never convicted of that crime despite the many traps the prosecution laid for her. During the trial, a prosecutor made a off-hand question and asked if it was true that she dressed like a man during battles. Seeing no harm in telling the truth, she replied yes and this was enough to seal her doom. This transvestism violated Deuteronomy 22:5 and was enough for the court to convict her of violating God’s Law and since that particular law carries a death penalty, she was burned at the stake.

Great care was made to give the appearance of a trial in accordance with canon law, but many aspects, including the official record, were fraudulent. Pope Callixtus III reopened the trail and she was exonerated and Bishop Pierre Cauchon castigated for using a religion court to settle a secular dispute.

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The error: In the Old Testament of The Bible, “Lucifer” does not refer to the fallen angel.

“Lucifer” (light-bearer)is a generic title referring to the morning star (Venus). As such, it has been used throughout history to refer to Satan, Christ, and others. With this in mind, Isaiah 14:12 starts out “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”. Taken as a separate verse, this appears to refer to the battle of angels – however, the PASSAGE starts at Isaiah 12:4 “Thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon” and towards the end is Isaiah 14:22 “For I will rise up against them saith the Lord of hosts, and cut of from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, Saith the Lord.” Thus Lucifer in the Old Testament refers to some unnamed Babylonian king.

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10 Crazy Myths About Illegal Drugs

Hysterical news stories already have a habit of spreading like a virus, but drug stories are some of the most pervasive. These legends take hold so quickly because they scare people and fear is infectious. However, the truth behind many of these stories is much different from what you hear. The dangers of drugs can be explained without fabrication and honesty is always the best policy. Join us below as we debunk some of the crazier myths about illegal drugs.

10 Krokodil And Flesh Rot

By now, you have probably already heard of a new drug called krokodil that is taking off in the Russian drug scene as a cheap replacement for heroin. According to reports, this drug is much more addictive than heroin and causes your flesh to literally rot off your skin, leading to your untimely demise. Some US news outlets have even claimed that this drug has shown up in the United States and the hysteria machine is now at full horsepower.

However, Krokodil is simply the street name for a drug that addicts are trying to make using codeine and household chemicals called desomorphine. You see, heroin is illegal in Russia, but codeine is sold over the counter, making it very easy to obtain. Many of the news reports seem to imply that the drug itself is responsible for the necrosis, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Desomorphine was patented in Switzerland back in the 1930s for pain relief and there is no evidence that it has ever caused people’s flesh to rot.

But people are getting flesh rot, right? So what’s causing it? It turns out that the process uses various household chemicals and most people don’t synthesize pure desomorphine. However, considering there is very little in the way of actual study done on the subject, it is hard to be certain that even that is truly the culprit. You see, Russia actually has no official needle exchanges and diseases like AIDS are constantly spread through this method. The cause of the necrosis could also have something to do with all of the dirty needles. It is also unlikely that the drug will become popular in the United States, as codeine is not available over the counter here and that convenience is the entire point of attempting desomorphine synthesis.

9 Drug Testing

Urine Specimen
If you are an employer and you want to make sure that someone is clean of drugs, the solution is extremely simple—just have them take a drug test. While sometimes the results are instantaneous and other times you need to send the test back to a lab, you will soon have your answers. Of course, if you are the prospective employee looking to prove your drug-free lifestyle, you can be guaranteed a clean slate. Many people are so convinced of the efficiency of modern drug tests that some US states have even passed laws requiring those receiving welfare benefits to take a drug test.

Unfortunately, it turns out that drug tests are often inaccurate. Researchers studying drug testing have found that results showed false positives as much as 10 percent of the time, with a similar number for false negatives. Eating even a small amount of poppy seeds can trigger a false positive, but many doctors have no idea this is even possible. They found also that cold medicines, allergy medications, antidepressants, some antibiotics, and even an HIV medication can result in false positives for illegal drug abuse. On the false negative side, many tests don’t cover every available drug, and oxycodone in particular is often missed completely.

8 The Dangers Of Crack


Many people are under the impression that the crack form of cocaine is much more dangerous than the powder variety. This myth likely got its start due to the draconian laws that made possessing crack much worse than possessing regular cocaine. For a long time, the law operated under a ratio of 100:1 in the United States. Essentially, what this meant was that if you got caught with crack, you would be punished as if you had possessed 100 times that amount in cocaine.

As it turns out, there isn’t any real difference between crack and regular cocaine beside the fact that crack is made to be smoked. You see, crack is actually not some ancient, evil substance that slithered up from the primordial depths to bring about the final downfall of humanity. It’s just a process involving baking soda, water, and heat that removes hydrochloride from the cocaine so that the final product will be easier to smoke from a pipe. We aren’t recommending the use of illegal drugs (that’s wrong) or suggesting that cocaine is particularly safe (it’s absolutely not), but the sentencing disparities seem disproportionate to the relative dangers of the drug’s two forms. Even after a recent law to bring an end to unfair sentencing, crack is still legally considered almost 20 times as bad as cocaine.

7 Dead Baby Stuffed

According to the legends, a couple were traveling by plane and brought their baby with him. However, after the plane had taken off, the flight attendant became increasingly suspicious that the baby didn’t do any of the loud, obnoxious, or smelly things that babies usually do. Upon arrival at their destination, these parents were met by law enforcement of some variety that decided to take a closer look at their baby. Upon investigating, the police found that the baby had its organs removed so it could be stuffed full of drugs like some gruesome piñata.

The story is sensational, disturbing, and highlights the darker side of man. These sorts of stories spread like wildfire and are very popular for those who wish to point out the evils of drug smuggling. Of course, it turns out that the story—which has seen many variations over the years—has absolutely no basis in reality. While occasionally some variation of the story appears in a legitimate news outlet, no incident of this kind has ever been verified, and the newspapers have not even been able to list the airport at which the event occurred. Worse yet, these stories are always reported as an anecdote offered by an unnamed member of law enforcement and never include details a journalist could independently verify.

6The Orange Juice Man

The story of the orange juice man has several different variations, but they are all very similar when it comes to the important details. The story goes that a man decided one day to buy an entire sheet of LSD on blotter paper for some unknown reason. Some stories say he then ran through a sprinkler, others say he was thrown in a pool, and some stories suggest he simply got really sweaty. Regardless of the details, the idea is that all of the LSD was absorbed through his skin and he thereafter decided that he was actually a glass of orange juice. Since then, the man has been afraid that he will spill, be drunk, or be peeled by someone if he doesn’t watch out and is now permanently insane.

While LSD can certainly make you think insane things while you are tripping, there is no evidence whatsoever that it can make you permanently crazy because you took too much one time. It should also be noted that, as a scare story, it is not very effective. No LSD user could possibly relate to this tale, because they aren’t going to be walking around with a sheet of acid in their pocket. As for the orange juice man, there has been no evidence to suggest that such a thing ever happened.

5 MDMA Brain Holes

According to anti-drug campaigns, MDMA—known on the streets as ecstasy—will put holes in your brain. A study published about a decade ago involving monkeys supposedly proved that ecstasy could do serious, permanent damage to your brain after just one night of use.

However, it turns out that the study was not only flawed, but actually had to be completely thrown out. Only recently, the Dr. Ricaurte who performed the study reported that he hadn’t used ecstasy at all, but had somehow accidentally given the monkeys methamphetamine. This mix-up of the good doctor’s not only caused his MDMA study to be disregarded, but ruined four other projects as well. It turns out that Dr. Ricaurte has a history of doing research that shows pretty much any drug to be extremely dangerous and has even been criticized by his allies for being “sloppy.”

4 Bath Salts Make People Cannibals

Not long ago in Florida, a man went full zombie and tried to eat another man’s face while on a bath-salt-fueled rampage. This led to a media outcry of bath salts as the most dangerous new designer drug and many reports of bath salt madness across the country.

It turned out, however, that the only drug the face eater had in his system was marijuana, and the reason he attacked the other man was simply because he was insane. The truth is, there is no evidence that bath salts make people psychotic. Bath salts are just synthetic stimulants and some people have described the high as similar to ecstasy. This drug hardly lives up to the hype.

3 The DEA Taunts Drug Users

Policeman with a german shepherd on a training.
Back in 2002, many people were telling a story that the DEA had put up billboards around the country stating “If you think it’s dry now, wait till next month,” supposedly in reference to a shortage in the marijuana supply. The message was that the DEA was planning to crack down much harder on weed and was taunting the users beforehand.

However, it turns out that this story seemed to circulate whenever the marijuana supply was low in general and seemed to crop up when summers were especially hot. Of course, none of these billboards ever existed. Why would a law enforcement agency tip their hand by publicly announcing plans for a massive crackdown?

2 Drink Spiking

Man Drugging Woman's Drink In Bar
One of the most commonly held beliefs is that if you are at a bar—especially if you are a woman—you should guard your drink religiously. The reason for this is, of course, that someone might slip a date rape drug such as rohpynol into your drink and take advantage of you. Many people are convinced that this is a common occurrence, and many strategies have been put together to keep drinks guarded.

Before we go on, we want to make clear that we are not implying that date rape doesn’t happen or that taking advantage of someone in an altered state, by whatever means, is okay. That said, a study of 200 students at Kent University (UK) found that many students who claimed that a date rape drug had been responsible for their problems had actually just been drinking alcohol. Furthermore, an Australian study cataloged almost 100 people who went to a hospital claiming they had their drinks spiked over a 19-month period. The study concluded that not a single one of these people had actually been on any drug besides alcohol. It turns out that many people don’t realize just how incapacitating alcohol can be and don’t realize the danger it can put them in.

1 Bananadine

According to the story, you can get high using bananas, but you have to follow a fairly complicated process. First, you need 7 kilograms (15 lbs) of bananas, and then you need to peel them and scrape off the insides. You are then supposed to take the scrapings and boil it for several hours, put this nasty mixture on a cookie sheet, and bake it in the oven for a while. Once you are finished, smoking the resulting concoction will get you high.

This recipe for “bananadine” first appeared in The Anarchist Cookbook. It was a silly joke and bananas certainly don’t have any ability to get you high. The author of The Anarchist Cookbook, William Powell, wrote the book at a time in his young life when he was very angry at the world around him, and years later, he wanted the book to be done away with. Since he was essentially told to go pound sand because the publisher owns the copyright, we can probably look forward to idiots smoking bananas for years to come.

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10 Common English Language Errors

Because English is such a complex language, it is fraught with traps that we all frequently fall into. With this list I hope to clear up at least a few of the confusing words we use every day. This is a list of some of the more common errors people make with English.


1. Practice / Practise

In US English, practice is used as either a verb (doing word), or noun (naming word). Hence, a doctor has a practice, and a person practices the violin. In UK english, practice is a noun, and practise is a verb. A doctor has a practice, but his daughter practises the piano.

2. Bought / Brought

Bought relates to buying something. Brought relates to bringing something. For example, I bought a bottle of wine which had been brought over from France. The easy way to remember which is which is that bring start with ‘br’ and brought also does. Buy and bought start with ‘b’ only. This is one of those difficult ones that a spelling checker won’t catch.

3. Your / You’re

Your means “belonging to you”. You’re means “you are”. The simplest way to work out the correct one to use is to read out your sentence. For example, if you say “you’re jeans look nice” expand the apostrophe. The expanded sentence would read “you are jeans look nice” – obviously nonsensical. Remember, in English, the apostrophe often denotes an abbreviation.

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4. Its / It’s

As in the case above, the apostrophe denotes an abbreviation: it’s = it is. Its means “belongs to it”. The confusion arises here because we also use an apostrophe in English to denote possession – except in this case; if you want to say “the cat’s bag” you say “its bag” not “it’s bag”. “It’s” always means “it is” or “it has”. “It’s a hot day.” “it’s been fun seeing you.”

5. Two / To / Too

With a ‘w’ it means the number 2. With one ‘o’ it refers to direction: ‘to France’. With two ‘o’s it means “also” or refers to quantity – for example: “There is too much money”. A good way to remember this one is that too has two ‘o’s – ie, it has more ‘o’s than ‘to’ – therefore it refers to quantity.

6. Desert / Dessert

This is a confusing one because in English an ‘s’ on its own is frequently pronounced like a ‘z’ and two ‘s’s are usually pronounced as a n ‘s’ (for example: prise, prissy). In this case, desert follow the rule – it means a large stretch of sand. However, dessert is pronounced “dez-urt” with the emphasis on the second syllable – ie, something we eat as part of our meal. To make matters worse, when a person leaves the army without permission, it is spelt desert. So, let’s sum up:

desert (pronounced dez’-it): dry land
desert (pronounced dez-urt’): abandon
dessert (pronounced dez-urt’): yum yum! – remember, two ‘s’s because you want second helpings!

Oh – one more thing – another very common mistake is using the word dessert (two ‘s’s) to mean pudding – pudding is a sweet course, often consisting of some kind of cake or icecream. Dessert is fruit or cheese – normally taken after the pudding course.

7. Dryer / Drier

If your clothes are wet, put them in a clothes dryer. That will make them drier. A hair dryer also makes hair drier.


8. Chose / Choose

This is actually quite an easy one to remember – in English we generally pronounce ‘oo’ as it is written – such as “moo”. The same rule applies here: choose is pronounced as it is written (with a ‘z’ sound for the ‘s’) – and chose is said like “nose”. Therefore, if you had to choose to visit Timbuktu, chances are you chose to fly there. Chose is the past tense, choose is the present tense.

9. Lose / Loose

This one is confusing. In this case, contrary to normal rules of English, the single ‘s’ in loose is pronounced like an ‘s’ – as in wearing trousers that are too loose. Lose on the other hand, relates to loss – for example: “I hope we don’t lose this game”. A good way to remember this is that in the word “lose” you have lost the second ‘o’ from loose. If you can’t remember a rule that simple, you are a loser!

10. Literally

This one is not only often used in error, it is incredibly annoying when it is used in the wrong way. Literally means “it really happened” – therefore, unless you live on a parallel universe with different rules of physics, you can not say “he literally flew out the door”. Saying someone “flew out the door” is speaking figuratively – you could say “he figuratively flew out the door” but figuratively is generally implied when you describe something impossible. Literally can only be used in the case of facts – for example: he literally exploded after swallowing the grenade. If he did, indeed, swallow the grenade and explode – that last sentence is perfectly correct. It would not be correct to say “she annoyed him and he literally exploded” unless she is Wonder Woman and her anger can cause people to blow up.

Bonus: I could care less

I have to add this one as a bonus because it is one I especially hate. When you say “I could care less” you are saying “I care a little so I could care less”. Most people when using this horrific sentence mean to say “I couldn’t care less” which means “I care so little I could not care less”.

Bonus 2: Ironic

Isn’t it ironic? Actually, no, most of the time it is not. Irony, in its true form, is when you state something to a person who does not understand what you truly mean, but another person does. Essentially, it makes the hearer the brunt of the joke without their being aware of it. This is called dramatic or tragic irony because it originated on the stage where the audience knew what was happening but the victim on stage did not. The most sustained example of dramatic irony is undoubtedly Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus searches to find the murderer of the former king of Thebes, only to discover that it is himself, a fact the audience has known all along.

Another form of irony is Socratic irony, in which the person pretends to be ignorant of a subject in order to truly show the ignorance of the person with whom he is arguing.

Unfortunately, poor Alanis Morissette had no clue when she said “it’s a free ride when you’ve already paid” or “it’s like rain on your wedding day”. This is not irony – it is misfortune or coincidence.

To sum it up, basically Irony is a figure of speech in which what is stated is not what is meant. Sarcasm can be a type of Irony.

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