Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Ten Common Misconceptions

with 5 comments

Vikings did not wear horns on their helmets. Think about wearing such a helmet. Think about drawing the arm back to strike a blow in battle.

Yes, Coral Snakes have deadly venom. They are however a shy rear-fanged snake that doesn’t bite in defence. And even if it does bite, it would have to be allowed to chew for a while for the rear fangs to work. The one known Coral Snake death is believed to be suicide.

The vomitorium was the exit from the Colosseum, not a place to go vomit. Some rich Romans did binge and purge. They were considered as disgusting then as they would be now. Though in Rome if the binging person was of high social rank and thin skinned, one had best hide their disgust with great skill.

How bumblebees fly is quite well understood. Some early calculations in the 1930s came to the conclusion that they couldn’t fly, but were quickly corrected. Yet in the popular parlance one still runs across the idea that science can’t explain how bumblebees fly, I repeated it myself  for years.

Late medieval plate armour allowed full range of movement and weighed less than a modern infantryman’s gear. Knights could and easily did get on horseback without aid. It was also essentially impervious to piercing and slashing weapons … so for the most part the armoured knight carried some sort of hammer into battle, specially designed to damage plate armour. Another romantic historical image trashed, the hammer in the stone doesn’t have quite the same zing.

No correlation has been found between eating before swimming and cramps or drowning. So eat away before jumping into the pool. However, a significant correlation has been found between drinking alcohol and drowning. Remember: Drinking and diving don’t mix.

Napoleon wasn’t short, in fact he was a little above average for his time. His nickname, “The Little Corporal” was a sign of affection, not of his height. He also stuck his hand in his waistcoat because that was a common portrait pose at the time, nothing more.

 The Lunar Effect is not real, numerous large studies have found no correlation between full Moons and crime, hospital admissions, psychiatric admissions, etc. If someone is sure they have seen such correlations in their life, they are experiencing confirmation bias.

Stalin did not kill more people than Hitler, his death toll was exaggerated during the Cold War. (Guess why.) It’s now believed Stalin killed between 4-5 million civilians. (The gulag system was horrible, but they were not death camps, most inmates served their time and were released.) Hitler killed between 10-12 million civilians.

Nero didn’t fiddle while Rome burned. He rushed to Rome, personally participated in rescue efforts, sometimes even without his bodyguard, opened his palace to house the homeless, and financed food and relief efforts.  And he directed that the burned areas be rebuilt so that they were not so vulnerable to fire. Caligula on the other hand, really was a sick bastard.

(The above image is being used legally, it is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Credit and copyright: John Erling Blad. It’s the only known complete Viking helmet in existence, it’s called the Gjermundbu helmet, because it as excavated on a farm called Gjermundbu.

5 Responses

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  1. Although it’s true Nero wasn’t serenading Rome with a fiddle while she burned, simply because the Violin had yet to be invented, he was a struggling and frustrated musician. He fancied himself a bit of an artist and was a Lyre player and vocalist. Perhaps his excesses could be explained by his artistic frustration, from what I’ve read, he was of marginal talent and would force the captive audience of the Imperial Court to listen to his latest crap. Woe be to those who withheld applause and the critics of Rome, for I’m sure they met the Praetorian Guard.

    Clifton Reed

    July 23, 2012 at 7:35 am

  2. I liked your post. On the same topic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions

    Rob

    July 23, 2012 at 8:34 am

  3. I have to disagree about Stalin not killing more than 4-5 million people, the number of people in the countries surrounding Russia that he killed, like the Ukrainian famine, alone amount to far more than that.
    Wherever you read it from, it was probably made up by some diehard communist.

    Bilal

    July 25, 2012 at 1:25 am

  4. Misconceptions corrected in no particular order; Nero had Rome burned so he could take the land for a huge Villa. Romans wrecked it after he died but rooms are still being found…
    Stalin destroyed the Ukraine through famine, and a quick scan through Solzihietzin’s “Gulag Archepellago” would probably change your mind about conditions in Gulags. ( For what its worth though, Chairman Mao is the heavyweight champion murderer of all time, easily killing more than Stalin and Hitler combined, maybe twice that).
    Lunar effect? You obviously dont fish much, or interact with women on a daily basis…
    I believe 9 of the 10 most deadly snakes in the world live in Australia. Corals arent even close.
    Nobody will read this anyway

    Steve

    July 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm


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