Posts Tagged ‘Urban Math Myth’


1. The Popeye Myth

July 9, 2013

The Popeye Myth is that spinach contains lots of iron.

According to Brainpickings website

pic 1 popeye1

Back in 1870, Erich Von Wolf , a German chemist, examined the amount of iron within spinach, among many other green vegetables. In recording his findings, he accidentally misplaced a decimal point when transcribing data from his notebook, changing the iron content in spinach from 3.5 milligrams of iron in a 100-gram serving of spinach, to 35 milligrams.  It was corrected in 1937, but too late the myth was well established.

popeye 2

This study inspired the Popeye Cartoon character who gets  colossal strength eating cans of spinach.

Unfortunately, it was just a maths blooper. The good news is that:

Popeye Myth Busted.

Girl making face at spinach

Spinach does not have that much more iron than other vegetables.


5. It takes 43 muscles to frown and only 17 to smile

July 9, 2013

Can’t those scientists count?

baby laugh…….grin…….pic 9 smile.……

According to Shamini Bundell on Null Hypothesis

baby frown 2..angry babuy.pic 8 frown..

….Various experts have tried counting the muscles involved. Mainly they argue over how to define a smile and a frown and come up with different answers.

Either way most of the numbers quoted at you by irritatingly cheerful people are entirely made up.

As Shamini noted “It takes 37 muscles to frown and 22 to smile, but it only takes 4 to reach out and punch someone in the face.”

43 muscles to smile myth and nose busted.


6. Hiccup Cure 1: Counting backwards from 100

July 9, 2013

One hiccup cure involves counting backwards from 100.

That’s maths folks! And maths seems a less painful cure than poking yourself in the eyes, drinking water with your nose blocked, drinking water through your nose or putting your fingers in your ears.
hiccup 21

An extensive post on Wiki How notes:

hiccup 8
‘Interestingly, some of these folk remedies are on the correct path by having at least some basis in the science of the hiccup and singultus. With home remedies, the methods that attempt to relax or stimulate the diaphragm tend to be the most effective.’

hiccup 15

Counting backwards from 100 hiccup Cure

not so much busted as

being as good as any other folk remedy.


8. You’re never more than 6ft away from a rat

July 9, 2013

This is obviously ridiculous from your own experience. If you stand in the middle of a road or in the middle of a basketball or tennis court or football field and you don’t see a rat as in a rodent then you disprove the myth.

According to Animal Planet:

pic 14 ratCool rat, man!

Many rodent-related myths focus on how many rats exist per capita in any given metropolis — often on par with the human population — but that’s pure farce.

It stems in large part from a coincidental study conducted in the early 1900s, which vaguely pegged England’s rat population at about 40 million — or 1 acre of cultivated land per rat. Since at the time approximately 40 million people lived in England, people have long equated these two unrelated statistics to infer that modern cities contain equal numbers of rats and people.

In other words, this myth has hung around for over 100 years!

pic 15 rat

Rat Myth Busted

Could this be 6 fleas of separation?


9 The Memory of a Gold Fish is 3 Seconds

July 9, 2013

pic 16 goldfish

According to the ABC news this myth was busted by a 15 year old Adelaide school boy named Rory Stokes. He fed his goldfish near a Red Lego brick . The fish started anticipatiing food near the brick. He took it away and replaced it several weeks later. The fish remembered the red brick!!! More here.

pic 17


The Memory of a Gold Fish is 3 Seconds Myth Busted


10. 6 degrees of separation

July 9, 2013

You are, according to mathematicians, 1 degree of separation away from anyone you know. Then two degrees from people they know and son on.

Professor of mathematics Jason Brown explained in the Chronicle Herald, California, how the 6 degrees of separation theory works:

pic 19 holding_hands_six

 For example, suppose that you are or have been acquainted with, say, 400 people. Each of those may know 400 others, giving rise to about 400 times 400, or 160,000 people, you may know in two steps.

Again if each of those individuals knows 400 people, you would only be three steps away from about 400 times 160,000, or 64 million people, and so on.

This is exponential growth.

Assuming we each know 400 people.

x = total number of people involved.

n = degrees of separation


x = 400n

If n = 6

x = 4006

x = 4 x 1015

As the population of the earth is only 7 Billion or 7 x 109, it seems likely that we can be linked to anyone else on earth in less than 6 degrees of separation, 4 maybe.

 pic 18sixdegsep

6 degrees of separation Myth busted.



Here is an awesome Middle School Maths PDF from PBS MATHONLINE based on Rumours.

It is an excellent introduction to exponential functions.