'Everyone Says It So It Must Be True': The Pseudoscience Quiz

Staff

True or false: Scientists have proven that childhood vaccines cause autism.

There is no proven link between vaccines and autism. A study published in 1998 by the British medical journal, The Lancet, purported to show such a link. It was later found to be false and deceptive, and was retracted by the publication.

True or false: Non-avian dinosaurs and humans lived on Earth at the same time.

The fossil record shows a gap of about 65 million years between the last non-avian dinosaurs and the Homo genus to which humans belong. Avian dinosaurs (aka birds) and humans live alongside one another.

True or false: You lose most of your body heat through your head.

Actually, you lose just as much heat per square inch through your head as you do through the rest of your body. Keeping any part of your body warm on a cold day is as likely to retain heat as keeping any other part of your body warm.

True or false: A scientific theory is really just speculation without hard evidence.

To scientists, a theory is an explanation for something that's backed by evidence-based research and can be used to make accurate predictions. For example, you're probably familiar with Einstein's theory of general relativity.

When Christopher Columbus left to sail the ocean blue, did everyone believe the world was flat?

Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician, calculated that the world (and moon) were very likely spherical around 500 BCE. Members of 15th century society who were raised with a strong science-driven education were aware that the world was round.

Does lightning ever strike the same place twice?

Lightning often strikes the same tall trees or buildings repeatedly. Sometimes, an object will be struck multiple times during the course of a single storm.

What color is your brain?

People often refer to their brains as "gray matter." However, our brains (as long as we're alive) are actually gray, white, black and red.

What color is the blood inside your veins?

Your blood is always red, although it can appear darker or lighter depending on a number of things. Your veins look blue because subcutaneous fat only allows blue light to penetrate your skin at the depth of your veins.

Should you throw away food that you drop on the floor?

A 2012 British study revealed that it was nearly impossible for bacteria to survive on the surface of foods with a high sugar or salt content. This is why sugar and salt have been used to preserve food throughout history.

Can brain cells regenerate?

Despite the common belief that brain cells are irreplaceable, a study from 1999 showed that the brain can regenerate certain types of brain cells.

What is the difference between a hypothesis and a theory?

Hypotheses are testable statements that offer a potential answer to a question. If enough evidence supports a specific hypothesis, it then becomes a theory. A theory is how we frame facts about something. Theories are subject to change based on new evidence.

Did humans evolve from the ape species we see on earth today?

Humans and modern apes both evolved from a common ancestor, but people did not descend directly from modern-day apes.

True or false: If an error occurs during an experiment, the results are worthless.

In science, an experimental error isn't necessarily synonymous with a mistake. For example, the term could refer to a statistical or systematic error. If that's the case, scientists can account for the error when they write up the results.

Is the Great Wall of China visible from space?

According to NASA's website, many man-made objects (such as city lights) are often visible from space, but the Great Wall usually isn't.

If a penny fell from the top of the Empire State Building and hit a person on the ground, what would happen to that person?

A penny would not seriously injure a person on the ground due to its small mass and inability to pick up great speed. Nevertheless, it would still hurt if it landed on you.

True or false: Astronauts are weightless when they orbit Earth.

Surprisingly, at 250 miles above Earth, gravity is only reduced by 10 percent. When astronauts appear to float in orbit, they're actually falling, but due to the speed they're traveling (and the laws of physics!) they seem to be weightless.

What happens to hair when it regrows after you shave it?

Studies show that shaving or cutting hair doesn't affect either its thickness or its rate of growth. The cross-section of freshly cut hair appears darker because it's thicker than the ends of each hair.

When a tornado is coming, what should you do to your house?

In a tornado, opening the windows actually makes the inside of the house more vulnerable to the wind's force. So keep them closed and take shelter in a basement or innermost room of your home.

Was the ancient Maya civilization destroyed by climate change?

There is evidence that climate change helped to cause the decline of Maya civilization, but it wasn't the only factor. Overpopulation, disease and constant warfare played their parts, as well.

What is the Many Worlds Interpretation?

The Many Worlds Interpretation was a hypothesis developed by theoretical physicist Hugh Everett in the 1950s. It offers the idea that multiple parallel universes exist simultaneously to reconcile conflicts between quantum physics and observable phenomena stemming from issues with 'randomness' and 'action at a distance.'

True or false: A gluten-free diet is more nutritious.

Actually, gluten-free foods often contain a lot of sugar and few nutrients. Only people who have Celiac disease, which is autoimmune, are unable to process gluten.

True or false: Fossil fuels, burned by humans, don’t actually increase the amount of carbon on Earth.

Burning fossil fuels puts more carbon into the atmosphere, but the total amount on Earth remains the same. Carbon exists in the air, water, earth and all living things.

If you're standing at the equator, do you move faster or slower than someone to the north or south?

The Earth's spin is fastest at the equator--roughly 1,650 km/hr. If you were standing closer to the North Pole, you'd spin at roughly 830 km/hr.

Stars twinkle because:

As light from a star moves through the Earth's atmosphere, it travels through air turbulence. We interpret this as twinkling.

What is the brightest star in the sky?

People think it's Polaris (the North Star), but Sirius (the Dog Star) is actually the brightest. In fact, it's almost twice as bright as the second brightest star, Canopus.

What causes the seasons?

The earth's axial tilt causes the change of seasons. It also accounts for tremendously long, dark winter days and long, sun-filled summer days at both poles.

Diamonds are formed from what substance?

Diamonds form deep in the Earth from a pure form of carbon called graphite. It takes immense heat and pressure to turn graphite into diamonds.

What percent of your brain do you actually use?

Humans use virtually every part of their brain, and most of it is continually active. Not only do we use our entire brain, but it has the ability to readjust certain circuits in response to tissue trauma.

Antarctica's ice sheet is changing in what way?

The Antarctic ice cover is melting quite rapidly. The loss of ice has tripled since 2012.

When plastic trash is thrown into the ocean, what happens to it?

Plastic refuse becomes part of giant floating garbage "gyres" in the ocean. Many marine animals eat small pieces of plastic when they mistake them for food.

What influences the direction of a toilet flushing?

The Earth's spin influences the directions of things like huge weather systems. However, when it comes to something as little as a toilet, the toilet itself gets the credit.

True or false: The Moon has a dark side.

You're thinking of what's known as 'the far side' off the Moon. The Moon and the Earth are in something called a 'tidal lock' which means we only ever see one side of the moon. However, the side we don't see gets equal sun exposure during a lunar day.

True or false: The hole in the ozone layer and global warming are two completely different things.

Although there are some connections between the hole in the ozone layer and global warming, these are two completely different things. Neither of them is the primary cause of the other.

True of false: The more someone's brain weighs, the smarter they are.

Intelligence is unrelated to the relative size and weight of a person's brain. The practice of measuring a person's brain case (craniometry) was debunked as a racially-informed pseudoscience.

In a fusion reaction, what do hydrogen atoms combine to form?

In nuclear fusion, hydrogen atoms combine to form helium. It occurs naturally in all stars, including our sun.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

You don't have to know what the Krebs Cycle is in order to be successful in life, but your ability to discern fact from fiction in the field of sciences can have a real impact on your quality of life. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why belief in pseudoscience is on the rise.

Whether it's false information filling our social media feeds or shady profiteers selling the latest too-good-to-be-true products, it can be easy to fall for pseudoscience that is packaged well. You've probably fallen for a few of these fictitious scientific-sounding concepts already!

There's also the "backfire effect." Believe it or not, presenting people with facts that contradict their preferred, albeit incorrect, beliefs actually causes them to dig in deeper when defending their ideas about the world. People respond with knee-jerk reactions based on emotions rather than consider that they could be wrong.

Is there any help for this conundrum? Will we ever dig our way out of this pseudoscience hole? Be part of the solution -- take our quiz now!

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!