Oxygen Causing Cancer to Spread

Have you ever heard that when someone who has cancer and goes in for surgery that as soon as the oxygen hits the tumor, the cancer spreads like a wildfire? For years I thought this was true. I have heard my parents, teachers and people I thought of as authority figures spew this claim out throughout the years. Well, today at work I was talking to my boss about her mother who has recently died from lung cancer when she said “I wonder if the cancer spread when they opened her up?” I instantly questioned if this is true, because if you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense. I mean if oxygen cause cancer to metastasize wouldn’t something like simple breathing do the same thing?

So, after some research I am happy to report that this is just a common cancer myth. The real reason cancer spreads is because the cancer cells get into the blood stream and travel to other parts of the body where they lodge and start growing. Although the origins of this myth are unknown, it may stem from when a patient undergoes surgery for cancer and later dies because the cancer has spread. Because an individual has had surgery friends and family usually become optimistic. When they find out the cancer spread, people tend to grasp for meaning and causality. They come to the conclusion that the surgery was the cause of the cancer spreading. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is plenty of published scientific data that supports surgery as the treatment with the best cure rate. Also surgeons may leave microscopic cancer cells which can cause cancerous tumors to grow rapidly, which could also lead one to believe that when the cancer hit the air, it spread.

So cancer can/does spread in some instances, before surgeries and after surgeries. But it has nothing to do with the cancer being exposed to oxygen when surgery is being performed.





Hemispheres and Toilet Drains

One of my favorite things to read about is so-called “mythinformation.”  That is, commonly held beliefs that are actually false.  It is the subject of this blog, after all.  While I  thoroughly enjoy reading new pieces of information that fit into this category, I get an even greater joy out of discovering something that I myself have long believed that is actually not true.  Today’s topic covers one such instance.

How many of you reading this have heard of the Coriolis force, or Coriolis effect?*  It’s okay if you haven’t.  Up until a relatively short time ago I hadn’t either.  Though you may not recognize the scientific sounding names, you’ll probably be familiar with the effect they are said to create.

First, a definition.  The Coriolis force, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, is “an effect whereby a mass moving in a rotating system experiences a force (the Coriolis force) acting perpendicular to the direction of motion and to the axis of rotation.”  It continues, “On the earth, the effect tends to deflect moving objects to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern…”

While this force is important in the formation of cyclonic weather systems, it is also pointed to as the cause for toilet and sink drains in the Southern Hemisphere draining clockwise, while drains in the Northern Hemisphere spiral counter-clockwise.

The problem?  That is simply not true!  It’s a classic case of mythinformation.  The truth is the Coriolis effect has nothing to do with how sinks and toilets drain because the direction water spirals down in sinks and toilets is determined not by gravitational pulls, what Hemisphere you happen to live on, or anything of the sort.  Instead, it is determined by plain old ordinary structural conditions.

In their textbook, “The Atmosphere:  An Introduction to Meteorology,” authors Lutgens, Tarbuck, and Tasa (2006) write, “…a cyclone is more than 1000 kilometers in diameter and may exist for several days.  By contrast, a typical sink is less than a meter in diameter and drains in a matter of seconds.  On this scale, the Coriolis effect is miniscule.”  It’s the shape and how level your sink, toilet, etc. is that causes the direction of the water drainage, not your position on the globe!**

I thought about this myself and concluded that, if this is true, the sinks and toilets in my house might just drain differently from one another.  And, if they did, the idea of water drainage being affected by the Coriolis force would be, well, flushed right down the drain.

So, that’s exactly what I did and, wouldn’t you know it, that is precisely what happened.  I filled two sinks and flushed two toilets.  While the toilets each flushed in a counter-clockwise spiral, the sinks did the exact opposite; draining in a clockwise manner.  How foolish of me that, for years, I believed in the effect of the Hemispheres on our drains while concrete evidence to the contrary was there in front of me all along.  But, at the same time, how satisfying to know the truth!

It is the moment of enlightenment that I had myself regarding this issue that I hope to bring to you with some of the posts on this blog from time to time.  A simple instance of time where you stop and realize, “Everything I thought I knew was wrong…and it’s awesome!”  If you’re anything like me you’ll sit quietly for a moment, smile, and think, “Science sure is amazing.”

And guess what?  You’d be right.




Christopher Columbus and the Round Earth

When I’ve asked people who it was the figured out the Earth is round, I’ve gotten a few different answers.  Some have said Galileo.  Others, still, think it was Magellan.  But the answer I get most frequently; indeed, the one that seems to be the most commonly held belief, is that it was another explorer; perhaps the most famous of them all: Christopher Columbus.*

Doing a quick Google search, the reasons for this answer seem to fall along a pretty straightforward path:  Columbus proved the Earth was round when he didn’t fall off of it during his journey to the New World.*  But the truth is that Columbus knew the world was round because it had been pretty common knowledge for well over a thousand years by that point.

In fact, many men who lived long before Columbus had used various ways to prove the Earth was round.  Famed philosophers and mathematicians, like Pythagoras and Aristotle, for instance, had made observations to this effect years before even Christ is said to have been born; in some cases many hundreds of years beforehand!*

The interesting thing is where exactly this myth came from:  a work by one of our most famous American storytellers, Washington Irving!  Irving, of course, is noteworthy for having written such classics of literature as “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  But it was his biographical account of Columbus, “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus,” published in 1828, that the myth seems to have first appeared.  Before this time, writes Jeffrey Burton Russell, historian and religious studies scholar, no one believed that medieval people thought the Earth was flat.*

In “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” a paper which summarizes his book, “Inventing the Flat Earth:  Columbus and Modern Historians,” Russell writes that “This vast web of falsehood was invented and (then) propagated by the influential historian John Draper (1811-1882) and many prestigious followers, such as Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the president of Cornell University, who made sure that the false account was perpetrated in texts, encyclopedias, and even allegedly serious scholarship, down to the present day.”

Surely, a true testament of the power of the media to not only entertain, but also to deceive.






Humans Only Use 100% of their Brain

Working in the paranormal field I talk to a lot of people who hold stock in psychics and/or PSI phenomena. When questioning individuals who hold such beliefs (and I know there are many who believe this and have no interest in the paranormal) on how psychics are performing this paranormal feat, they more often than not respond with:

“Well, perhaps they are using or unlocking parts of the brain others cannot access”.

Intrigued, I shoot them another question and a smirk. “What do you mean?”

They tend to reply something to the effect of “We know humans only use 10 percent of the brain, maybe they are tapping into the other 90percent.”

I have heard this time and time again, from people who believe they possess psychic powers to the people who believe (or are deceived by) it. This ‘10 percent of our brains’ misconception is 100 percent complete bullshit. There is absolutely no scientific data or evidence that supports and or suggests that human beings only use 10 percent of the brain. As a matter of fact, can you guess how much of the brain we do use? All 100 percent of it!

Author (and just an all around amazing fellow) Ben Radford has written on this very topic. Radford states that this argument that psychic powers come from untapped part of the brain is a logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance. In this logical fallacy, something has to be either true or false merely because it has not been proven or refuted. So basically, even if 90 percent of the brain is untapped by most humans, it doesn’t mean that being able to use any of that 90 percent would give anyone psychic powers (or any other paranormal mental powers).

Now although humans may not use 100 percent of their brain at once, it is important to know and understand different actions may require different parts of the brain to react. However, not using all the brain at once and only using 10 percent as a whole are two totally different things. Where did the idea of humans only using 10 percent of the brain come from?

I have been able to find very little information as to where the origins of this myth come from, but there seems to be quite a bit of speculation. One idea that may have fueled this myth is that less than 10 percent of the cells in the brain are nerve cells, called neurons, the rest of these cells are called glial cells. To sum it up, neurons are cells that have the function of receiving and transmitting the neural impulses and glial cells are the cells that support, feed and insulate the neurons. Another possible origin of the myth comes from Albert Einstein when he told a reporter that his brilliance came from using more than 10 percent of his brain.

So we may not know the exact origin of the myth. But just because we don’t know where the myth came from doesn’t refute the fact that humans do use 100 percent of their brain. So please, next time a psychic or person claiming to have any type of PSI powers, tries to use the 10 percent myth as an explanation, be sure to respectfully correct them and ask them to try a different explanation. Take care.