True/False looks at commmonly held beliefs with a scientific mindset and tries to find out if they are, well, true or false. Sometimes the answer is clear, sometimes things are quite murky, and there are often some surprises.

Most popular

  • The seventh wave is always a big one: true or false?

    It isn’t encouraging that the relevant research starts off calling this the myth of the seventh wave. Certainly you will be disappointed if you go down to the beach and expect every seventh wave to be, like clockwork, bigger than all the rest. But while the magic number seven is all washed up, the idea of regular patterns in waves has better prospects. Continue reading.
  • No man is shorter than his mother: true or false?

    Jenny Chisholm doesn’t mention whether she has a particular man and his mother in mind but she wonders about the truth of this. We’re well conditioned to expect a boy to outgrow his mother, and it’s probably even the usual result, but it isn’t a foregone conclusion. Continue reading.
  • Ants won’t cross a chalk line: true or false?

    Could chalk really be the velvet rope of the ant world? You can’t help feeling someone has just got ants mixed up with demons. In general, a chalk line won’t keep ants out, even if it is part of a pentagram and you stand inside it intoning words of great magick (as the kool kids are calling it now). Continue reading.
  • Fish never stop growing: true or false?

    Peter Corrigan wonders whether fish keep growing throughout their lives, and — if so — whether they are the only animals to do this. The short answer is yes they do and no they aren’t, but there is a little more to it than that. Continue reading.
  • Grape seeds cause appendicitis: true or false?

    I’m sure I’m not the only one to have wasted the odd youthful hour worrying about the consequences after swallowing a fruit seed. While my concerns centred on unrealistic (though alarming) scenarios such as finding a sapling inching its way up my throat, Linda Caradus has queried a more reasonable fear, that of appendicitis. Continue reading.
  • Polar bears cover their noses while hunting: true or false?

    Polar bears really are very well camouflaged for their wintry habitat — except for that black snout. Their solution, according to oral traditions of local hunters, as well as occasional reports from outsiders, is to cover it with a paw while hunting. A nifty idea, but also rather dubious. Continue reading.
  • Male-pattern baldness comes from the mother’s side: true or false?

    Feeling a little light up top? Or perhaps just concerned that it’s only a matter of time until you or a loved one does? Maybe you’ve heard that male-pattern baldness comes from the mother’s side and you’ve been viewing dear old gramps and his bald pate in a new and dreadful light. Continue reading.
  • A tipped cow can’t stand up: true or false?

    Rose Byron wonders whether pushing over a sleeping cow will kill it because it can’t get back up. For those familiar with the bucolic American pastime of cow tipping, the answer makes all the difference between a prank and a slow cruel death. Fortunately no tipped cows have ever been harmed, mainly because no cows have ever been tipped. Continue reading.

Or try these...

  • Rice can make birds explode: true or false?

    I suppose you can’t blame couples who ban the throwing of rice on their happy day. There are enough opportunities for catastrophe without the possibility of the doves exploding ten minutes after they are released. A nightmare scenario for any bride and groom, but one that is confined to the dream world. Continue reading.
  • Bats are blind: true or false?

    Just how blind are you if someone claims you’re as blind as a bat? This isn’t an easy question to answer. You’d better start by asking your accuser to be more specific. There are hundreds of species of bat. Some eat insects, others fruit, still others go for small animals, or birds, or nectar, or blood. Continue reading.
  • No two snowflakes are alike: true or false?

    This is a bold statement to be coming from scientists, usually world-champion hedgers. Snow is not a well understood phenomenon but, in a funny way, it is our ignorance — or rather the reason for our ignorance — which makes this claim such a good bet. Continue reading.
  • Green potatoes are poisonous: true or false?

    Whether fried, boiled, roasted or baked few foods seem so innocent as the potato. Let’s face it, potatoes are pretty bland, but beneath that mild-mannered exterior lurks the heart of a killer. Under the right conditions potatoes can be quite poisonous. This will seem less surprising if you know anything about the humble spud’s relations. Continue reading.
  • Teflon is bad for you: true or false?

    There you were smugly avoiding that whole trans-fat hornets’ nest by using non-stick pots and pans. And then someone tells you that Teflon, the miracle stuff that coats them all, is bad for you. Relax: you haven’t traded one early death for another. Teflon is not poisonous — as long as it’s used properly. Continue reading.
  • Women who live together have their periods together: true or false?

    I must step carefully here, for menstruation isn’t generally considered a topic for mixed company and I wouldn’t want to make anyone blush. So watch as I tiptoe carefully around the matter without getting to the heart of it. I can get away with that because, while it is true that women living together sometimes end up with synchronised periods, not much is known about how it happens. Continue reading.
  • Elephants are afraid of mice: true or false?

    In stories mice routinely scare elephants to illustrate that everyone has an Achilles’ heel, even when they are big enough to crush a car. Ruby Snep wonders if elephants are afraid of mice outside the world of parable and, while at first it seems absurd, it turns out to be quite true. Continue reading.
  • Bee stings relieve arthritis: true or false?

    It sounds like torture to me, but then compared to the intense pain of arthritis a bee sting is probably just a tickle. It isn’t really surprising, then, that arthritis sufferers are willing to try it. What isn’t so clear is whether it does any good or, indeed, makes things worse. Continue reading.
Browse all articles
Home Browse About Contact Privacy