Myths vs. Reality. Introduction (or why it’s hard to see the way things are) (Interdisciplinary short review)
Myths vs. Reality. Introduction (or why it’s hard to see the way things are) (Interdisciplinary short review)

By alexbiojs | Scientific | 14 Dec 2019


(cover image source - pixabay)

First time I saw the things under the microscope, what looked smooth looked like hills and valleys.
So, I said, “What’s it really like?”
And the guy blew it up again, and it looked like slivers.
So, I said, “Yeah, but what’s it really like?”
And he said, “That is a stupid question. Depends on your receptors.”
I thought I was looking for truth.
And he said, “Man can’t see the truth. There’re radio waves you can’t see, millions of bacteria on the table you can’t see…”

(The dialog between Jacque Fresco and Albert Einstein) [1].

We have thermoreceptors. That’s why we can perceive temperature.
We have photoreceptors. That’s one of the reasons why we have vision.

Fish has "lateral line" (a special group of receptors which allows it to detect changes in water pressure and movements). And we don’t have it.
Snakes have Pit Organ which allows them to sense infrared thermal radiation which is invisible to our eyes.

That’s one of the reasons why people invented special tools (microscope, infrared cameras etc.) in order to extend our capabilities / break our limitations.

It’s really hard to figure out what things really are, especially after experiments showing that the very act of observation impacts observed reality [2, 3].

Strange as it may sound, interference can only occur when no one is watching.
…when under observation, electrons are being "forced" to behave like particles and not like waves. Thus the mere act of observation affects the experimental findings.

As far as I understand, this is that phenomenon which science can’t clearly explain yet (correct me if I’m wrong). And that experiment may support simulation hypothesis/simulation theory (which postulates that all we see around us is actually just a simulation (like in computer games))

Once we have a lot of anomalies in the context of the current scientific paradigm, it’s time to make a revolution (think of Copernican Revolution for example) and create a new paradigm (paradigm shift, as per Thomas S. Kuhn, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (1962)).

That’s another reason why it’s hard to understand reality (just because our knowledge is constantly changing).

In this series of posts I’d like to talk about some of the prevalent myths/misconceptions.

a widely held but false belief or idea
[Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press, 2010]

I’d like to find the answers to questions like

--> Is there any scientific explanation for Vampires/Werewolves?

--> Plastic bags vs. Paper bags. What is more harmful for environment?


And I’d like to provide scientific explanation for them (you know, those data we can find in some scientific journals).
Are those journals really 100% reliable source of information?
Well, in 2012 the article called “Independent, Negative, Canonically Turing Arrows of Equations and Problems in Applied Formal PDE” by Marcie Rathke was accepted by Advances in Pure Mathematics.
The problem is that it was generated by Mathgen (an online web-tool to generate random mathematics papers)
So, no. Seems like it’s not a good idea to rely 100% on those articles/papers. But it’s still something which is mostly more objective that just our own opinions (not supported by any experiments).

Now, I’m not an expert of Immanuel Kant works. But as far as I remember and understand, according to the doctrine of Transcendental idealism developed by him, we can’t ultimately perceive the way things are (think of his famous thing-in-itself).

And we indeed, rightly considering objects of sense as mere appearances, confess thereby that they are based upon a thing in itself, though we know not this thing as it is in itself, but only know its appearances, viz., the way in which our senses are affected by this unknown something.
(Thing-in-itself (Wikipedia))

I mentioned at the beginning about our limitations defined by receptors and tools designed to overcome them. But what’s interesting is that thinking/reasoning itself is a tool. And it is a biased one.

Currently they believe that there’re 2 systems responsible for reasoning, namely System 1 and System 2 (there’re a lot of other names).
System 1 is shared by us and animals. System 2 is unique to us.
Daniel Kahneman describes System 1

as effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit believes and deliberate choices of System 2
(source - Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow. 2011)

System 1 is fast, automatic, prone to errors (like substitution effect, representativeness error, priming etc. (as per Daniel Kahneman)) and never gets tired.
These are those errors (and that System 1) which enforces some of us (maybe even all of us) believe in Müller-Lyer illusion


(Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0. No changes were made)

System 1 is at least one of the reasons why a lot of us (probably even most of us) are prone to Monkey Business Illusion (YouTube video) [11].
It clearly shows that

We can be blind to the obvious, and we are blind to our blindness
(source - Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow. 2011)

And only well-trained System 2 (rule-based) is able to detect those errors/biases/illusions.
That’s one more reason of difficulties in understanding reality (just because our main tool (reasoning) is biased in essence).

And the last reason I’d like to talk about in this post is our language.
According to linguistic relativity concept (aka Sapir–Whorf hypothesis), the language we speak shapes the way we think (that’s one of the reasons why Lera Boroditsky called languages cognitive universes)[6].
(we have here sort of physical relativity in linguistics).

Some modern experiments support that concept.
Sometimes brains of people speaking in different languages show different reactions to the same stimulus.

There’s one word in English for any hues of blue – “blue”.
While the Russian speakers use “goluboy” to denote lighter hues of blue and "siniy" to denote darker hues of blue.

(TranslateMe. Introduction (my post)

Russians faster tell you the difference between these two sets of hues, and their brain shows a surprised reaction when that colour change from light to dark, while the brain of English speakers doesn’t show that reaction

(TranslateMe. Introduction (my post)

The critical difference in this case is not that English speakers cannot distinguish between light and dark blues, but rather that Russian speakers cannot avoid distinguishing them


There’re more than 7,110 languages spoken across the world [8].

Most scientific papers/articles are published in just 1 language -> English.
Even though English speakers in total (native speakers + second-language speakers) amounts to 1.132 billion, Languages Are Still a Major Barrier to Global Science [9,10].

Not only the majority of human population don’t understand English (which prevent the scientific knowledge distribution), but also that language (just like others) has some limitations (see example above (Russian blues)).

And the even worse news is that right now almost everything we know about the human mind and human brain is based on studies of usually American English-speaking undergraduates at universities.
That excludes almost all humans. Right?
So, what we know about the human mind is actually incredibly narrow and biased, and our science has to do better.

(Lera Boroditsky)

And I suppose that humanity one day might invent/design a new language (additional to those 7,110; I'm pretty much for preserving all that language diversity) (based on the current scientific knowledge) which could allow us to more effectively reprogram that System 1 (so that we could be more rational) and be/get closer to reality than we currently are.

What I want to say by all that is that “Myths vs. Reality” is not totally correct.
I was going to use something like “Myths vs. Reality (well, at least something which is closer to it)” or something like that for this series, but I just wanted a shorter title and I needed to provide some clarifications )




  1. Jacque Fresco. “Charlie Veitch interviews Jacque Fresco in London”

  2. Quantum Theory Demonstrated: Observation Affects Reality

  3. Observer effect (physics)

  4. Mathgen paper accepted!

  5. Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow. 2011

  6. How language shapes the way we think | Lera Boroditsky

  7. Winawer J, Witthoft N, Frank MC, Wu L, Wade AR, Boroditsky L. Russian blues reveal effects of language on color discrimination. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May 8;104(19):7780-5. Epub 2007 Apr 30. PubMed PMID: 17470790; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1876524.

  8. How many languages are there in the world?

  9. List of languages by total number of speakers

  10. Amano T, González-Varo JP, Sutherland WJ (2016) Languages Are Still a Major Barrier to Global Science. PLOS Biology 14(12)

  11. Invisible Gorilla Test

This post was initially published on Steemit by me.


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