False: Toilets and bathtubs drain counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The Coriolis effect, caused by the rotation of the Earth, can be seen in the spin direction of weather systems such as hurricanes and cyclones. But in the short-lived flush of a toilet, the force is far too weak to have an impact; the direction of the water's rotation depends on the toilet's design.
False: No two snowflakes are alike. Snowflakes are six-sided crystals composed of about 1018 water molecules, giving them unimaginable -- but not infinite -- potential for variation. In 1988, Nancy Knight, a meteorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, discovered two identical snowflakes that had been collected from clouds above Wisconsin. The snowflakes apparently formed as conjoined twins.
False: Humans use just 10 percent of their brains. MRI and PET scans show that a much larger portion of the brain is engaged during complex thought processes. And biologists scoff at the idea that we would evolve such an oversize brain -- it eats up 19 percent of the fuel in our bloodstream -- only to use but a fraction of it.
False: A penny dropped from the Empire State Building would kill someone below. A few calculations tell us that a penny falling edge-on from the 1,050-foot-high observation deck on Floor 86 of the 102-story skyscraper would fall 500 feet before reaching maximum velocity: 57 miles an hour. This is about 1/10 the speed of a low-caliber handgun bullet -- fast enough to hurt but, except in freak circumstances, not to kill. It's a moot point anyway: Thanks to updrafts, coins tossed from the observation deck generally land on the setback roof of Floor 80.
False: The Moon appears larger when it's on the horizon because it's magnified by the atmosphere. This is an optical illusion. You can confirm that fact by taking photographs of the Moon as it tracks across the sky: It will appear the same size on the negatives, no matter where it is. The cause of the illusion is the subject of considerable debate, but the leading theory is that it's a classic Ponzo illusion: The brain mentally magnifies objects near the horizon because it interprets them as far away; thus the Moon appears larger to us when it is closer to the horizon.
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