An ophthalmologist and optometrist debunk biggest vision myths

  • Ophthalmologist Rupa Wong and optometrist Jenifer Bossert debunk myths about vision and eye health.
  • They debunk the myth that carrots improve your eyesight and reading in the dark damages your vision.
  • They also discuss the safety of LASIK eye surgery and the best practices for contact use.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The following is a transcript of the video.

Rupa Wong: “If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way.” Man, that’s an oldie but a goodie.

“It’s OK to go swimming or take a shower in contact lenses.”

All right, everybody does it. But they really shouldn’t.

“Styes are contagious.”

Jenifer Bossert: No!

Wong: Not at all.

Bossert: Styes are not contagious.

Wong: And you don’t get them from pools.

Bossert: And you don’t get them from rubbing your eyes.

Wong: Doorknobs.

Bossert: Kissing others. No, you don’t get them from any of those things. Aloha, my name is Dr. Jenifer Bossert. I am the optometrist at the Honolulu Eye Clinic. I’ve been in practice for 30 years, and my specialty is contact lenses.

Wong: And aloha, everyone. I am Dr. Rupa Wong. I am a board-certified ophthalmologist. I’ve been in private practice here in Hawaii for 13 years working alongside this wonderful lady here. I specialize in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus.

Bossert: And today we are here to debunk myths about vision. We’re going to start off with debunking myths that we used to think were true.

“Reading in the dark or while lying down will damage your vision.”

Bossert: No, this is a myth. It does not damage your vision.

Wong: And my oldest son reads in the dark all the time. My mother, obviously knows I’m an ophthalmologist, still comes to my house and tells me, “Your son should not read in the dark.” Not true. Because people need good light to see better, they assumed maybe that when you’re reading in the dark, because it is usually more challenging, maybe they thought that was straining your eyes. People confuse those issues with damaging your eyes.

“Eating carrots will improve your eyesight.”

Wong: I have actually just studied where the origin of this myth came from. It’s really interesting. So, it was basically a campaign during World War II because the British air fighter pilots had this radar technology to be able to detect the German targets. But they didn’t want the Germans to know that they had the radar technology, so they just said that their air pilots were eating a lot of carrots and therefore had good night vision.

Bossert: How fascinating! See? I learned something today. I love it!

Wong: Vitamin A is very important for the metabolism that’s being performed in your retina.

Bossert: A, C, E, magnesium, lutein, omega-3s, those are the common ones that we all consider important for optimum eye health.

Wong: Zinc.

Bossert: Zinc.

Wong: All of these vitamins can help halt the progression of macular degeneration, but in the studies it didn’t demonstrate any more effect for people like us, that don’t have any macular degeneration.

“Wearing someone else’s glasses will ruin your vision.”

Wong: If a child, really younger than 13, is wearing someone else’s glasses, it can ruin their vision if it is completely off. Because if it’s promoting blurry vision, that’s going to inhibit the growth of the connections between the eyes and the brain. So kids under 13, they are in a special period of their vision development called the critical period. So, absolutely, I never, ever recommend that children wear anybody else’s glasses. But for adults, it’s a little bit of a different story.

Bossert: With adults, it isn’t going to harm your eyes, but it can contribute to eye fatigue, eye strain, headaches. So, yes, we always encourage everybody to get their annual checkups, wear their own glasses, and keep them updated.

“Sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyesight.”

Wong: Typically a parent wants their child to move back from the television, and it’s a total myth.

Bossert: And it doesn’t harm an adult’s eyes, either. So, when I have a parent ask me that in the exam, I encourage them to bring them in so that we can actually check their child and just see if it’s a habit that the child has or whether they actually have an underlying nearsighted process occurring. If they’re sitting too close to the television, then I’m concerned that maybe they’ve been developing nearsightedness. A young child doesn’t know that that’s happening.

Wong: Just because your parents are nearsighted does not mean 100% you’re going to be nearsighted. Several studies have shown that two hours a day of sunlight is helpful at preventing nearsightedness progression. So I always tell my patients to get outdoors, but it’s not so easy in other parts of the country or world.

“If you cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way.”

Wong: Man, that’s an oldie but a goodie, I think.

Bossert: I remember my grandmother telling me. We were out running around, and kids all playing, and my grandmother saying, “Your eyes are going to stay that way!”

Wong: Of course, that is actually my area of specialty, is crossed eyes. That’s what I do surgery for, to fix them. And I can tell you, I’ve never had to operate on anybody who crossed their eyes in intentionally and it got stuck that way. So that’s a complete myth. Some people are born with it. We call that congenital esotropia. Typically, if you’re born with it, you’re born with crossed eyes. Sometimes people develop it because the eye is blind for whatever reason, a separate reason. So if they’re young, then the eye tends to cross in with the blind eye. If they’re older and they sustain some kind of trauma or injury to the eye to cause it to become blind, then the eye wanders out. ‘Cause I’ve seen so many patients that have come from other eye doctors who have been told for years, No. 1, “Your insurance doesn’t cover it.” No. 2, “You’re too old for this surgery.” I’ve operated on a 95-year-old.

“Squinting is bad for your eyes.”

Bossert: We do know that when you squint, you tend to be able to see a little bit better when you’re nearsighted. Something called the pinhole effect. So that could be how that myth got started. A parent might see their child squinting and then think that it was the squinting that actually caused the nearsightedness, but it was the opposite. The nearsightedness caused the squinting.

“You will become dependent on your glasses if you wear them too much.”

Wong: As someone who now has started to need reading glasses, it is really hard to not believe this myth. I, when I take my reading glasses off, I swear I could see the iPhone way better.

Bossert: It’s not that the glasses made your vision worse, it’s just that your brain got used to having good, sharp vision when y ou put them on. So then when you take them off, your brain’s like, “No! I want them back again! I like seeing clearly!”

“You can’t wear your contacts if you have astigmatism.”

Bossert: This is definitely not true. I still hear that in this day and age, despite media campaigns, despite information dissemination. People still believe that if they have astigmatism, they won’t be able to wear contact lenses.

Wong: Or that they’re going to have to be hard contact lenses.

Bossert: Yes. Because 30 years ago, it was true, that really the only way that you could mask that astigmatism was to take a hard lens and put it on the eye. But now, daily disposables, I can correct 2.75 units of astigmatism, which is a lot. And in a reusable contact lens, I can go up to 5.75. I even have a brand-new option that if you are over 40 and need reading glasses, if you have astigmatism, you can even wear a bifocal contact lens that corrects for astigmatism now. But they are more difficult to fit because they interact with the eyelid, the shape of the eye. So sometimes we’ll have to go through two or three lens designs to find the best one for the patient. But it’s pretty rare that we can’t find something in this day and age.

Wong: Now we’re gonna talk about myths we hear all the time.

“Staring at a screen all day will make your eyesight worse.”

Bossert: Well, the jury’s still a little bit out on this one. Yes, anecdotally, we perceive that people that spend longer hours on a screen are the ones that are more likely to end up nearsighted. But studies don’t prove that. And particularly with COVID, with COVID and homeschooling, online schooling, we’ve seen a huge increase in parents asking us, “Do I need to get my kid blue blockers?” Well, the answer is no. There was a small study that came out and said that, yes, it could help decrease fatigue. But, like any study, we need to take those small studies and turn them into large studies to really truly get facts and figures that hold out for the larger population. So when they redid the study, it came out 50-50. It just really wasn’t proven to be statistically significant.

Wong: And that’s why we always recommend the 20-20-20 rule. People need to take breaks every 20 minutes for 20 seconds where they look at something 20 feet away.

“Only people with bad eyesight need eye exams.”

Wong: That is definitely a myth. There’s all sorts of conditions that still you have.

Bossert: Retinal holes, retinal tears, retinal detachments.

Wong: That’s another thing, where people always think, mistakenly, that they’ve had LASIK and as if LASIK has corrected their eyeballs. And it hasn’t. It’s just made their vision better. But they still have the pathology, the retinal issues, that they still require exams once a year.

Bossert: People think that they’re going to the eye doctor for their vision. Eye doctors would tell you that you’re going to the eye doctor for your eye health. Because if you don’t maintain the eye health, then you’re not going to be able to maintain good eye vision for the 100 years that you’re present on this earth.

“You won’t get glaucoma if you have perfect vision.”

Wong: Glaucoma is something that’s asymptomatic. So you can have perfect 20-20 vision and have the absolute worst end-stage glaucoma. Glaucoma is typically high pressure inside the eye, which causes damage to the optic nerve of the eye.

Bossert: And in the beginning, there are no signs whatsoever. So really the only way that we can detect glaucoma is to come in for your annual eye examination. And there are a series of tests that we do in the examination itself that allow us to screen for glaucoma.

Wong: So, when you catch glaucoma early, then we can start treatments earlier. And we can’t reverse any vision loss or any optic-nerve damage, but we can prevent future damage from happening, or at least slow that progression down. So, we start with eyedrops. We can even do laser treatments, which help with that drainage system and bring the fluid down. And then if we need to, we escalate to glaucoma surgeries.

Bossert: Myths from the internet. Let’s do those next.

“It’s OK to go swimming or take a shower in contact lenses.”

Wong: All right, everybody does it. But they really shouldn’t. You can really develop blinding infections from tap water and from water that’s in hot tubs.

Bossert: ‘Cause no matter what body of water we’re talking about, they all have some bacteria in them, even tap water. Which, that bacteria that bothers our eyes doesn’t bother our stomach, yet you don’t want to have it in the eye. Yes, do we all wash our face and we get water in? We do. But the critical thing is that this particular bug, called pseudomonas, is small enough that it can embed itself in the pores, in the matrix of the contact lens. And then it gets on your eye, and it sits there, and it sits there, and it sits there, for all those hours that you have it on. And that’s when the risk becomes high. ‘Cause then you reach up and you rub, you disturb the top layer of cells on the eye. Now there’s a little window for that bacteria to walk right into the eye. And unfortunately with pseudomonas, we don’t have good treatment modalities. It’s very resistant to the antibiotics that we have available to us.

“Stress causes eye floaters.”

Wong: No.

Bossert: No. Age causes eye floaters.

Wong: And trauma. A floater is just, it’s a vitreous detachment. And I tell my patients the vitreous is like Jell-O. When you get older, it starts to liquefy, and you get pockets, and dries up. And that’s what causes separates from the inner lining, from the retina. And that then floats all around in your field of vision. But it’s actually inside your eye. People think it’s a cockroach, they think it’s an ant. They try to swat it away. It’s not any of those things, but it’s an actual change in the anatomy of your eye. It’s not caused by stress.

“LASIK surgery is not safe.”

Bossert: LASIK surgery is definitely safe. At this point, LASIK surgery’s been around … 35 years now? Yes. If you were to do a Google search that pulled up some of those early results, there were definitely instances where there were cases of blindness. A lot of that was changed by further advancements in the technology, different ways to make the flap. So now, in this day and age, I would say that LASIK surgery is perfectly safe. That said, there is no surgery for any body part that doesn’t come with a risk of complications. Like, any body part. You want the doctor that’s doing the procedure on a weekly basis. You don’t want the doctor that’s doing this once every three or four months.

“Styes are contagious.”

Bossert: No.

Wong: Not at all.

Bossert: Styes are not contagious.

Wong: And you don’t get them from pools, public pools.

Bossert: And you don’t get them from rubbing your eyes.

Wong: Doorknobs.

Bossert: Kissing others. No, you don’t get them from any of those things. Just like some people can have more oily skin or more dry skin.

Wong: I describe it kind of like a pimple.

Bossert: The contents in the oil gland can be different consistencies. So if you tend to have that heavier, thicker oil inside the gland itself, then you can be more prone to getting them.

Wong: And usually what we want to do is heat. A lot of heat is going to help it drain. Pink eye is contagious. What most people think of as pink eye is viral conjunctivitis. Sometimes it can be bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis is really, really contagious. That you do get from doorknobs and the surface of objects.

Producer: Is it possible to get pink eye if you, like, fart in someone’s face?

Wong: Is that something people think?

Producer: Yeah. Not true.

Wong: Not true. What I hope people take away from this video is that they get their annual eye exams, they don’t equal good vision with eye health, that they take their contact lenses out when they sleep and they shower, and that they follow the 20-20-20 rule.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Fertility experts debunk 19 myths about getting pregnant and fertility

Duke: “Sex position matters.”

Eleswarapu: So, that is a myth.

“IVF guarantees pregnancy.”

Duke: Oh, boy. It’s a tough myth for patients to hear.

Eleswarapu: “Eating pineapple can increase fertility.”

Duke: Oh, that’s a good one. Pineapple by itself, if you have infertility, is unlikely to reverse your infertility.

I’m Dr. Cindy. I am a fertility specialist based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hello,

Eleswarapu: I’m Dr. Sriram Eleswarapu, and I’m a urologist at UCLA. And today we’ll be debunking myths about infertility.

Duke: “Tight underwear is bad for sperm count.”

Eleswarapu: So, there’ve been a number of studies looking at this issue for many decades, and the inevitable question is boxers versus briefs. In truth, it doesn’t matter a whole lot, and we know that if the testicles are a little bit warmer that they are more at risk of having sperm-count issues or sperm-motility issues, but, in general, it shouldn’t matter too much. Just pick what’s comfortable.

Duke: “Sex position matters.”

Eleswarapu: So, that is a myth. No matter what position you engage in, if you ejaculate, you have the sufficient propulsion of the semen to make it up to the cervix, any way you do it.

Duke: People around the world have actually studied it, and no one position has been proven to be better than another.

Eleswarapu: “IVF guarantees pregnancy.”

Duke: Oh, boy. Yes, that is definitely a myth. And it’s a tough myth for patients to hear. IVF does present the highest chances of pregnancy, absolutely. There are a number of factors that play into IVF success. One of them has to do with the age of the eggs being used. It also has to do with the quality of the sperm and the egg when they come together. It has to do with the embryo that is ultimately formed. It also has to do with the genetics of the embryo. But then, on top of that, it has to do with the womb in which the embryo will be placed, and a number of factors are not yet fully known. So, we know the immune system plays a role. Diet, exercise probably play a role, but we’re still investigating that. Biggest thing to know is it’s not 100%.

Eleswarapu: “Stress causes miscarriages.”

I think we’re starting to get away from the term “miscarriages.” We’re starting to use the term “early pregnancy loss.” Is that right?

Duke: That’s correct. And I think it’s because “miscarriage” also comes with certain connotations where blame is also ascribed, and the truth is, both early pregnancy losses, there’s nothing the individual could have done about it at all. So now we call it early pregnancy loss before the end of the first trimester, versus second- and third-trimester pregnancy loss. We do not believe stress causes loss. Many people around the world across millennia have gotten pregnant and remain pregnant despite tremendous stress. So we know it’s not simply stress. Nowadays, though, we know the No. 1 reason for pregnancy loss is chromosomal differences in the formed embryo. And so that’s called aneuploidy. 67% of first-trimester pregnancy losses are due to chromosomal issues within the embryo itself. Other reasons would be if the thyroid was not functioning well, if vitamin D is low, if there’s a fibroid in the uterus. If you have a uterus and you’ve had two or more pregnancy losses, you should be evaluated. We always expected that it would be the individual with the womb and the eggs to be the one that gets evaluated for a pregnancy loss. Now the tide is shifting, and individuals who contribute the sperm are also being evaluated when there’s a pregnancy loss in the couple. There’s emerging data that things like DNA fragmentation, where the DNA that are normally supposed to be very tightly wrapped up in the sperm are somehow unraveled and might have little breaks in the DNA strands, and those breaks can contribute to the pregnancy loss.

“Freezing your eggs guarantees that you can have kids later.”

Myth. And the myth is in the word “guaranteed.” If you freeze your eggs, you can stop the clock. And so you’re basically freezing the youngest version of yourself at that point. However, there’s no guarantee that eggs even when frozen will thaw and yield a live-born baby. So it’s really a conversation that needs to happen with your specialist based on your age, based on your egg number.

“Sperm quality doesn’t decline with age.”

Eleswarapu: There’s a lot of data now that is showing that individuals with sperm that is older, say in the fifth, sixth, seventh decades of life and beyond, is more at risk of forming embryos that have chromosomal abnormalities. Getting exercise, eating well are things that can improve the general biology of an individual. Certainly if it’s good for the heart and it’s good for the brain, then it’s probably good for the penis and the scrotum and the testicles as well. We talked about egg freezing, but sperm freezing has its role particularly for individuals who may not be in a relationship or may not be thinking of a family at this time but later on down the road they might want to produce a family.

“It’s impossible to get pregnant after 35.”

Duke: It is possible to get pregnant after 35. The truth is, though, that the chance of pregnancy progressively declines as the age of the egg increases. And so you might find greater and greater need for fertility treatments. When you’re born, if you’re someone born with ovaries, you’d have somewhere between 1 million to 2 million eggs in those ovaries, usually. By age 30, 70% of those eggs are gone, and by age 40, 97% of those eggs are gone. At the same time, those eggs are also aging. And so what we see is that the chance of pregnancy declines very quickly, and then for some people it declines even faster. So if you have endometriosis, if you’re someone who’s maybe had surgeries of the ovaries or needed to be on medications, chemotherapy, radiation, all of those things can also further the decline in the egg number. So my recommendation is, if you have ovaries, at age 30, you should at least be asking your doctor to do a check of your egg number, or what’s called your ovarian reserve.

“The best way to get pregnant is to have sex every day.”

Eleswarapu: It comes down to the ovulatory cycles and making sure that you’re sort of timing things and tracking things, particularly if you’re trying to conceive deliberately. We always get this question, and I want to know what your thoughts are. Should the couple be trying to conceive every other day during ovulation, or every day during ovulation? I say every other day. One, we need to give the sperm and semen enough time to sort of reaccumulate so we can get those millions of sperm. The other is sperm actually survive in the female genital tract for up to five days. So once the egg is released from the ovary, think of the fallopian tube as an arm with a catcher’s mitt at the end. The catcher’s mitt captures the egg, pulls it into the arm, and then the egg sits around there for 12 to 20 hours waiting for sperm. And then if you have intercourse anywhere within the next 24 hours, sperm will also get to the egg. So that’s why we say every other day around ovulation. There is this movement now, particularly on the internet, discussing what’s called abstinence from pornography, masturbation, and orgasm, or PMO. It’s also a movement called no NoFap. And those individuals say to have the best reserve of sperm or the best sort of power with erections or orgasm, that they should conserve for days, weeks, months at a time. This stuff is not scientific at all. And, in fact, after a week of storing up, the sperm may not necessarily be healthy.

“Eating pineapple can increase fertility.”

Duke: That’s a good one. Pineapple by itself, if you have infertility, is unlikely to reverse your infertility. We know that pineapples have bromelain inside of them, which is a compound that is known to be a blood thinner to a certain degree, but it’s very, very weak, and you’d have to eat so much pineapple to even have enough bromelain to have a little effect. You should be having a meal balancing protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. So getting your usual multivitamins and folate into your diet, because folate is really important for once you’re pregnant. But technically, no, pineapple by itself does not boost fertility. Infertility, while a daunting thought, really there are lots of options available. The first step is actually an evaluation. Fertility and infertility constitute this huge spectrum, and there are many, many ways to get pregnant and many things one can do to help facilitate that. And you don’t have to stay at home feeling embarrassed about it. If you talk to a specialist like myself, like Dr. Eleswarapu, we are experienced with this and know how to treat you or direct you to the right person who can help.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Earthquake experts debunk 13 earthquake and earthquake safety myths

  • Veronica Cedillos and Gerardo Suarez debunk 13 myths about earthquakes and earthquake safety.
  • They explain why doorways aren’t safe, and why the “Triangle of Life” is actually dangerous.
  • They also explain how seismologists and experts work together to prepare for earthquakes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Gerardo Suárez: “The ground can open up during an earthquake.” Everything disappears in the earth. Earthquakes don’t operate like that. “You should always try to get outside” when an earthquake occurs.

Veronica Cedillos: In the midst of running, you can get seriously injured.

Suárez: “California will fall into the ocean.” Well, the answer is of course not.

Hello, I’m Veronica Cedillos. I am a structural engineer by training. I am currently president at GeoHazards International.

My name is Gerardo Suárez. I am a senior scientist at the Institute of Geophysics at the National University of Mexico. Today, we are debunking myths about earthquakes and earthquake safety.

Suárez: These are myths from social media. “Doorways are a safe place to take cover during an earthquake.” And, Veronica, I think you’re better prepared than I am.

Cedillos: Yeah. This is definitely a myth. Something we’ve heard from, I think, past, very old construction. And that was when the frame around doors was actually part of the skeleton of the building that really kept up the building, so it was a really strong part of the structure. Modern construction does not have that. In fact, the doors are not in any way stronger, so they’re really not helpful or very protective during earthquake shaking. And, in fact, I would say that holding onto a doorframe, if you have a swinging door during strong earthquakes, you can actually get quite injured.

Suárez: There’s no universal recipe to be safe. It depends on how your house, your apartment building is built and where you live, even in what part of the city you live in.

Cedillos: The work has to happen before the earthquake in terms of finding a safe place. Create a safe place. So, trying to figure out, OK, if there was shaking, looking up in your own home and seeing what could fall over or topple that can be heavy.

Suárez: This question is about the “Triangle of Life.” Will it save you?

Cedillos: You can see some of these voids after the shaking has happened, but what you don’t see is what happened in between. And so it may have been that this very dense object, with strong shaking, might’ve moved quite a distance, or those objects can actually topple, and in many cases it can actually be way more dangerous to be there. If you could get under a sturdy table, that would probably be best. Protecting your head and neck are really important.

Suárez: But yes, there may be some cases where people were saved because they accidentally were trapped between a very strong object and perhaps a beam or something that fell down. But I think it is more circumstantial evidence than anything else.

Cedillos: “Earthquake-proof buildings are indestructible.” I want to make a distinction between earthquake-proof and earthquake-resistant. So, in practice, we don’t usually design or build earthquake-proof buildings. So, a similarity might be waterproof versus water-resistant. And I think for a very long time we went from really trying to ensure that our designs were life-safe. So they really were protecting the occupants inside the building. Now, what we’ve learned as we’ve seen earthquakes in other parts of the world, that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have damage to a building. And so it may be that after an earthquake, your building no longer functions and you can no longer stay in it. And if that happens on a grand scale, all of a sudden you have an entire city that can’t be housed or buildings that can’t be used for businesses. And so it really affects the economy and the community as a whole. And now there’s a big movement to try to move towards designing not just for life safety but actually what’s called “functional recovery,” with the idea that you can recover in a shorter time span.

“Small earthquakes prevent bigger ones from happening.”

Suárez: Well, I bear bad news for people who believe in this, because people do say, “Oh, it’s been very active, lots of small earthquakes, so they’re taking up the energy that’s concentrated on the fault.” And indeed, yes, they’re releasing some energy. And that happens in places that we call subduction zones, where one tectonic plate goes under another one, that there are dozens, literally hundreds of small earthquakes in a certain time frame in a certain place. But, eventually, in these active faults you will have a major earthquake. And by major, I would just say larger than magnitude 7.5. That is required to release the energy that has been accumulated.

Cedillos: I think there’s a misconception that it’s only the very big one that’s going to be the most dangerous. But, in fact, what we see is that even with moderate earthquakes, there can be a lot of actually injuries and death, even. Unreinforced chimneys, we know, are very vulnerable to collapse under very low levels of shaking. And those falling into a household, for example, can be very dangerous.

Suárez: “We are overdue for a major earthquake.” So, when we say “overdue,” we imply that we know the earthquake should have occurred before, and it hasn’t. And this is something that we simply do not know.

Cedillos: Prediction versus forecasting. I think that’s where we get a little bit of a misunderstanding, because we can forecast, usually in probabilities, and say there’s a probability that there’ll be this size of earthquake within this region. And so we really can’t predict specifically where and when an earthquake will occur.

Suárez: Everyone who lives in a seismic area should be aware. Everyone should have a kit at home. You need to have some water, you need to have a lamp light, and so on and so forth.

OK. These are myths from pop culture.

“You should always try to get outside” when an earthquake occurs.

Cedillos: For the most part, this is probably not a very safe practice, to run outside during earthquake shaking, especially because many times things can fall outward. In the midst of running, you can get seriously injured. In the one situation where it is a good idea, and that’s in an adobe, earthen building that is not strengthened or reinforced in some way. Those buildings are particularly dangerous when you have a heavy roof. If you’re on the ground floor of one of these buildings, you do want to try to run out, assuming you’re running out into a space that’s open. But if you’re already outside, stay outside. You want to try to get away from building facades, because there can be bricks falling. You want to be very careful about that.

Suárez: “The ground can open up during an earthquake.” It is a myth that has to be debunked. This myth comes very much from earthquake movies, where you see that during the earthquake, there is a big crack that opens, and it swallows buildings and people and cars. And then it just, boom, it shuts tight, and everything disappears in the earth. And this doesn’t happen. Earthquakes don’t operate like that. In certain types of soils, cracks are formed because of the very strong shaking, but these are relatively shallow cracks. I mean, they wouldn’t swallow, not even a small cat. And probably that image was extrapolated into this fantastic idea of these huge mouths as swallowing everything in its surroundings. So, no. The answer is definitely not.

“In the US, a big enough earthquake on the West Coast could be felt on the East Coast.”

It will be so big that even though it’s happening here in California, you will feel it on the East Coast.

Cedillos: No, that is not what we expect! It’s just a big enough distance that we don’t expect for anyone to feel any significant shaking on the East Coast from a large earthquake on the West Coast. The plates and the type of rock that we have on the East Coast versus the West Coast, they are different. And so what happens is that the type of rock that we have in the East Coast, the earthquake waves, seismic waves can actually travel much further. So what happens is that in the East Coast, you’ll be able to perceive or feel significant shaking actually much further distances from the epicenter, or the origin of where the earthquake shaking started. As opposed to the West Coast, where those seismic waves, actually that energy is absorbed much quicker, and so it doesn’t travel as much of a far distance.

“We are able to predict earthquakes.”

Suárez: This is a very simple answer. It is no. No, we cannot yet predict earthquakes. And I added the word “yet.” I wouldn’t say that now it continues to be the goal of seismology to be able to predict earthquakes. I believe the goal of everyone who works in seismology or in engineering seismology, it is not to predict earthquakes, but to be prepared for major earthquakes, to understand the phenomenon.

Cedillos: There are use of what we call “earthquake scenarios,” and what those are, they’re not predictions, but they’re incredibly useful in the sense that many times we don’t see changes in codes or anything until after there’s an earthquake and we learned everything that went wrong. We use the tool of an earthquake scenario – so, we choose a believable earthquake that could happen in a certain area to try to understand what may be some of the key vulnerabilities around that particular city or area, whether it’s the water system or the housing or the hospitals, to try to get ahead and try to instill safer practices or actions that will help us address those vulnerabilities before an earthquake occurs.

Myths experts hear the most.

Suárez: So, “In tall buildings, it is always safer to be on a lower floor.”

Cedillos: If you’re in a tall building, especially in a place where the codes are usually followed, it’s likely that they’re actually under even higher requirements in terms of design, and so, as long as the building is safe, it doesn’t matter too much where you are. That being said, if there is more movement, that’s when it is really, really important to make sure that the contents within your house, or whatever, your office building, are secured and that they can’t fall over and topple over and hurt you.

Suárez: “California will fall into the ocean.” Well, the answer is of course not. You know, California would not fall into the ocean. Part of California, the westernmost sliver of California, it sits on the Pacific Plate, whereas the rest of California sits on the North American Plate. And these two plates move one relative to one another at a rate of about 5 to 6 centimeters per year. So, yes, when people say Los Angeles is going to end up near Anchorage, well, yes, eventually, but in many millions of years.

OK. “There’s such thing as earthquake weather.” But no. There is no season for earthquakes, there is no weather for earthquakes, and there’s no specific time for earthquakes. You might be thinking of a very convenient time that an earthquake would happen. It might be very inconvenient.

Cedillos: When you think about earthquake shaking, you have to think about different times of the year and different times of the day. You might be sleeping, or it might be winter. It might be raining. And so the danger is that you’re not thinking of all these scenarios.

“Bigger earthquakes happen under full moons.”

Suárez: People connect that to the pull of tides. And it’s true. We are very used to the ocean being deformed and the water level changing due to the tides depending on the cycles of the moon. And this also happens in the earth. The earth itself, the continents themselves are deformed because of this rotation of the moon. The deformation is not large enough to produce earthquakes. And people have looked at statistics to see, and there has been absolutely no correlation at all.

Cedillos: A lot of the actions that you need to take to really protect communities and protect people need to be taken years before the earthquake actually arrives.

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