1. That Nasty, Hairy Spider on the Wall is Going to Jump On You Any Second Now
In the United States, there is only one family of spider, called Salticidae, that is capable of jumping, and these spiders are not commonly found in houses (they prefer forests). Generally, spiders do not seek people out and attack them. It’s not in their nature. Spiders are only going to crawl across you if they’re headed somewhere and you’re in the way. As for the hairiness—what can I say? They are indeed hairy. But personally I find them to be quite darling.
Jonathan Coddington is the curator of arachnids and myriapods at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C.
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2. Some Crazy Person Will Push You Onto the Subway or Railroad Tracks
In old movies, “falling” onto the train tracks is a convenient way for a character to meet his maker. But, in reality, getting injured or dying that way is rare. Realize that every weekday, about 34 million trips are taken on public transport in the United States. In 2009 a total of 17 people died in subway, rail, or light-rail stations—and that number includes people who were pushed as well as those who fell by accident. And virtually no deaths come from making contact with the third rail. Yes, touching it can be fatal, but it’s hard to reach. I can honestly say that you are safer on a rail platform than you are on the sidewalk a few feet from your home. Mantill Williams is a spokesperson for the American Public Transportation Association, in Washington, D.C.
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3. The Plane’s Engines Suddenly Get Really Quiet After Takeoff
Pilots use an abundance of thrust to get an aircraft off the ground. Once aloft, they cut back on it. Reason one: The plane doesn’t need that much power anymore. Reason two: They have to comply with local noise regulations. I’ve seen passengers grab armrests at that moment, as there’s a sense of falling. But the plane isn’t dropping—it’s just accelerating less rapidly.
Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot and the creator of askthepilot.com, an air-travel info site.
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4. You’ll Be Struck by Lightning If You Carry an Umbrella (or a BlackBerry) in a Storm
News flash: Metal doesn’t attract lightning. Even a lightning rod doesn’t—it can only conduct lightning, should a bolt happen to strike nearby. People who are zapped while holding a golf club or listening to an iPod are just in the wrong place at the wrong time—and that’s anywhere outside during a thunderstorm. Carrying an open umbrella may slow you down if you’re running for cover, but the fact that the umbrella is part metal doesn’t factor into it.
John Jensenius is a meteorologist and a lightning safety specialist at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.
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5. When the Elevator Stops at Your Floor, It Bounces Disturbingly—And Seems as If It’s About to Plummet
The elevator isn’t really bouncing; it’s adjusting to make sure its bottom is level with the floor outside. That way, you won’t trip when getting off. The cables supporting an elevator are designed to stretch and contract with its load. So when a car slows down at a floor, it relevels itself as people walk in and out. Besides, elevators never fall. If one safety feature malfunctions, there is a host of software, mechanical, and electrical protection devices that prevent a catastrophe from happening.
John Andersen is Schindler Elevator Corporation’s district service manager for downtown Chicago, an area that is home to the Willis Tower, the tallest building in North America. (It has 92 elevators!)