Do Carrots Improve Your Vision? 15 Misconceptions About Your Eyesight

iStock
iStock

We can probably all recount at least a dozen weird and alarming things parents, teachers, and older siblings told us about our eyes when we were kids. For instance, we’d be permanently cross-eyed if we didn’t stop making those faces at our brother or we’d go blind from reading in the dark. But maybe, just maybe, we could find redemption by eating lots of carrots. Here are a few common myths and misconceptions.

MYTH #1: IF YOU CROSS YOUR EYES, THEY'LL STAY THAT WAY.

It’s a myth that your eyes will “freeze” if you cross them for too long. Crossed eyes, or strabismus, occurs when your eyes don’t look the same way at the same time. There are six muscles attached to each of our eyes that, guided by signals from the brain, control their movements. When your eyes don’t align, the brain gets two different images. Over time, this can cause more serious vision issues. That’s a real problem, but it’s not caused by making your eyes cross on purpose for short periods of time.

MYTH #2. EATING CARROTS WILL HELP YOU SEE IN THE DARK.

Well, carrots certainly aren’t bad for your eyesight. They contain plenty of beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A, a crucial vitamin for vision. But carrots don’t do anything exceptional for your nighttime vision.

MYTH #3: THE BIGGER YOUR EYES, THE BETTER YOUR EYESIGHT.

When you’re born, your eyeballs are approximately 16 millimeters in diameter, reaching 24 millimeters as an adult. But your eyes getting larger does not necessarily mean that your vision is getting better. In fact, excessive growth in human eyes can cause myopia, or nearsightedness. If the eyeball is too long, the eye’s lens can’t focus the light in the right part of the retina to process images clearly.

MYTH #4: PUPIL DILATION OCCURS ONLY IN RESPONSE TO CHANGES IN LIGHT.

We all know that pupils contract in light and dilate in darker conditions. But did you know that pupils also respond to changes in our emotional and mental state? Sexual arousal, solving a complicated mental math problem, fear, and other cognitive and emotional events can provoke changes in pupil size, though the precise reasons why are not yet clearly understood.

MYTH #5: UV RAYS CAN ONLY DAMAGE EYES WHEN THE SUN IS SHINING.

Even on cloudy and foggy days, ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause eye damage. The rays can be reflected off of water, sand, snow and shiny surfaces. So make sure to keep your 100 percent UV protection sunglasses handy whenever you are out and about. Years of exposure can increase your risk of developing cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens that can cause vision loss.

MYTH #6: WEARING GLASSES TOO MUCH CAN MAKE YOUR EYESIGHT WORSE.

This myth suggests that over-reliance on glasses for common vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism will weaken or damage eyes. That’s not true, nor will your eyes be damaged by wearing glasses with a prescription that’s too strong—though it may give you a temporary strain or headache.

However, children should still be given the correct prescription. A 2002 study found that giving children glasses with a prescription that is too weak can increase their myopia, while giving the correct prescription “reduces the progression of myopia.”

MYTH #7: READING IN DIM LIGHT WILL DIMINISH YOUR EYESIGHT.

How many of you recall your parents telling you to “put some light on the subject” when you were curled up with a good book in dwindling daylight? Having more light can certainly help you see better, because it makes it easier for you to focus. But while reading in semi-darkness may put a temporary strain on your eyes, it’s not going to permanently damage your eyesight. Recent studies indicate not getting enough daylight in general, however, may have a detrimental effect on vision.

MYTH #8: IF YOUR PARENTS HAVE BAD EYESIGHT, YOU WILL, TOO.

You might, of course, because some eye problems are genetic. But there’s no guarantee that we will develop the same vision impairments as our parents. One study found that if both parents are myopic, there’s a 30 to 40 percent chance that the child is. If only one parent is myopic, the child has a 20 to 25 percent chance, and it's down to 10 percent for kids with non-myopic parents.

MYTH #9: TOO MUCH SCREEN TIME WILL DESTROY YOUR EYESIGHT.

Optometrists frequently debate this topic, but most agree that it’s not too damaging for most people. Having said that, more and more people are complaining of symptoms like dry, irritated eyes, headaches, eye strain and difficulty focusing after prolonged periods of screen time. The American Optometric Association (AOA) defines this group of symptoms collectively as Computer Vision Syndrome—or Digital Eye Strain—which can be further exacerbated by trying to focus on small screens such as tablets or phones. The AOA recommends following the 20-20-20 rule to remediate the effects of screen time: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away.

MYTH #10: THE RIGHT "VITAMIN COCKTAIL" CAN PREVENT VISION DECLINE.

Recent studies don’t support the notion that the right combination of vitamins can keep your eyesight from deteriorating, according to Harvard researchers. A National Institutes of Health study showed that antioxidant vitamins may help slow the progression of macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of vision loss as we age. But for people not already suffering from the disease, preventative use of such vitamins didn’t appear to make a significant difference. Perhaps an effective vitamin cocktail will be discovered one day, but so far, there’s no proof that it works.

MYTH #11: DYSLEXIA IS LINKED TO VISION PROBLEMS.

A recent study from Bristol and Newcastle Universities in the UK found that children with dyslexia were no more likely than others to suffer from common vision problems like myopia, far-sightedness, squinting or focusing problems.

MYTH #12: IF YOU DON'T TREAT LAZY EYE WHEN YOU'RE A SMALL CHILD, YOU'LL HAVE IT FOREVER.

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, occurs when nerve pathways between the brain and the eye aren’t properly stimulated, causing the brain to favor one eye over the other. The weaker eye tends to wander, and eventually the brain might ignore signals received from that eye. While doctors say that the sooner it’s treated the better, there are an increasing number of remedies (including Tetris) that can help adults as well.

MYTH #13: BLIND PEOPLE SEE ONLY DARKNESS.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, only 18 percent of people who have visual impairments are totally blind. Most are able to differentiate between light and dark.

MYTH #14: HUMAN VISION IS THE SAME IN SPACE AS IT IS ON EARTH.

Actually, NASA scientists have found that space can impair our vision, though they still aren’t sure why. A study of seven astronauts who spent more than six months on the International Space Station noted that all experienced blurry vision during and for months after their space mission. The researchers hypothesized that the shift of fluids toward the head that can occur in microgravity might have something to do with it. Now, NASA is following up with a study that will track the vision of crew members during and after long space missions to try and determine exactly why these vision changes occur in space.

MYTH #15: PEOPLE WHO ARE COLORBLIND CAN'T SEE COLOR.

The human eye and brain work together to interpret color from light, and each of us perceives color slightly differently. We all have photopigments—color-detecting molecules—in cone-shaped cells inside our retinas. But people who suffer from hereditary color blindness have defects in the genes that direct production of photopigments. It’s quite rare for someone not to see color at all, however. It's more common for color blind individuals to have difficulty differentiating between certain colors, like red and green, or blue and yellow. And while color blindness is far more common in males than females, it does affect a small percentage of women.

12 Quirky Books for Imaginative Kids

Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster

Though childhood classics like A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are never truly go out of style, each year brings a new cache of funny and fantastical books that will feed the expanding imaginations of young readers everywhere. From a self-conscious sewer monster who wants to make friends to a gluttonous dinosaur who gobbled up Christmas, this guide has the perfect quirky story for every kind of kid on your holiday gift list.

1. Rumple Buttercup // Matthew Gray Gubler ($9)

This whimsical tale about a self-conscious sewer monster is written and illustrated by Criminal Minds star, and king of quirk, Matthew Gray Gubler. While cute characters and a simple message about embracing your individuality make it a great gift for very young kids, its absurdist humor makes it a laugh-out-loud read for older kids and adults, too.

Buy it: Amazon

2. President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath // Mac Barnett ($8)

president taft is stuck in the bath
Candlewick/Amazon

Mac Barnett’s good-natured retelling of William Howard Taft’s infamous (though unconfirmed) bathtub blunder teaches children two things. One, history is far from a tedious list of names, dates, laws, and battles. And two, even the most stately world leaders have embarrassing moments.

Buy it: Amazon

3. It’s Only Stanley // Jon Agee ($15)

it's only stanley book
Dial Books/Amazon

When strange noises wake the Wimbledon family at night, they assume their dog Stanley is cleaning or fixing something; in reality, Stanley is transforming their house into a rocket ship that will carry them to an alien-inhabited planet. Fans of The Secret Life of Pets and Phineas and Ferb’s Perry the Platypus will love this rhyming read-aloud (and surely wonder what their own pet is up to when they’re not around).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Frankie Sparks and the Big Sled Challenge // Megan Frazer Blakemore ($6)

frankie sparks and the big sled challenge
Aladdin/Amazon

Third-grade inventor Frankie Sparks is back for the third book in her STEM-inspired series, and this time, she’s about to learn that the hardest part about creating a competition-winning sled is less about sled-building and more about team-building. Great for elementary school kids who love to create anything—be it art or architecture—as well as anyone who’s ever had to work on a group project.

Buy it: Amazon

5. The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! // Mo Willems ($10)

the pigeon has to go to school
Hyperion Books/Amazon

Mo Willems’s original pigeon book was Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, a thoroughly riotous, award-winning tale about a pigeon trying to convince readers to let it drive the bus when the bus driver asked them not to. In the latest story, the headstrong pigeon pivots to something it very much does not want to do—go to school. It sends a message about the value of doing things you don’t want to do, but, most importantly, it’s also really funny.

Buy it: Amazon

6. The Glass Town Game // Catherynne M. Valente ($11)

the glass town game
Simon & Schuster/Amazon

Catherynne M. Valente spins a riveting fictional tale from the true story of Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell Brontë’s childhood in a Yorkshire parsonage, where they passed the time dreaming up an intricate fantasy land populated with toy soldiers. In Valente’s novel, the fantasy land comes to life, complete with whale-sized flies, Champagne flutes that play music, and fire-breathing porcelain roosters, and the siblings must use all their wit and imagination to figure out how to get home. It’s a little like Alice in Wonderland meets The Chronicles of Narnia, and perfect for fans of both.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Lambslide // Ann Patchett ($13)

lambslide
HarperCollins/Amazon

The internationally bestselling author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth is just as clever when it comes to writing for kids. In Lambslide, a group of lambs mistakenly hear lambslide instead of landslide and begin a farm-wide campaign for an actual slide for lambs. With quaint illustrations, endearing characters, and an engaging plot, this is the type of book that ends up in the family for generations.

Buy it: Amazon

8. The Book With No Pictures // B.J. Novak ($9)

The Office alum B.J. Novak turns storytime into a full-fledged comedic performance with The Book With No Pictures, a book filled with nonsense words and phrases like blork and blaggity blaggity, which the reader has to read aloud. For parents, it’s a blueprint for embracing their silly side. For kids, it’s a chance to see their parents not seem so parental.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Spencer’s New Pet // Jessie Sima ($14)

spencer's new pet
Simon & Schuster/Amazon

The author of Not Quite Narwhal returns with another adorable story, this time about a boy who must avoid sharp objects in order to protect his balloon-animal pet dog. The mostly black-and-white illustrations (except for the dog, which is red) give Spencer’s New Pet a refreshingly old-fashioned feel, and the tale itself is sweet, evenly paced, and timeless.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Serafina and the Black Cloak // Robert Beatty ($8)

serafina and the black cloak
Disney-Hyperion/Amazon

When children begin disappearing from the Biltmore Estate, Serafina, who secretly lives in the basement, knows the culprit is a mysterious man in a black cloak who prowls the corridors at night. This novel has everything a quality middle-grade fantasy needs, including secret passageways, a forbidden forest, unknown magic, and a scrappy heroine. And the chills and thrills don’t stop at the end—it’s the first in a series of four (so far).

Buy it: Amazon

11. The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas // Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter ($18)

the dinosaur that pooped christmas
Aladdin/Amazon

This jolly, strange story about a ravenous pet dinosaur who gobbles up all of Christmas is hilarious enough on its own—and perhaps even more so when you consider that it was written by British punk rockers Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter from the band McFly.

Buy it: Amazon

12. This Is a Taco! // Andrew Cangelose ($16)

this is a taco
Lion Forge/Amazon

A high-spirited, unique squirrel named Taco provides color commentary on regular squirrel facts in This Is a Taco!, a book that is much more than a factual guide to squirrels. In it, Taco embellishes, acts out, and sometimes completely changes the facts to be truer to his personal experience as a squirrel, which involves being opinionated and eating lots of tacos.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

16 Biting Facts About Fright Night

William Ragsdale stars in Fright Night (1985).
William Ragsdale stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

Charley Brewster is your typical teen: he’s got a doting mom, a girlfriend whom he loves, a wacky best friend … and an enigmatic vampire living next door.

For more than 30 years, Tom Holland’s critically acclaimed directorial debut has been a staple of Halloween movie marathons everywhere. To celebrate the season, we dug through the coffins of the horror classic in order to discover some things you might not have known about Fright Night.

1. Fright Night was based on "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

Or, in this case, "The Boy Who Cried Vampire." “I started to kick around the idea about how hilarious it would be if a horror movie fan thought that a vampire was living next door to him,” Holland told TVStoreOnline of the film’s genesis. “I thought that would be an interesting take on the whole Boy Who Cried Wolf thing. It really tickled my funny bone. I thought it was a charming idea, but I really didn't have a story for it.”

2. Peter Vincent made Fright Night click.

It wasn’t until Holland conceived of the character of Peter Vincent, the late-night horror movie host played by Roddy McDowall, that he really found the story. While discussing the idea with a department head at Columbia Pictures, Holland realized what The Boy Who Cried Vampire would do: “Of course, he's gonna go to Vincent Price!” Which is when the screenplay clicked. “The minute I had Peter Vincent, I had the story,” Holland told Dread Central. “Charley Brewster was the engine, but Peter Vincent was the heart.”

3. Peter Vincent is named after two horror icons.

Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.

4. The Peter Vincent role was intended for Vincent Price.

Roddy McDowall in Fright Night (1985)
Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

“Now the truth is that when I first went out with it, I was thinking of Vincent Price, but Vincent Price was not physically well at the time,” Holland said.

5. Roddy McDowall did not want to play the part like Vincent Price.

Once he was cast, Roddy McDowall made the decision that Peter Vincent was nothing like Vincent Price—specifically: he was a terrible actor. “My part is that of an old ham actor,” McDowall told Monster Land magazine in 1985. “I mean a dreadful actor. He had a moderate success in an isolated film here and there, but all very bad product. Basically, he played one character for eight or 10 films, for which he probably got paid next to nothing. Unlike stars of horror films who are very good actors and played lots of different roles, such as Peter Lorre and Vincent Price or Boris Karloff, this poor sonofabitch just played the same character all the time, which was awful.”

6. It took Holland just three weeks to write the Fright Night script.

And he had a helluva good time doing it, too. “I couldn’t stop writing,” Holland said in 2008, during a Fright Night reunion at Fright Fest. “I wrote it in about three weeks. And I was laughing the entire time, literally on the floor, kicking my feet in the air in hysterics. Because there’s something so intrinsically humorous in the basic concept. So it was always, along with the thrills and chills, something there that tickled your funny bone. It wasn’t broad comedy, but it’s a grin all the way through.”

7. Tom Holland directed Fright Night out of "self-defense."

By the time Fright Night came around, Holland was already a Hollywood veteran—just not as a director. He had spent the past two decades as an actor and writer and he told the crowd at Fright Fest that “this was the first film where I had sufficient credibility in Hollywood to be able to direct ... I had a film after Psycho 2 and before Fright Night called Scream For Help, which … I thought was so badly directed that [directing Fright Night] was self-defense. In self-defense, I wanted to protect the material, and that’s why I started directing with Fright Night."

8. Chris Sarandon had a number of reasons for not wanting to make Fright Night.

Chris Sarandon stars in 'Fright Night' (1985)
Chris Sarandon stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

At the Fright Night reunion, Chris Sarandon recalled his initial reaction to being approached about playing vampire Jerry Dandrige. "I was living in New York and I got the script,” he explained. “My agent said that someone was interested in the possibility of my doing the movie, and I said to myself, ‘There’s no way I can do a horror movie. I can’t do a vampire movie. I can’t do a movie with a first-time director.’ Not a first-time screenwriter, but first-time director. And I sat down and read the script, and I remember very vividly sitting at my desk, looked over at my then wife and said, ‘This is amazing. I don’t know. I have to meet this guy.’ And so, I came out to L.A. And I met with Tom [Holland] and our producer. And we just hit it off, and that was it.”

9. Jerry Dandridge is part fruit bat.

After doing some research into the history of vampires and the legends surrounding them, Sarandon decided that Jerry had some fruit bat in him, which is why he’s often seen snacking on fruit in the film. When asked about the 2011 remake with Colin Farrell, Sarandon commented on how much he appreciated that that specific tradition continued. “In this one, it's an apple, but in the original, Jerry ate all kinds of fruit because it was just sort of something I discovered by searching it—that most bats are not blood-sucking, but they're fruit bats,” Sarandon told io9. “And I thought well maybe somewhere in Jerry's genealogy, there's fruit bat in him, so that's why I did it.”

10. William Ragsdale learned he had booked the part of Charley Brewster on Halloween.

William Ragsdale had only ever appeared in one film before Fright Night (in a bit part). He had recently been considered for the role of Rocky Dennis in Mask, which “didn’t work out,” Ragsdale recalled. “But a few months later, [casting director] Jackie Burch tells me, ‘There’s this movie I’m casting. You might be really right for it.’ So, I had this 1976 Toyota Celica and I drove that through the San Joaquin valley desert for four or five trips down for auditioning. And in the last one, Stephen [Geoffreys] was there, Amanda [Bearse] was there and that’s when it happened. I had read the script and at the time I had been doing Shakespeare and Greek drama, so I read this thing and thought, ‘Well, God, this looks like a lot of fun. There’s no … iambic pentameter, there’s no rhymes. You know? Where’s the catharsis? Where’s the tragedy?’ … I ended up getting a call on Halloween that they had decided to use me, and I was delighted.”

11. Not being Anthony Michael Hall worked in Stephen Geoffreys's favor.

In a weird way, it was by not being Anthony Michael Hall that Stephen Geoffreys was cast as Evil Ed. “I actually met Jackie Burch, the casting director, by mistake in New York months before this movie was cast and she remembered me,” Geoffreys shared at Fright Fest. “My agent sent me for an audition for Weird Science. And Anthony Michael Hall was with the same agent that I was with, and she sent me by mistake. And Jackie looked at me when I walked into the office and said, ‘You’re not Anthony Michael Hall!’ and I’m like ‘No!’ But anyway, I sat down and I talked to Jackie for a half hour and she remembered me from that interview and called my agent, and my agent sent me the script while I was with Amanda [Bearse] in Palm Springs doing Fraternity Vacation, and I read it. It was awesome. The writing was incredible.”

12. Evil Ed wanted to be Charley Brewster.

Stephen Geoffreys stars in 'Fright Night' (1985).
Stephen Geoffreys stars in Fright Night (1985).
Columbia Pictures

Geoffreys loved the script for Fright Night. “I just got this really awesome feeling about it,” he said. “I read it and thought I’ve got to do this. I called my agent and said ‘I would love to audition for the part of Charley Brewster!’ [And he said] ‘No, Steve, you’re wanted for the part of Evil Ed.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me? Why? I couldn’t… What do they see in me that they think I should be this?' Well anyway, it worked out. It was awesome and I had a great time.”

13. Fright Night's original ending was much different.

The film’s original ending saw Peter Vincent transform into a vampire—while hosting “Fright Night” in front of a live television audience.

14. A ghost from Ghostbusters made a cameo in Fright Night.

Visual effects producer Richard Edlund had recently finished up work on Ghostbusters when he and his team began work on Fright Night. And the movie gave them a great reason to recycle one of the library ghosts they had created for Ghostbusters—which was deemed too scary for Ivan Reitman's PG-rated classic—and use it as a vampire bat for Fright Night.

15. Fright Night's cast and crew took it upon themselves to record some DVD commentaries.

Because the earliest DVD versions of Fright Night contained no commentary tracks, in 2008 the cast and crew partnered with Icons of Fright to record a handful of downloadable “pirate” commentary tracks about the making of the film. The tracks ended up on a limited-edition 30th anniversary Blu-ray of the film, which sold out in hours.

16. Vincent Price loved Fright Night.


Columbia Pictures

Holland had the chance to meet Vincent Price one night at a dinner party at McDowall’s. And the actor was well aware that McDowall’s character was based on him. “I was a little bit embarrassed by it,” Holland admitted. “He said it was wonderful and he thought Roddy did a wonderful job. Thank God he didn’t ask why he wasn’t cast in it.”

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