One of the more pervasive urban legends is that of the anti-gravity space-pen that NASA apparently engineered at great cost, whilst the Russians simply used a pencil. This story is told over and over again, as a credible example of how simple solutions often trump expensive high-tech solutions.
I can imagine at least three political motives behind this story. First, perhaps the KGB perpetuated it to show how stupid the Americans were. Or, second, perhaps elements within the USA perpetuated it to show how the US Government was wasting money. Or, third, perhaps it’s been perpetuated by naturalists who were inherently against scientific and technological discovery and advancement.
The facts, however, tell a different story. NASA astronauts used pencils, just as much as Russians cosmonauts. It was Fisher Pens who independently developed the anti-grav pens, which was later adopted by NASA (and also the Russians!) due to legitimate safety issues with pencils (wood is flammable, and lead shards are not good flotsam in a zero-grav environment).
Yet another example of how gullible we all are, and why it’s so incredibly important that we have a population willing and able to question so-called facts (or factoids) put before us. Especially when our very own governments (and opposition parties) continue to spin absolute rubbish disguised as fact as justification for their ludicrous policies.