Facts. They are what make the world go around – literally. From the moment we are born, we are encouraged to learn as much as possible. It’s what gets us through school, college and hopefully into the workplace. While there are some people who obviously take their pursuit of knowledge a lot further than others (like the late, great Stephen Hawking), there are some facts which us Average Joes are just expected to know.
But it turns out that we may know less than what we think. In a world where almost every piece of information in existence is never more than a few clicks away (yet so many of us still insist on looking at pictures of cats), we humans have been getting a lot of our facts mixed up. So much so that many pieces of commonly accepted knowledge are completely untrue – and trust me, these misconceptions will surprise you.
In fact, (yeah, the word fact is going to get used a lot here) 82% of adults in the UK admit that they have at least one long-term misconception. That being said, given that most of us grew up to believe, among many other misconceptions, that chameleons change color to match their surroundings, it’s easy to see why this number is so high. What’s more is that some of these “facts” aren’t even misconceptions, but total myths…
1. Coffee is made from beans
Given that I consume coffee on an almost daily basis, this really did come as a surprise to me. I mean, Starbucks legitimately have coffee beans on display on their counter! Well, it turns out that these “beans” aren’t actually beans but seeds. The more you know, eh?
2. Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain
Despite people, quite literally, dying to reach its summit, Mount Everest is technically not the tallest mountain in the world. So it’s probably not a good idea to risk your life to tick it off your bucket list! The tallest mountain from base to summit is actually Mauna Kea.
3. You can see the great wall of China from the Moon
I actually got the chance to visit the Great Wall of China back in 2010 and smiled in the “knowledge” that I was standing on a structure that could be seen from the moon – but alas I was wrong. This actually a complete myth, which has been confirmed as untrue by Apollo astronauts. In fact, the Great Wall is no wider than many highways.
However, the Great Wall can be seen from space – but only on the lower part of the Earth’s orbit, and the very beginning of space known as the Kármán line (at an altitude of 100 km), and under favorable conditions.
4. Seven dog years is the equivalent of one human year
When we think about how old our pooches are, we never consider their lives in terms of human years. Oh no, for every year that our canine friends have been around, we multiply it by seven. In reality, however, the equivalent of “dog years” depends on the size and breed of a dog.
5. Body heat is lost fastest through your head
Whenever it snowed when I was a child, my mom warned me that I had to wear a hat. She, like millions of others, believed that we lose most of our body heat through our heads. Experts, however, have said that it’s a myth and forgoing a hat won’t make a difference in the cold.
6. The Earth revolves around the sun
A lot of high school science teachers have a sin to answer for teaching this one. Despite being believed by almost 99% of the population, the Earth does not revolve around the sun. It actually revolves around the center mass of the solar system. Now that’s something I was not taught!
7. Peanuts are a type of nut
This one is just as bad as the coffee beans misconception! Even the though word nut is literally in the name, peanuts are actually single plants. They’re in the same family as peas and beans – the Leguminosae family. That’s a question that would really stump people in a quiz!
8. Sugar makes children hyper
While this probably isn’t something that you should tell any little people in your life for the sake of their teeth, a number of experts have undertaken scientific research which has shown that the consumption of sugar has no effect on a child’s hyperactivity.
9. Humans have five senses
I feel awful now that I know the truth about this one because it’s something I taught a high school lesson on back when I was a teacher. But it turns out that there are actually nine confirmed senses and researchers have hypothesized that humans could have up to 21. Mind = blown.
10. Fortune cookies originated in China
Despite being a staple of Chinese restaurants these days, fortune cookies were actually invented by Japanese-Americans. However, their popularity led to them being adopted by the Chinese. I wonder if a fortune teller also told them that it would be a smart business move?!
11. Vikings wore horned helmets
If you’ve ever been to a Nordic country, then you’ll know that there are more horned Viking hats for sale than you can shake a stick at. However, despite being so heavily associated the Vikings, there’s no evidence that they wore them – although they could have.
12. Penguins mate for life
It turns out that love really is dead, even in the Animal Kingdom. Well, depending on your species. While it is true that there are some species of penguin that mate for life, it’s not true for all of them, and some like the Emperor Penguin change breeding partner every season.
13. You’re never more than six feet away from a rat in London
Sure, there are a lot of rats in London, but this scary statistic is nothing more than a rough estimate. It’s also worth noting that it would rely on the rodent population being evenly spread out, which certainly isn’t the case. Although I did see the biggest rat of my life in London…
14. The moon has a dark side
Sorry, Pink Floyd, but contrary to popular belief, the moon does not have a dark side. This is because it’s constantly rotating on its own axis, and as a result, there’s no one area of it that’s ever in total darkness. Still, if the picture above is anything to go by, it’s easy to see why people think this!
15. Mars is red
It might be called the Red Planet, but Mars is not actually red. The color seen in its pictures is caused by iron rusting.
16. Humans only use 10% of their brain
Us humans don’t just use 10% of our brains, so we can stop using that as an excuse for stupidity or not achieving what we want in life. Neurologists have proven that we use just about every part of our noggins – I guess some people’s brains are just a lot more powerful than other’s!
17. Your fingernails keep growing after you die
Death means all biological processes stop forever. So how the heck can your fingernails still grow? Well, they can’t, and this is a total misconception. In reality, your skin shrinks when you die as part of the decomposition process, creating the illusion of nail growth.
18. Bats are blind
Blind as a bat might be one of the most popular clichés out there, but none of the 1,100 documented bat species are blind despite being nocturnal.
19. A goldfish’s memory span is just three seconds
Contrary to popular belief, goldfish have quite good memories for fish. It’s been proven that they can even be trained to respond in set ways to stimuli like light, music, and other sensory cues. I knew I was right when five-year-old me told my parents that Bubbles knew his name!
20. The color red makes bulls angry
We’ve all heard the idiom that certain things are like “a red rag to a bull”. However, despite the popularity of this phrase, it’s a complete myth that the color red makes bulls angry. They can actually only see blues and yellows. It’s the fluttering of the cape that makes them angry.
21. Frankenstein was the name of Mary Shelly’s monster
I was shocked when I read Frankenstein for the first time and discovered that Frankenstein was actually the name of the monster’s creator.
22. Men think about sex every seven seconds
Men – in fact, all people – think about sex a lot, there’s no scientific evidence to support the belief that men think about sex every seven seconds.
23. Carrots help you to see in the dark
So there is a little bit of science behind this misconception. While it’s true that carrots do contain Vitamin A and that this is used by the body to synthesize rhodopsin – the pigment that allows you to see in low light conditions. If you don’t have enough Vitamin A you will develop nyctalopia or night blindness. Carrots could simply help you to see like a normal person if this was the case, but they can’t help you see in the dark.
24. Eating cheese before bed causes nightmares
This is great news for all cheese lovers out there. Although cheese is believed to cause more emotionally charged dreams, there’s no evidence to suggest that it causes nightmares, so you can tuck into that bedtime cheese platter you’ve been daydreaming about without worrying!
So there you have it – 24 “facts” that people have been getting wrong their entire lives. Now, writing as someone with a master’s degree, I’d like to think that I’m not the bluntest pencil in the box, but it turns out that I really need to take a class to brush up on my general knowledge.