Do you ever wonder how much of what you’ve been taught is actually true? Some notions get passed around so much and so often that eventually they’re accepted as truth, common knowledge even. Some of the things that we have heard and accepted as facts, though, turn out not to be true. A number of the untrue science “facts” on this list may surprise you. Or, maybe you were properly educated and your teachers set them straight for you long ago. To test your knowledge, let’s see if you can answer this question: What is the tallest mountain in the world? If you answered Mount Everest, so sorry, but you are incorrect. Neither Mount Everest nor Mount Kilimanjaro is the answer. Mount Everest is tallest from base to summit, but Mauna Kea(a mountain in Hawaii) is actually taller when measuring the entire mountain, including what’s under sea-level.
If your mind has just been blown and you’re questioning everything you’ve ever been taught, get used to it; each of the science myths on this list will likely cause a similarly mind-boggling reaction. If you answered the above question correct, though, congratulations you annoying know-it-all but you have an equally likely shot of being shocked by what’s on this list. A few of what’s on it may contradict what you’ve been told by friends and family and maybe even what you were taught in school. These untrue science facts are portrayed in books and movies, but many started as little more than a rumor. Only continue reading if you don’t mind having your whole world turned upside down.
10. Humans have five senses
We actually have more than that; a lot more. The jury’s still out on the exact number (it’s said to be around 20), but there are quite a few more senses that join the list of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. For example, hunger, thirst, and itch are thought to count by some and we also have nociception (the ability to sense pain), and proprioception (the sense of knowing the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and using the strength of effort to touch two body parts together without seeing them). Temperature and balance are others that make up the list.
9. Chameleons change color to blend in with surroundings
Chameleons don’t need to change color to blend in, their natural color is already perfect for camouflage. There are numerous reasons for why they really change colors. The reaction is most often due to physical, emotional or mental changes so their skin is almost like a mood ring of sorts. They also change colors to communicate and sometimes light and temperature can have an effect as well. The common cliche of “being a chameleon” and adapting to one’s surrounds doesn’t make all that much sense once you know the truth. Perhaps “being a chameleon” should instead mean wearing emotions on your sleeve.
8. Gum takes 7 years to digest
This is one of those things you hear the other kids say in elementary school. Just like you were told if you made a funny face, your face would freeze that way or if you accidentally ate a watermelon seed, a watermelon would grow in your stomach. What’s different about this “fact,” though is that some people grew up actually believing it. For those of you fearing you might have a giant wad of gum sticking somewhere in your stomach, relax, you don’t. It takes the same amount of time to digest gum as it would to digest anything else you eat.
7. Bats are blind
This might come as a shocker. We all learned in science class that bats use echolocation to find their way around, which they do. However, they do have working eyes as well and some of the larger bat species rely on their sight more than echolocation. They have night vision too so being in the dark isn’t a problem either. Want another shocking fact on bats? They, sadly, do not turn into vampires at any time during the day or night. Bummer. But, just like people and vampires, bats also have a thumb and four fingers on each wing. Hopefully, the coolness of the mammal hasn’t totally gone away for you just because you can no longer in good conscience say “blind as a bat.”
6. Heavy drinking kills brain cells
Don’t rejoice just yet. While moderate and heavy drinking don’t affect brain cells, drinking a lot can hurt the brain in a few ways. It can damage the dendrites, which are the branch-like ends of the brain cells that are necessary for passing messages from one neuron to another, for one. Luckily, research has shown that dendrite damage can be reversed with certain medical treatment. Also, alcoholics are at risk of developing Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which causes problems with memory, confusion, eye paralysis, and lack of muscle coordination and can also eventually lead to brain cell death due to thiamine deficiency.
5. Mother birds will abandon babies if you touch them
Maybe this is something your parents told you about birds and even other animals (for some it’s actually true), saying that the mother abandons the baby once they smell your scent. Birds don’t have a great sense of smell, though, and if you see a baby bird on the ground on its own, it probably just failed a flying lesson and its mother is somewhere nearby keeping a close watch. It might be your instinct to help, but the baby bird is most likely just fine. If you do touch it, you won’t have to keep it as a pet to keep it safe, just leave it alone and its mother will do the rest.
4. Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice
Not only has this been accepted as a fact, but it’s been repeated so much it’s become a cliche. Saying the same thing over and over again doesn’t make something true, though. According to NASA, the chances of being struck is 45 percent higher than most people assume. Plus, it’s definitely possible for lightning to strike the same place twice and it happens even more than you’d think. It usually happens within the same storm as in each flash there are about 1.45 strike points and about 4 strokes. Lightning seeks out the quickest path to the ground, so tall buildings and trees are at the biggest disadvantage and have a higher chance of getting struck.
3. A penny dropped from the Empire State Building can kill you
Some people say that dropping a penny off a building as high as the Empire State Building can kill someone, crush a car, or otherwise cause a large amount of damage to whatever’s below. Yet, to the relief of many passersby, the terminal velocity of a penny falling from that height wouldn’t be enough to kill someone. In fact, it would cause little more than a bump on the head. Physics professor and author of How Stuff Works Louis Bloomfield is asked about the myth so often, he mentioned it in his book. “The penny is heavier [than a raindrop] but it flutters as it comes down. It’s very unstable in the air,” he said. He was also quoted as saying, “Pennies, they’re not aerodynamically stable… they catch a lot of wind… basically, they’re safe.”
2. People thought the world was flat before Columbus
The people of the 1400s need to be given more credit. No, they were not against Columbus’s sailing trip to the West Indies because they thought he and his crew might risk falling off the edge of the earth. They did think there were risks, but what made so many people object to the journey was the thought that the trip would be too long and near impossible for him to succeed (which we all know that, technically, he didn’t). People have known they live on a giant globe since more than 2000 years ago when ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes of Cyrene conducted an experiment involving the sun. The rumor that people thought the world was flat up until Columbus’s journey, started in the 1800s.
1. Goldfish only have a memory of 5 seconds
Poor fish have been suffered from this stereotype for too long. Fish have a much longer memory that lasts closer to 5 months. By no means are they geniuses, but many types of fish are at least as intelligent as birds and other mammals and fish farmers have been researching ways to train them. Many other types of fish, including minnows, sticklebacks, and guppies, have the intellectuality and capabilities of rats. If you’ve done anything embarrassing in front of a tank, you don’t have to be ashamed. A lot of a fish’s memory is more about food and how and when it gets it, so you’re in the clear.