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20 “Facts” We’re All Taught As Kids, But Are Totally False

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20 “Facts” We’re All Taught As Kids, But Are Totally False

It’s often said that teachers have the most important job in the world. Everyone has a teacher, for better or worse, that they will remember for the rest of their lives. The life lessons that our early educators teach us stick with us for our entire lives, whether intentionally or accidentally. Oftentimes, a piece of information we pick up as a child sticks with us for our entire lives. We don’t dispute the information taught to us as children because, as far as we’re concerned, adults are always right about everything. But that’s not the case.

Adults can’t know everything about everything. Nobody can. But what everyone does, to a fault, is assume information is correct because it makes immediate sense to us. For example, we all believe in gravity because we can drop an object and observe that the object will fall to the ground. We can see a sign that says “wet paint,” but we won’t believe that the paint is really wet until we touch it for ourselves.

On this list, you’ll find a number of “facts” told to you throughout your life that are actually bullsh*t. For one reason or another, these false pieces of information have become so popular that you might refuse to believe that they aren’t true. But trust me, they aren’t.

20. The Great Wall Of China

The Myth: The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure that you can see from space. More so, the Great Wall of China is so big, you can see it from the moon.

The Truth: To start, you can see millions of man-made structures from outer space. Have you ever seen a photo of Earth at night? There are numerous areas illuminated by city lights. Those are the main man-made structures that you can see from space, and you might struggle to see them from the moon.

The Great Wall of China, on the other hand, is long, but it isn’t wide. Realistically, it’s about the width of a two-lane road. If you could see the great wall of China from space, you could see just about every main road in existence — which we can, of course, but only through the right camera or satellite.

According to astronaut Jay Apt, “We look for the Great Wall of China. Although we can see things as small as airport runways, the Great Wall seems to be made largely of materials that have the same color as the surrounding soil. Despite persistent stories that it can be seen from the moon, the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles up.”

19. How Your Body Digests Gum

The Myth: Swallowed gum stays in your stomach for 7 years because your body can’t digest it.

The Truth: As kids, we’re always told that if we swallow a piece of gum, it will stay in our stomach for 7 years. This myth stems from a misunderstanding about how our digestive system actually works.

To start, your body can’t break down gum in the way it breaks down food. Our digestive tracts aren’t meant to digest gum resin. Instead of trying to digest it, our body just pushes it through our digestive tract with the rest of our food (that has been digested). This doesn’t take 7 years, though, and our body does it with ease.

That said, if you swallow enough gum or a large enough piece of gum, you run the chance of blocking your digestive tract. But don’t worry — that rarely ever happens.

18. The Salem Witch Trials

The Myth: The Salem Witch Trials were a number of court cases where people in colonial Massachusetts were accused of witchcraft. Twenty people were executed, and it’s commonly believed that these people were burned at the stake.

The Truth: Not a single person was burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials. It’s now believed that 19 of those sentenced to death were sent to the gallows, where they were hanged. One person was pressed to death with heavy stones after he refused to plead innocent or guilty. Five others accused of witchcraft died while awaiting trial in prison.

The myth, which is often portrayed on television, is believed to have been inspired by the fact that during the European witch trials (around the same time period), death by fire was a common practice. Historians have estimated that over three centuries, 50,000 people were executed for being witches in Europe. Even then, few people were actually burned at the stake. Most of them were hanged or beheaded, and then, their bodies were burned after their deaths.

17. Blood Inside The Body Is Blue

The Myth: Blood inside of your body is blue until it comes into contact with oxygen. That’s why your veins are blue!

The Truth: This is perhaps the most commonly believed “fact” in this article, so much so, that I’ve gotten into heated arguments with friends about whether or not blood in your body is blue. This myth is commonly taught in school because it’s much easier to say than to actually teach why your veins are blue.

Basically, our veins are optical illusions built into our bodies. Our eyes are only able to see things because different wavelengths are reflected into our eye. Scientists believe that blue light doesn’t penetrate our body tissue as deeply as red light does, which is why veins close to the surface of our skin look blue when we look at them. Furthermore, blood with little oxygen in it absorbs more red light than blue light, which increases the chance that blue light is reflected back to our eyes.

Our blue veins (that have red blood in them) are really just an optical illusion!

16. Who Built The Pyramids?

The Myth: Hebrew slaves were forced to build the pyramids by the pharaohs of Egypt.

The Truth: This myth is often perpetuated by the popularity of religious texts. Though not explicitly stated, the Bible heavily implies that Israelite slaves were forced to make the bricks that were used to build the pyramids. The myth was perpetuated further when Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, on a visit to Egypt, claimed that Jewish people built the pyramids.

Since architects and archaeologists have been studying the Great Pyramid at Giza, they’ve become more and more impressed with it. The structure is built symmetrically, each brick is designed perfectly, and the structure aligns with a number of solar bodies. Due to the complexity of the Great Pyramid, some people are under the belief that it was designed by extraterrestrials. The truth, however, is a lot more boring.

The physical evidence found at the sites of the pyramids suggest that the people who built the pyramids were skilled workers, tradesmen, and other laborers who came from the far regions of Egypt. The work is far too perfect to have been slave labor. Furthermore, burial plots have been found at the pyramids, which, according to Egypt’s lead archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, suggests that the workers were highly respected and not slaves. That said, the bones found in these graves suggest the men suffered from arthritis, back pain, and generally bad health due to how hard their work was.

15. Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

The Myth: Cracking your knuckles will lead to arthritis + knuckle cracking is completely harmless.

The Truth: The origin of this myth is unknown, but it more than likely stems from the fact that hearing someone crack their knuckles is dreadfully annoying. But knuckle crackers have been suspicious of the claim that their cracking habit is bad for their health. One man went as far as to crack the knuckles in one hand for 60 years to prove that it doesn’t lead to arthritis.

No medical study has been able to successfully link knuckle cracking with arthritis — but that doesn’t mean that it’s harmless. There’s a direct connection between chronic knuckle crackers and reduced grip strength. Additionally, there are published reports of long-term injuries suffered while people were trying to crack their knuckles. Crack carefully!

14. Girls Can’t Be Color Blind

The Myth: It’s impossible for girls to be color blind.

The Truth: Numerous studies have reported that men and women see things differently. Literally. Women are able to distinguish among shades of color significantly better than men. I’m sure you’ve experienced this at some point in your life.

Due to women’s adept ability to see color, many believe that it’s physically impossible for a woman to be color blind. I was actually taught this in school at an early age and believed it for a good chunk of my life. But, as you’re about to find out, it’s completely untrue.

While men are significantly more likely to be color blind (8% chance), women are still able to suffer from color blindness (0.5% chance). Researchers believe that color blindness stems from a problem in the X chromosome. Since women have two X chromosomes, if one has a problem seeing colors, the other chromosome picks up the slack. Men are unable to do this, which is generally why there are more color blind men than women.

13. The Food Pyramid Is A Lie

The Myth: Majority of your diet should be grains, followed by fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, and fats.

The Truth: This isn’t some sort of vegan-movement propaganda. The traditional food pyramid, the one we were all taught in elementary school, is considered incorrect by today’s dietitians. For a long time, it was widely believed that we needed to consume more grains (and carbs) than fruits and vegetables. Most government bodies concerned with nutrition are in agreement that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables than any other food group.

For years, the American food pyramid was teaching people they needed to consume 11 servings of grains per day. In typical American fashion, this number (and the idea we need to eat more grains than vegetables) was put in place to boost the processed wheat and corn industries after the second World War. Many nutritionists believe that this terrible food pyramid is a significant cause of the obesity epidemic in the United States.

Today, it’s recommended that you have 3 to 5 servings of grains a day — more than half of what was previously recommended.

12. Never Research On The Internet

The Myth: The internet is an unreliable source of information.

The Truth:  I’m sure many of you have had your teachers scold you for using the internet to research a topic rather than an encyclopedia. I once had a teacher who wouldn’t accept any assignments if she caught you on Wikipedia during class.

Today, almost every teacher in the world would encourage students to use the internet for research. It’s literally a database, with everything ever recorded at your fingertips. In the past, universities would scoff at anyone who preferred to research a paper online but are now encouraging students to use this very powerful educational resource.

Of course, proceed with caution when using a website for research. You may not have the best luck finding accurate information with a Google search, but many universities have online databases filled with academic research papers.

I’m just waiting for the day that Wikipedia becomes seen as a fairly reputable source for broad information. Compared to expert papers, Wikipedia is terrible — but it should be viewed as just as accurate, if not more, than Encyclopedias published today.

11. Every Adult Writes In Cursive

The Myth: When learning how to write cursively, we’re all told that when we get older, everyone writes in cursive. After learning how to write cursively in Grade 3, I was told that the following year (and every year after), no teacher would accept written work unless it was written in cursive.

The Truth: To tell you the truth, cursive writing has been on the brink of dying since 1935. For decades, educators have struggled to teach children the importance of writing in cursive — because it really isn’t all that important, especially today. In the past, cursive writing may have been the formal way of writing documents, but today, everyone uses computers to create any document. People only use cursive to sloppily sign their name on legal documents. And, as a result, people have been claiming for decades that everyone’s handwriting has been getting worse — which is somewhat true, speaking from personal experience.

That said, many studies have shown that students who are taught both cursive and print do better on reading tests. Nonetheless, it’s only a matter of time before cursive is completely phased out. It’s really not as common as our teachers made it seem.

10. Your Tongue Has Flavour Sections

The Myth: Your tongue uses different areas to taste different flavors. It was originally believed that your tongue was divided into four areas — sweet, sour, salty and bitter — and these areas could be identified on a tongue map.

The Truth: The myth that your tongue has flavor sections dates back to 1901, when a German scientist named D.P. Hanig tried to measure the sensitivity on the tongue for four basic tastes. Based on nothing other than the thoughts of his patients, Hanig concluded that different regions of the tongue were dedicated to certain tastes. For example, Hanig believed the tip of your tongue was used to taste sweet flavors.

To start, there aren’t just four flavors (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter); there’s one more called “umami,” which is common in Japanese foods. Some scientists believe that there’s a taste receptor for fat, but others are unconvinced.

It’s been proven — and can be proven by you — that your tongue is designed to taste all flavors on all parts of your tongue. If you put salt on the tip of your tongue, you will taste it. According to the tongue map, you should only be able to taste sweet flavors on the tip of your tongue. How Hanig’s theory was able to exist for nearly a century without being challenged is beyond me.

9. The Mental-Math Myth

The Myth: “You won’t always have a calculator in your pocket.”

The Truth: When trying to get students to learn the importance of mental math, most teachers would tell them that they won’t have a calculator in their pocket all of the time. Oh boy, how they were wrong. Not only do most of us always have a calculator, but we have also an entire database of practically every piece of human knowledge at our fingertips. And that’s why we all love our smartphones.

But as much as I love my smartphone, I rarely ever use it as a calculator. I’ll try to figure out the math in my head before turning to my calculator. Why? Because of the benefits that come with practicing mental math.

To start, researchers have proven that the act of working out math calculations improves reasoning, problem-solving skills, and behavior. If that’s not enough reason for you, it’s way faster to figure out simple multiplication in your head rather than to take out your phone and open your calculator app.

8. Your Brain Doesn’t Heal Itself

The Myth: Brain cells don’t grow back. Once you lose them, they’re gone forever.

The Truth: For decades, people believed that adults were unable to create new brain cells, but recent studies have disproved that claim. According to neuroscientists, everyone has the ability to develop new brain cells that enhance their cognitive function. This process is called neurogenesis and allows new brain cells to develop in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning information, storing long-term memories, and controlling emotions. Even elderly people generate an estimated 700 brain cells a day, which is nothing compared to the billions that already exist.

There are numerous ways to boost how many cells your brain is making per day. You can do this through aerobic exercise, brain exercises (any task that makes you concentrate, such as brushing your teeth with the wrong hand or playing video games), having sex, or just relaxing!

7. You Only Have 5 Senses

The Myth: You only have 5 senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste.

The Truth: The idea of humans only having five senses can be traced back to Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul), where he devotes a chapter to sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. It may seem like a universal truth at this point, but there are a number of sensations you experience every day that aren’t part of the “original” senses.

Defining a “sense” can be difficult, but they’re typically thought of as information that defines our reality. While you may be struggling to think of another sense that you have, I’ll give you an example: close your eyes, and use your finger to touch the tip of your nose. You’re using one of your lesser-known senses known as proprioception, and it’s the awareness we have of where our body parts are located. There are other senses that you have that you’ve completely forgotten about. Thanks to a little portion of your inner ear, you have a sense of balance. You also have a sense of hunger, thirst, and need to use the bladder.

Some researchers have taken the “sense” argument even further. They suggest that every receptor in our body is a unique sense. Depending on your definition, we could have dozens, hundreds, or potentially thousands of different senses. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we have more than three.

6. There Are 9 Planets In Our Solar System

The Myth: The planets in our solar system are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

The Truth: You might be well aware of the fact that as of 2006, Pluto is no longer a planet of our solar system. Explaining why Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in our solar system is complicated, but I’ll do my best to break down why it was demoted.

In 1992, a planetary object, later called “Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 1992 QBI” was discovered. This object, with a similar mass to Pluto, was the first discovery of many that brought to light the illegitimacy of Pluto’s planetary status. So many of these small, icy “planets” were being discovered one after another, which led scientists to question what they classified as a planet.

In short, scientists created three criteria for defining a planet: must orbit the Sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (round) shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Pluto was able to meet only the first two criteria because of how many Pluto-like objects were in proximity to it.

The new criteria have been heavily criticized, and many speculate that Pluto may be classified as a planet once more in the future.

5. A Big Thing George Washington Is Known For

The Myth: The story of George Washington and the cherry tree should be considered nothing more than a tale to teach children the importance of telling the truth. As the story goes, a young George Washington was given a hatchet and chopped down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When confronted, Washington famously said, “I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree.”

The Truth: The origins of this story can be traced to Washington biographer Parson Weems, who wrote the story 10 years after Washington’s death. The story is reported to have come from one of Washington’s old neighbors, who remained unnamed. Due to the illegitimacy of the source, and the fact that so little is known about Washington’s early life, historians consider the cherry tree story complete bullsh*t.

In addition to the cherry-tree myth, historians have also debunked Washington’s wooden teeth. When he was inaugurated, he only had one natural tooth, but dentists had fitted him with several sets of false teeth that weren’t made of wood.

4. Who Discovered America?

The Myth: Christopher Columbus discovered America, all while proving that the Earth is round.

The Truth: Despite what you might have learned in school, Christopher Columbus did not discover America — he didn’t even set foot in North America. Colombus only made it as far as the coasts of Central and South America but spent most of his time in the Caribbean. Furthermore, people in Ancient Greece were under the belief that the Earth was round. Ancient mathematician Pythagoras had written that the Earth was a sphere, something Columbus had more than likely read. For Columbus, he wasn’t trying to prove the Earth was round; he was trying to establish how large the Ocean was that he was trying to cross.

A lesser-taught fact in school is that the real explorers who discovered North America were led by a Norse explorer named “Leif Erikson.” Erikson and his Viking sailors reached Canada more than 500 years before Columbus was even born, and the evidence of their camps can be found on the East coast of Canada. New evidence is suggesting that there were settlers a thousand years before Leif Erikson that made the journey to North America from the Mediterranean, though that’s widely disputed.

3. How Diamonds Are Made

The Myth: Diamonds are made from coal.

The Truth: There are numerous ways that diamonds are made, and none of them involve coal. To start, most diamonds are older than the Earth’s first plants — the material that eventually becomes coal. Almost every diamond that’s been mined can be dated to around 4,600 million years ago to around 542 million years ago. Coal, which is formed from plant debris, did not appear on Earth until almost 100 million years after the formation of all of Earth’s natural diamonds.

There are four main processes that result in the formation of diamonds, and these processes can be attributed to the creation of nearly 100% of all diamonds that have been mined, and all of them are too complicated to go into much detail here. Diamonds on Earth were typically formed by large asteroid impacts, subduction zones, and volcanic eruptions — or were formed in space and came to Earth via meteorite.

2. Lincoln’s Thoughts On Slavery

The Myth: Abraham Lincoln was completely against slavery. He felt that black and white people were of the same value to society.

The Truth: While Lincoln is responsible for bringing about the end of slavery, his actual thoughts on slavery are often disputed. For years, Lincoln believed that slavery shouldn’t expand into any other territories in the United States, he but didn’t explicitly state that he thought slavery should be abolished. It wasn’t until decades into his political career (and his second term as President) that Lincoln proposed the end of slavery. Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist, which meant that he wasn’t in support of the abolition of slavery, because it was practically written into the Constitution.

To hammer home that Lincoln was a bit of a racist, in 1858, while debating Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said that he believed white people were superior to black people. In his own words, Lincoln stated, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of black and white races.” Furthermore, Lincoln believed that black people shouldn’t be allowed to serve as jurors, marry white people, hold office, or vote.

1. Van Gogh’s Ear

The Myth: In a fit of insanity, Van Gogh cut off his ear after having a fight with his friend, Paul Gauguin, and gave it to a prostitute as a token of his love.

The Truth: The real reason Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear has been widely disputed for decades. A recent theory that’s gaining traction is that Van Gogh cut off his ear after hearing that his brother, whom he was financially dependent on, had gotten engaged. This triggered Van Gogh, leading him to have his infamous breakdown where he cut off his ear. Previously, it was believed Van Gogh found out this news before his fight with Gauguin, but new evidence proves that he was aware of the engagement before he fought Gauguin.

Another theory, suggested by two German researchers, is that Van Gogh was wounded by his friend, Paul Gauguin, while the two were fighting. The argument is alleged to have started after Gauguin told Van Gogh he would be leaving their studio. Angry in every version of this story, Van Gogh attacked Gauguin. To defend himself, Gauguin pulled a weapon and either intentionally or accidentally cut off Van Gogh’s ear. The researchers claim that inconsistencies in the journals of Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin point to the fact that Van Gogh was saying he had cut off his own ear to protect Gauguin.

In any case, the reason Van Gogh cut off his ear is a lot more complicated than your school teacher will have you believe.

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