False Knowledge: 40 Commonly Believed “Facts” That Aren’t True at AllBy John P.
“Common knowledge” and “fun facts” innocently shared by people we know and trust are some of the richest sources of false knowledge on Earth. These false facts slip into our memory banks unverified, just as if they had been delivered by a credible source. As kids, we often develop misconceptions at home through overheard conversations among relatives. We then trot off to share our newfound knowledge with our buddies with a sense of pride.
ShutterstockThe damage caused by misinformation is difficult to quantify, especially when it comes to false ideas that have been circulating for a long time. Indeed, it was not until the 3rd Century BC that anyone realized the world was not flat. Though our planet’s true nature has since been revealed by scientists and astronauts, the old false belief still clings on in the minds of some flat-earthers. Read on to ensure you’re not holding onto any similarly mistaken beliefs.
Were Bagpipes Invented in Scotland?
This ancient woodwind instrument is used all throughout Europe, not just in Scotland. However, it is deeply associated with the Highland Regiments during the British Empire’s expansion, which somehow gave the impression that the instrument originated from Scotland.
Throughout the years, bagpipe use dwindled elsewhere, but the Scots in their checkered kilts continued to love what has now become their national symbol. The true origin story of the bagpipe is rather vague, but it definitely was not invented by the Scots. Its history can be traced to the Egyptians, with records of the instrument appearing as early as 1,000 BC.
Does Body Heat Escape Through Our Heads?
On account of an erroneously concluded experiment back in the 1970s conducted by the US military, people have been led to believe that our bodies lose heat through our heads. We took this as a fact because it was the result of a sanctioned experiment, the results of which were printed in a survival manual.
However, scientific research has since refuted this claim, stating that our body heat is diffused evenly throughout and not lost mainly through a specific body part. No, we don’t have to wear hats to keep the heat collected. However, it is true that heads, hands, and feet are naturally more sensitive to atmospheric changes.
Will Your Hair Go Gray Faster if You Dye It?
There are many reasons why people like to color their hair. The young especially do it to adapt to changing trends. It’s a way of expressing themselves, perhaps like art, and a change in hue can be a way of projecting a new outlook on life.
Oddly enough, many people avoid dyeing their hair because of the belief that it will cause premature hair pigmentation loss. White hair doesn’t only appear with age. Genetics also have a hand in it, as do stress and vitamin deficiencies. Dyeing one’s hair is cool and, more importantly, harmless.
Do Goldfish Have Three-Second Memories?
For untraceable reasons, this glimmering pet in a bowl has earned a questionable reputation for having a very short attention span. Curiously, it is commonly believed that a goldfish’s memory is so poor that it can last for only up to three seconds, to be specific.
That’s just enough time to take in a human friend’s facial identity before it’s superseded by another concern. Fortunately, there is nothing out there that backs this up. In fact, this freshwater pet is believed to be capable of remembering things for months.
Does Soap Eliminate Germs When Hand Washing?
This belief has never been so reinforced since the start of the pandemic. People have become so conscious about hand washing like never before in history, believing the bar’s chemical composition kills at least 90% of the bacteria on our hands.
But that’s not how it works. This may come as a surprise to some, but soap merely picks up the germs from our hands and drags the unwanted microbes down the drain when rinsed with water. So it effectively unloads the bacteria from your skin’s surface, but it does not chemically annihilate the microbes upon contact.
Is Bottled Water Healthier Than Tap Water?
Drinking tap water was a generally accepted practice until bottled water became popular in the late 1970s. Now, people are used to spending extra money on commercial water because of the belief that it’s a cleaner and healthier option. This is a very costly misconception.
Drinking clean water should be the priority, and tap water perfectly serves that purpose. Bottled water processing is not very well regulated, and its direct exposure to sunlight, especially common during its physical distribution, can have negative effects on the liquid because of its plastic container.
Can You Get Warts from Handling Toads and Frogs?
The thought of handling a toad or frog will make most people cringe, imagining the slimy bodies or the bumpy surface on the back of these water-loving amphibians. This sense of disgust also stems from the supposedly common knowledge that touching them will cause warts to develop on our skin.
If only these poor, leaping creatures could defend themselves against such libelous claims. The little ridges on their skin are merely glands. A specific type becomes activated when a predator attempts to devour them. This is for self-defense only – nothing in them causes warts to grow on people.
Are Clouds Light and Airy?
Simply watching white clouds pass by gives us a light feeling, just as light and airy as the impression we have of these cottony formations across the bright blue sky. We are enamored by the shapes they embody, some looking like elephants while others look like floating ships.
The reality of clouds is a lot heavier than you might imagine. They are the sum of all the droplets and water vapor they carry that are evenly spread within the cloud’s entire cast. Some clouds are so vast that they are actually quite heavy. The weight of all that flying “fluff” would be crushing if it fell on you all at once.
Do Carrots Really Give You Sharper Vision?
Did your dear parents ever force you to munch on carrots as a kid? Did they convince you that it’d be worth it because your eyesight would be perfect? The root vegetable does indeed contain beta-carotene, which is beneficial to maintaining good eyesight. This is why kids are told they must devour the root vegetables if they want their vision to remain sharp.
There’s nothing wrong with it, except that carrots aren’t the sole source of this vitamin. If one doesn’t like its earthy taste, you can do a world of good for your eyesight with eggs, cheese, and milk. Also, no amount of any of these is likely to change the physical issues that generally lead people to need glasses!
Are Prisoners Only Allowed a Single Phone Call?
Thanks to Hollywood movies, most people believe that inmates are only allowed a single precious phone call per day. We imagine that they must carefully decide who to contact – should it be their lawyers, family members, or business associates? And if they don’t get an answer, we assume they have to wait 24 hours for another turn.
The reality is that different prisons have varying regulations. Some allow more than one call daily. Others are given free ones, after which any additional calls come at a fee. Severely restricted communications for inmates certainly adds dramatization to Hollywood movies, but they’re not entirely accurate.
Do Miranda Rights Have to Be Read for an Arrest to Be Legal?
There is a common misunderstanding, which can mostly be attributed to how arrests are dramatically portrayed in movies, that cops must read the Miranda Rights during an arrest, or else a person could not be legally prosecuted and must be set free.
How criminals wish that were true in real life! The reading of the Miranda Rights can be skipped during the main action of a bust, so long as they are read later on during custody, with the familiar introduction of, “You have the right to remain silent…”
Will Red Hair Eventually Be Bred Out of Humanity?
Natural red hair is not as common as other colors as it is associated with a rare and recessive gene. This means it may dwindle but pop up again in the next generation or two. Unfortunately, its link to the rare MC1R gene, which accounts for around only 2% of the global population, has given rise to the widespread misconstruction that red hair will soon go extinct.
This is far from the truth. Unless humans stop reproducing on a mass scale, red hair will continue to pop up in lineages that carry the recessive gene. They may be a minority among various hair colors, but according to scientists, they’re not likely to go away.
Is the Great Wall of China Really Visible from the Moon?
For a wall to cover the northern border of one of the biggest countries in the world, it has to be massive, and that certainly is true of the Great Wall of China. There were pictures posted on the web that showed the extent of its reach, leading many to assume that the images were taken from outer space. In turn, this inspired the belief that the wall is visible from the surface of the moon.
But those shots were merely zoomed in and taken by powerful yet earthbound lenses. A little farther into space, China’s wall would not be visible to the naked eye, much less when observed from the moon.
Do Nails and Hair Continue to Grow After Death?
This is a story that’s been told by old folks for generations. Often retold during Halloween festivities, funerals, and spooky gatherings, this tall tale would have you believe that your hair and nails will continue to grow long after you pass away.
The truth is that they can’t grow a millimeter longer without the cells that die along with the rest of the human body. Death causes the body to shrink and the skin to shrivel, which may give the impression that the nails and hairs have continued to lengthen post-mortem.
Do Dogs Perspire Through Their Tongues?
Dogs at play out in the field on a balmy day can be observed settling down once in a while, panting, and taking a short break from the action. They are able to cool down this way by letting the moisture out of their bodies, through the mouth, effectively managing their bodily temperature.
But it is wrong to think that they sweat through their stuck-out tongues. While it may look like they hardly break a sweat, especially with their thick fur, it will be easy to notice their perspiration dripping through the paw pads where their sweat glands are located. The tongue lolling does cool them down, but not because their tongues are sweaty!
Are White Teeth Healthy Teeth?
For many years, perhaps since childhood, people have been endeavoring to attain preternaturally white teeth. This drive comes, in large part, from celebrities and their perfect, glimmering smiles that make us believe whiteness is a sign of optimal dental health. You may be surprised to learn that you should actually be yearning for yellowish teeth.
Yellow is the color of enamel, and if one’s teeth are covered with layers of this translucent mineral, it means they are strong and healthy. Meanwhile, although more aesthetically pleasing, white teeth can be a sign of brittleness.
Does Milk Cause Excess Mucus Production?
Feeling a little bit under the weather, people are likely to be reminded of a contemporary legend that advises against milk consumption, at least until one feels healthy again. Especially among the older generation, it is believed that milk is an agent of mucus buildup, causing a sick person to have trouble breathing.
There is no scientific study that supports this legend. While dairy may cause saliva to be more viscous, its properties do not increase the production of mucus. In fact, it can even allay the manifestations of a sore throat.
Can Lightning Strike the Same Spot Twice?
Taking heed of an unsubstantiated claim can get someone killed. Like choosing to hide under a tree during a storm, believing it is sufficient shelter against lightning. In reality, this is one of the most dangerous things to do in such a situation. People also believe that lightning will never hit the same place again, “knowledge” that can be fatal, with no data to show for it.
Records show that New York City’s Empire State Building is struck by lightning an average of 23 times per year. At one point, in inclement weather, it was hit eight times in less than two hours. So, lightning most definitely can strike the same place more than once!
Did Adam and Eve Eat a Forbidden Apple?
In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve were confronted by God for eating the forbidden apple offered to them by the serpent. This is a narrative that has been told in Sunday school countless times, only to be repeated in Christian circles to this day. But there is no actual mention in the Hebrew Bible of an apple.
The Bible just describes the object of temptation as a fruit. The apple image only arose after the story had been echoed over many years, recounted from one person to the next with a touch of dramatization and plenty of pieces left out of the picture.
Can You File a Missing Person Report Inside 24 Hours?
We’ve learned this supposed lesson from thrilling scenes in crime dramas – a person cannot be reported missing to the police if 24 hours have not yet passed since they were last seen. Is this true?
While all that lost time is critical to driving suspense in a fictional story, real-world police aim to avoid wasting precious time like this. While police officers certainly do make mistakes in missing person cases, there is no regulation stipulating that they can’t act until 24 hours have passed. If someone is missing or suspected to be, the cops should be informed as soon as possible.
Can You Only Adopt a Child if You’re Rich?
It is important for adoption agencies and the foster care system to be able to determine if prospective parents will be able to support the child or children they wish to adopt. This means that certain legal matters will have to be examined first before the matter can be addressed and a judgment made.
A comfortable life ahead must be sought for the child, of course, but it doesn’t mean that the parent/s-to-be must be rich before they can be deemed eligible. Being financially stable should suffice. As long as a couple (or individual) is physically and mentally stable and ready to undertake this long-term responsibility, the law is generally in favor of letting them proceed.
Do Undercover Agents Have to Reveal Their Identity if Asked?
Transparency to the public is not something that applies to undercover cops. While departments should offer transparency in an effort to promote mutual trust and accountability, their undercover agents have no such requirement. Indeed, they are able to work directly with known criminals and engage in criminal activity themselves if it helps solve a bigger case.
A law requiring undercover agents to reveal their identity if confronted would defeat the whole purpose of going under the radar. It would also put their lives at stake – all for a regulation that wouldn’t make any sense if it were true.
Is Mount Everest the Tallest Mountain on Earth?
This information has been deemed common knowledge since time immemorial. Ask any sixth-grader, and they’ll likely tell you that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. They probably haven’t heard of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano at all.
Measured from the center of the earth, from the highest point, and down below sea level, Mauna Kea towers over the rest of the mountains in the world at 33,000 feet. When measured from above sea level, this dormant volcano is shorter than Mt. Everest by more than half, thus the general confusion.
Is Evolution a Mere Theory?
The simplicity of the above question undermines all the work Charles Darwin and others have done to arrive at the scientific theory of evolution, the details of which Darwin published in his famous work, On the Origin of Species, in the mid-19th century.
While Charles Darwin’s findings on evolution may not be provable beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is mainly because all its aspects throughout the history of life cannot be tested. In truth, the theory of evolution is more than just a hypothesis. It has been closely studied, and the results have been incontrovertible for a long time. The confusion arises from the fact that non-scientific folk mix up the meanings of “hypothesis” and “theory” all the time.
Does Caffeine Cause Dehydration?
Drinking a caffeinated drink might prompt more trips to the restroom than a person is used to, and this may have given shape to the misconception that caffeine causes dehydration. But studies on the subject beg to differ. While this natural stimulant may be mildly diuretic, it doesn’t cause a person to excrete more liquids than what they have consumed.
So, if you love a cup of tea or coffee, there’s no reason to give it up out of fear of dehydration. If coffee gives you the buzz you love, by all means, treat yourself! You only need to give it up if you’re getting unpleasant side effects from it, like anxiety, breathing troubles, heartburn, digestive issues, fatigue, or other maladies.
Is It True That No Two Fingerprints Are the Same?
Criminals are wary of leaving any evidence at a crime scene, and nothing can be more incriminating than one’s fingerprint lifted from a weapon, a doorknob, or an incriminating piece of evidence. This is because no two fingerprints are ever identical, right?
You may be surprised to learn that there have been many reports to the contrary. The odds are considerably low, but it’s not impossible that one person’s fingerprints could be so similar to another’s that they come up as a match. It is vital, therefore, that prosecutors are able to supply other evidence to ensure rightful convictions at trial.
Is Sitting Too Close to the Television Bad for the Eyes?
We often hear kids being scolded for watching the television from a close distance. It’s hard to blame them when they get too excited to watch cartoons they’ve been waiting for all day. Of course, they want to get as close to the box as possible to appreciate the sound effects and create an HD experience.
The truth is that you can let them! It’s not true that being too close to the screen damages their vision. What hurts the eyes are long, uninterrupted stares that dry up the surface. Tear glands can’t supply fluid without the occasional blink.
Do Authorities Always Have to Obtain a Warrant?
Thanks to the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, abuses by authorities in searches and arrests are considered a direct violation of a person’s privacy. As a consequence of such unconstitutional acts, all unlawfully obtained evidence is deemed inadmissible in court.
But there are exceptions to every law. Cops can break into a building without a warrant during a hot pursuit. They can also enter and seize illegal items and effects that are in plain view without having to seek a judge’s written approval.
Did the Israelites Build the Pyramids in Egypt?
The ancient Egyptians viewed the Israelites as a threat to their kingdom, describing them as being more powerful and greater in number. So, Egypt’s rulers worked cunningly to limit their development. They put them into forced labor, constructing roads and buildings to expand Egypt’s cities, leading many to believe that the Israelites were the builders of the pyramids.
But there is no formal account stating that the Israelites were forced to build the famous pyramids. In fact, there’s evidence showing that the Egyptians themselves were responsible for building these large monoliths.
Is It Better to Hand-Wash Dishes?
Despite the array of technological advancements available today, some people still prefer to do things the old-fashioned way. Many homeowners prefer to wash their dishes by hand, despite there being automated dishwashers that operate at a click. Many believe that manually doing it is less costly because it uses less water.
What they don’t realize is that dishwashing machines are designed to clean efficiently and recycle water. In fact, a dishwasher can save approximately 9,000 liters of water annually if it replaces the old manual washing process.
Do Alcoholic Drinks Heat up the Body?
Good companionship and warm conversation are not the only things that come to mind when people think about beer and bottled spirits. For many years, alcoholic beverages have been thought to keep our bodies warm, making booze a quick and easy solution to countervail the cold weather outside.
But alcohol consumption does nothing at all to increase our body temperature. What alcohol does do is speed up the process of blood rushing to the skin’s surface, giving a false sense of providing warmth.
Do Brain Exercise Games Make People Smarter?
Many phone application makers claim to have developed “brainy” games designed for more than just fun. They claim their apps are making users smarter in real life. Such apps have proliferated, and people believe that the lofty claims of these software developers are genuine.
Unfortunately, these apps only serve to make participants better at the meaningless little games contained within. They don’t improve one’s IQ as many expect. At least it’s a fun way of keeping the brain active.
Did Ninjas Wear All-Black Ensembles?
Ninjas were extremely hard to capture. They operated as death dealers and spies, and they were exquisite practitioners of martial arts and ninjutsu. These stealthy warriors were believed to have first appeared during the 15th century. If cornered, they would drop smoke bombs and vanish before the fumes cleared.
People also believed that they only wore black uniforms, making them practically invisible at night and in the shadows. But ninjas throughout history wore uniforms with various colors that were dependent upon their environment and camouflage needs. Their missions also required various garments as they often disguised themselves as merchants, magicians, monks, and other characters.
Does Water Boil Faster When Salted?
Heating up a pot of water for the day’s tea or coffee session isn’t something one might describe as groovy or exciting. It only takes minutes, but it is time we’d rather spend doing something else. To shorten the period needed to boil water, some people add salt to the liquid.
Funnily enough, adding salt actually lengthens the process by increasing the boiling point of the liquid. Its presence also increases the tendency of water to evaporate rather than maintain its liquid state.
Do Bats Use Sonar Because They Are Blind?
Bats don’t see the environment in vivid colors like humans do, but the idea that they are blind, a notion that’s been carried on for years, is utterly false. In fact, their vision is so sensitive that they are able to see through complete darkness with far more clarity than any human could hope to possess.
While it is true that they use sonar to echolocate when hunting and flying around, they do this with the aid of eyesight. They may have been mistaken as blind creatures because of all the noise they make to effectively use echolocation. However, bats are simply well-developed creatures with more than one way of perceiving the world.
Are Humans Descendants of Modern Apes?
At a glance, it is easy to spot strikingly similar features humans share with apes. Unlike monkeys, apes do not have tails. We share this trait with them and also have a similar bone structure. Our common characteristics may have led many people to believe that we have evolved from them eons ago.
Around 8 million years ago, man and chimpanzee were linked by a common ancestor: the ape. But humans didn’t evolve from that point. Our lineage diverged earlier into a species known as hominids. So, no, people didn’t evolve from chimps or apes, although both are technically primates.
Does the Human Tongue Have Different Taste Areas?
If the human tongue were subdivided according to different basic tastes – sweet, bitter, sour, and salty – it would make the simple task of eating a sophisticated experience. If sweetness were solely a frontal tongue phenomenon, making it dull to other flavors, we wonder how green mango would taste on that spot.
It is wrong to think that our tongue is taste-specific in its different areas. With about eight thousand taste buds that contain gustatory cells evenly arranged throughout the muscular organ, it’s safe to say that all types of taste can be sensed in all its parts.
Is Microwave Radiation Dangerous?
This idea was especially rampant following the arrival of the new appliance in our homes. Parents would set the timer to heat up the food placed inside, and a reminder would be given, especially to children, to stay away from the oven as it worked its magic.
The idea that microwaves cause cancer is not based in reality. The radiation is not the same type that made thousands of people flee the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site. It is non-ionizing, like ultraviolet light and infrared rays. This means microwaves operate at a safe, low frequency and energy level.
Does Shaving Make Hair Grow Back Thicker and Darker?
Many women fear shaving their legs, worrying that thick hair might grow back in abundance. They imagine the regrown strands will be thicker and denser, so they avoid shaving at all costs. Conversely, people with beards tend to be happy to shave daily in order to keep their facial hair in check.
After a clean shave, hair tips consequently become sharp, which makes them reflect light differently. Along with the feeling of sharpness as the hair grows back, this can give us the impression that our hair is getting thicker and rougher.
Are We Only Using 10% of Our Brains?
If only ten percent of the human brain is truly used in one’s lifetime, a staggering 90% of life’s lessons pass unnoticed, innumerable skills are not learned, and potential telekinesis and psychic abilities remain involuntarily disregarded. So much potential is wasted. But we don’t only use a small part of our brain’s capacity as common knowledge would have you believe.
From guiding our physical actions to inspiring our emotions and giving us self-awareness, the brain is always hard at work. It’s even active when we’re asleep! So many brain functions can simultaneously occur, even when a person performs tasks as simple as stretching or gazing out the window.