32 Things You Always Believed That Simply Aren’t True

This changes everything! Well, some things.

1. The concept of the sugar rush is a myth. The hyperactivity you feel after ingesting sugar is just a placebo.

Flickr: criminalintent / Creative Commons

2. Despite popular belief, the Great Wall of China is not the only manmade object you can see from space.

You can actually see a lot of manmade objects from space. In fact, the Great Wall of China is actually NOT easily visible from space.

3. It’s not actually harmful to pick up baby birds and return them to their nests, and it will not cause their mother to reject them.

Birds don’t really have a very powerful sense of smell, so they wouldn’t even know if you handled their babies. It’s still a good idea to leave baby birds alone, though, since their parents are probably close by.

4. Human blood is never actually colored blue in your body.

Deoxygenated blood has a deep red color, and oxygenated blood has a light cherry-red color. If blood ever appears blue, it’s only because skin and fat is tinting veins, making them appear blue.

5. There are not different areas of the tongue dedicated to different tastes. All different tastes can be detected on all parts of the tongue.

Also, there are not four, but five primary tastes. In addition to bitter, sour, salty, and sweet, humans have taste receptors for umami, which is a savory or meaty taste.

6. Chameleons don’t actually change their color to blend in with their surroundings.

lezumbalaberenjena / Flickr: 14020964@N02

They change color in order to communicate. A chameleon’s color change can signal mood, aggression, territory, and mating behavior.

7. The color orange is named after the fruit, not the other way around.

Before the late 15th century, the color orange was just lumped in with red.

8. People think penguins mate for life. They don’t.

Some penguins stay monogamous for the duration of mating seasons, but very few stay monogamous for their entire lives.

9. The story about NASA developing a space pen whilst the Russians used a pencil is untrue. NASA also used pencils.

The first space pen was developed privately by the Fisher Pen Company.

10. It’s never actually stated that the forbidden fruit mentioned in the Bible is an apple. Some claim that it was more likely a fig or pomegranate.

The idea that the forbidden fruit was an apple came from an early pun between the Latin words for evil and apple.

11. Humans have more than five senses. The actual number ranges from 9 to over 20.


Everyone knows sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing, but humans can also sense balance and acceleration, pain, body and limb position, and relative temperature, as well as a number of more minor senses.

12. Napoleon Bonaparte was not short.

At 5’7”, he was actually slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time. Some think that he was nicknamed “le Petit Caporal” (which translates to “The Little Corporal”) as a term of affection.

13. The Earth doesn’t revolve around the Sun. It’s actually revolving around the solar system’s center of mass.

The center of mass in the solar system, called the Barycenter, is often within the mass of the Sun, but not always. Sometimes larger planets can pull the Barycenter out of the mass of the Sun, which means the Earth (and everything else, including the Sun) is just orbiting around empty space.

14. Not everyone in Columbus’ time thought the world was flat.

Fraser Mummery / Flickr: 73014677@N05

Most educated people knew the world was round, and the scientists at the time had even figured out how big it was. In fact, Columbus himself vastly underestimated the size of the world, and if it weren’t for his accidental discovery of what he called the West Indies, he and his crew would have starved due to lack of supplies.

15. It’s not true that people only use 10% of their brains.

It’s true that only a small number of neurons in the brain are actively firing at any one time, but inactive neurons are important too.

16. Vikings didn’t actually have horns on their helmets.

The image of a Viking with a horned helmet is from a 1876 production of Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen.”

17. Swimming within an hour of eating doesn’t actually lead to cramps or drowning.

One study has shown a correlation between alcohol consumption and drowning, though (for obvious reasons).

18. It doesn’t take seven years to digest chewing gum. It’s actually not digestible, and just passes right through your system.

19. “420” is not the Los Angeles police or penal code for marijuana use.

Los Angeles Police Code 420 means “juvenile disturbance,” and California Penal Code section 420 prohibits the obstruction of access to public land.

20. When John F. Kennedy’s said, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” nobody actually interpreted it as “I am a jelly doughnut.

It’s claimed that his use of the indefinite article “ein” means that “Berliner” translates as “jelly doughnut.” The word “Berliner” is not commonly used in Berlin to refer to the Berliner Pfannkuchen; the pastry is usually called ein Pfannkuchen.

22. Mussolini didn’t actually make the trains run on time.

The trains in Italy were in a disaster after WWI, and the government that pre-dated Mussolini did actually make a lot of improvements to the rail industry, but the trains actually got worse again during WWII after Mussolini’s rise to power.

23. George Washington didn’t have wooden teeth.

He did have dentures, but they were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth).

24. Redheads are not going extinct. Neither are blondes.

Redheads may become more rare, but they will not die out unless everyone who carries the gene dies or fails to reproduce.

25. There wasn’t actually any widespread panic following the first broadcast of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds.

Only a very small share of the radio audience was even listening to it. There were isolated reports of incidents but no widespread panic.

26. Bats are not blind.

While about 70% of bats do use echolocation to navigate, all bat species have eyes and are capable of sight. Actually, almost all bats in the megabat or fruit bat family don’t echolocate and have excellent night vision.

27. Life expectancy wasn’t actually in the thirties during the MiddIe Ages.

It’s true that life expectancy in the Middle Ages and earlier was lower, but the average was pulled down by a high infant mortality rate. The typical person who made it to adulthood in medieval England could expect to live into their sixties.

28. Houseflies have a life expectancy longer than 24 hours.

The average lifespan of a housefly is 20 to 30 days.

29. Glass doesn’t actually flow like a liquid, and old glass only appears rippled because of antiquated glass-manufacturing processes.

Glass is an amorphous solid that only begins to flow like a liquid above the glass transition temperature of 777 ºF. Unevenness in old glass is due to the window-manufacturing processes used at the time that cause variable thickness in panes of glass.

30. Your fingers don’t wrinkle in water because the skin is absorbing water and swelling.

It’s actually caused by the autonomic nervous system, and is thought to have evolved because it gives ancestral primates a better grip in slippery, wet environments.

31. Sunflowers don’t actually track the sun across the sky.

They always face east.

32. The Coriolis effect does not actually make water rotate in different directions while flushing toilets and draining bathtubs.

The Coriolis effect does affect large bodies of water, and can alter ocean currents and weather systems, but it’s far too weak to affect draining water. The hemisphere you’re in doesn’t actually change the direction water drains.

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