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13 Things You Thought Were True But Aren't

You may begin to see a pattern here. Thanks to the QI Book of General Ignorance.

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  1. 1. The Wright brothers made the first flight in an aeroplane.

    Getty / Hulton Archive
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    We don't know the name of the guy who did it but he beat the Wright brothers by fifty years. He worked for Sir George Cayley (1773-1857), above, an aristocratic Yorkshireman and pioneer of aeronautics. He built a series of prototype flying machines. In 1804 he demonstrated the world's first model glider. In 1853, he demonstrated the world's first "governable parachute" with a human passenger. He persuaded his reluctant coachman to steer the contraption across a valley. So the story goes, he wasn't impressed: "I was hired to drive, not fly."

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  2. 2. An octopus has eight legs.

    Gregory Shamus / Getty
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    They have eight limbs protruding from their bodies, but recent research into how they use them has redefined what they should be called. Octopuses (from the Greek for 'eight feet') are cephalopods (Greek for 'head foot'). They use their back two tentacles to propel themselves along the seabed, leaving the remaining six to be used for feeding. Marine biologists now refer to them as animals with two legs and six arms.

    Not true.
    Ian Waldie / Getty
  3. 3. The three most dangerous Australian creatures are spiders, snakes and sharks.

    Dan Kitwood / Getty
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    According to the National Coroners Information System, between 2000 and 2006 there were 128 animal-related deaths in Austrlia, and horses were responsible for 36 of them. Many resulted from someone colliding with a horse while driving or falling off one while riding. The second most deadly animal was the cow - with 20 deaths - followed by the dog with 12. Sharks killed 11 people, snakes killed eight, crocodiles or alligators, four, spiders only three.

    Not true.
    Tristan Fewlings / Getty
  4. 4. It's 50-50 whether a coin lands on "heads" or "tails".

    Daniel Kalisz / Getty
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    Students at Stanford University recorded thousands of coin tossses with high-speed cameras and discovered the chances are approximately fify-one-forty-nine in favour of heads. If each coin is subject to exactly the same initial conditions and same initial force, its spin will produce an even chance, but the slightest difference in the conditions – speed and angle of spin, height of the coin from the ground, which side is facing up to start – will affect the result.

    Not true.
    Getty
  5. 5. This is a spiral staircase.

    Ethan Miller / Getty
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    It's not spiral, it's helical. A spiral is a two dimensional curve which radiates out from a fixed central point. The longer it gets, the less curved it becomes. A helix is a three dimentional curve, like a spring or a Slinky, which doesn't change its angle of curve no matter how long it gets.

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  6. 6. Cleopatra was Egyptian.

    Via en.wikipedia.org
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    Cleopatra was a direct descendant of Ptolemy I (303-285 BC), the right hand-man to Alexander the Great. On Alexander's death in 323 BC, Ptolemy was rewarded with the governorship of Egypt. And like Alexander, Ptolemy came from Macedon, north of Greece. The Ptolemaic court spoke Greek and behaved as an occupying foreign power.

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  7. 7. Julius Caesar invaded Britain and said "Veni, vidi, vici" – "I came, I saw, I conquered."

    Via en.wikipedia.org
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    He did indeed say this, but he was summing up his victory over King Pharnaces II of Pontus at the battle of Zela in 47 BC. His attempts to invade Britain were much less satisfactory. He invaded twice without real success - trade and Roman influence actually grew without the need for full occupation. The invasion happened 96 years later under Emperor Claudius.

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  8. 8. Napoleon was short.

    Via en.wikipedia.org
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    The belief he was tiny came from mistranslation and propaganda. According to his 1821 autopsy, he was "5/2". It's now thought this represents the French measurement "5pieds 2 pouces", which converts to 1.69 metres. The average height of Frenchmen between 1800 and 1820 was 1.64 metres, so he'd have been taller than most of the people he knew and in fact taller than the average Englishman, who was then 1.68 metres.

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  9. 9. Bats are blind.

    Ian Waldie / Getty
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    Of the 1,100-odd species of bat in the world, not one is sightless – and many can see very well indeed. The notion they don't need eyes because of their sonar is nonsense. Fruit bats don't use it at all – they have large eyes. Microbats do use sonar to hunt, but use their eyes for avoiding obstacles, spotting landmarks and working out their flying height.

    Not true.
    Ian Waldie / Getty
  10. 10. Mussolini made the trains run on time.

    Via en.wikipedia.org
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    If anything, he made the trains less reliable than they had been. When he arrived on the political scene in the early 1920s, the railways were already running as well as any in Europe. The credit belongs to Cavaiere Carlo Crova, general manager of Italian State Railways in the 1920s. Actually once Mussolini was in power fuel and staff were diverted to mount the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  11. 11. Mayflies only live for a day.

    Via en.wikipedia.org
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    Depending on species, the adult lives from less than a day to a week, but this is only the final stage of a longer life-cycle. Most of the mayfly's existence is spent as an aquatic nymph, which lasts from a few months to four years.

    Not true.
    en.wikipedia.org
  12. 12. Usain Bolt is the fastest man that ever lived.

    Jason Merritt / Getty
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    The title probably belongs to a Stone Age Australian called T8. Usain has reached 27kph for a second or so, but he was on a running track with spiked shoes. T8 was in mud, barefoot and accelerating.

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org
  13. 13. Richard III's last words were "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse."

    Via en.wikipedia.org
    It's not true, is it?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Not true.

    Actually his last words are among the few things about the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 that are accurately recorded. They were "Treason, Treason, Treason!" It was the last time an English king died in battle and it ended the Wars of the Roses.

    Not true.
    Via en.wikipedia.org

13 Things You Thought Were True But Aren't

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