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19 Lies You've Probably Been Told At Some Point

Warning: You may feel the earth move under your feet.

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1. You can kill someone by dropping a penny off the Empire State Building.

Nickelodeon / Via

THE TRUTH: Thanks to air resistance, the pull of gravity won't turn a penny into a lethal weapon. And it won't drill a hole in your head; it would probably feel more like someone flicked you. Anyone who tries doing this is still a jerk, though.

2. Toilets flush counterclockwise in Australia.

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THE TRUTH: There's a lot of complicated science behind it, but basically, while the Coriolis Effect, which does technically influence the direction of rotation in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, it's too small to make a toilet noticeably drain in wildly different directions. Sorry.

3. You can see the Great Wall of China from space.

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THE TRUTH: That myth has been around for a long time, and a Ripley's Believe It Or Not cartoon from 1932 said it was even visible from the moon. But astronauts say that's completely untrue. "I have spent a lot of time looking at the Earth from space, including numerous flights over China, and I never saw the wall," former NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman, who's been on five space shuttle missions, told Scientific American. "The problem is that the human eye is most sensitive to contrast, and the color of the wall is not that different from the ground on either side of it."

4. Swallowing gum is really bad for you, and could even kill you.

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THE TRUTH: You'll just poop it out whole at some point — even if you're a serial gum-swallower like Sean Spicer. Still, doctors advise against doing it because gum has zero nutritional value.

5. There are more people alive now than have ever lived.

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THE TRUTH: This is a common one people tell to freak out their friends and family. Researchers have to make an educated guess about just how many people are hanging out 6 feet under the sidewalk, but according to the Population Reference Bureau, there are currently 7 billion people alive today and about 107 billion people that have ever lived. In other words, we have a ways to go before — or if — this fake fact becomes true.

6. More than 50% of NASA employees are dyslexic because they're sought after for their excellent problem-solving abilities and spatial awareness.

8. All of the ants in the world collectively weigh more than all of the humans.

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THE TRUTH: Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson and German biologist Bert Hoelldobler made this highly disturbing claim in their 1994 book Journey to the Ants, but you can stop worrying about an insect takeover. As this BBC article points out, their assertion is impossible to prove because we have no way of calculating how many ants are on earth — plus, humans are, as a species, getting heavier all the time.

10. The reason artificial banana flavoring doesn't taste like real bananas is because it's based on an extinct kind of banana.

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THE TRUTH: Allegedly, banana artificial flavoring was invented when the most common variety of the fruit was the Gros Michel banana. After a fungus wiped out all the Gros Michels, the Cavendish banana we eat today was cultivated, but the flavor was slightly different, accounting for the weird taste of the artificial flavoring. That would be so cool if it were true, but the reality is a little less exciting. Yes, the Gros Michels did go extinct, but the weird banana candy flavor is because of a compound called isoamyl acetate. Isoamyl acetate is actually found in bananas, but it's a little sweeter and more artificial-tasting than you'd expect from the real thing.

11. Oranges were named after the color orange.

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THE TRUTH: The fruit has had its English name since the 1300s, but the color was just called "yellow-red" until the 1500s, around the time oranges became widely available in England.

12. We only use 10% of our brains.

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THE TRUTH: No one knows why this "fact" took hold, but even Albert Einstein perpetuated it at one point. As nice as it is to think about all that unused potential, most people use almost 100% of their brain's functionalities.

13. Bulls get angry and charge at the color red.

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THE TRUTH: MythBusters disproved this for once and for all by waving red, white, and blue flags in front of a bull. The different colors got equal reactions, and it turns out that bulls get angry and charge because of the motion of the cloth, not the color of it.

14. You swallow an average of eight spiders a year in your sleep.

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THE TRUTH: Scientists say this is highly unlikely for several reasons. For starters, spiders just don't gravitate toward beds — they offer no prey. Plus, if you're sleeping with your mouth open, you're probably snoring, and the noise would scare any intrepid eight-legged critters away. Phew!

15. Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the symbol of the US.

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THE TRUTH: Ol' Benny Frank did think the turkey was "a much more respectable bird" than the bald eagle and deeply questioned the choice of an eagle, but in truth, his proposal for the presidential seal didn't include any birds at all.

16. Fortune cookies come from China.

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THE TRUTH: The bell-shaped cookies were actually invented in Kyoto, Japan (bells symbolize good fortune there), and came to the US in the 19th century via a Japanese immigrant in San Francisco. Today, the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world is Wonton Food Inc., in none other than Brooklyn, New York.

17. A shot of espresso has more caffeine than a cup of coffee.

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THE TRUTH: It's hard to make a one-for-one comparison, but basically, a cup of drip coffee has at least two times more caffeine than a shot of espresso. But if you tend to take shot after shot of espresso to get a good buzz, then yeah, you'll probably end up ingesting much more caffeine than if you drank a regular old cup of joe.

18. "Ye" is pronounced how it looks.

THE TRUTH: It's actually pronounced "the"! Way back when, "ye" was spelled "þe," with þ being the letter thorn, which had a "th" sound. Because people have had bad handwriting since the dawn of time, þ eventually became indistinguishable from the letter Y. And þere you have it.

19. Napoleon Bonaparte was shorter than the average male.

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THE TRUTH: He stood at about 5'6", which doesn't make him a giant, but history hasn't been fair to his reputation, height-wise. The reasoning behind the misconception is that he was 5'2" on the French scale — the Carolingian system, which went out of style after the French revolution — which isn't quite as impressive. Plus, he was known to surround himself with tall soldiers while in battle, which made him look far smaller than he really was. TL;DR: The phrase "Napoleon complex" is a little misleading.

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