Growing up means finding out that everything people told you when you were younger was a lie. Caffeine doesn’t stunt your growth, sugar doesn’t make you hyperactive, and swimming twenty-nine minutes after you last ate won’t kill you.
Now, some of these lies are pretty obvious (does anyone over ten think that their elderly family dog is being released to a nice big farm?), but some of them are easy to believe way into adulthood, leaving us reeling when we find out that these “facts” were “fakes.”
Here are twenty-five of the most egregious times the universe lied to you.
That Sucks: In today’s most unfortunate news, black holes are not quite as cool as previously reported. Their infamous sucking properties are the same as any other object of equal mass, and they’ll only start acting like a “cosmic vacuum cleaner” if the star they’re made from was already doing that.
Long Division: Solving a mystery I’ve wondered about since childhood, earthworms don’t actually turn into two earthworms when they’re cut in half. Some worms can survive the experience, but only the half with the mouth stays alive.
A Dog’s Life: Even though they’re “colorblind,” dogs don’t see the world in shades of grey. Because they’re missing the cones that process red light, they see the world in yellow and blue, similar to a person with red/green colorblindness. They’re also less sensitive to differences in brightness, but much more sensitive to motion than humans are.
Making It Clear: Glass isn’t a liquid, and it doesn’t flow (at room temperature). While medieval panes of stained glass are often thicker at the bottom, that’s because glassblowers would generally place the thicker side of the glass down for increased stability.
The Great Wall Of Deception: We hear that the Great Wall of China is the only manmade object you can see from space, but that just ‘ain’t so. It’s really difficult to see, even from low orbit, because it’s relatively narrow and inconspicuously colored. On the other hand, city lights are easily visible from space. In other words, your porchlight’s beating out a millennia-old wonder of the world.
Around The World: People never seriously believed the world was flat, even in medieval times. In fact, the world had been known to be round since ancient Greece. So even medieval Europeans, who believed schizophrenia was caused by the devil, were smarter than today’s Flat-Earthers.
Medieval Times: We pity the people of medieval Europe for their short lifespans, but it turns out that our pity is somewhat misplaced. While the average life expectancy was extremely low, it was mostly driven by the high infant mortality rates. Although, given how lousy life was back then, I don’t know whether that’s actually a good thing.
Stay Gold: Goldfish can remember things for longer than five seconds. Indeed, goldfish who hear specific tones can still remember them up to five months later, even in a different location. In other words, goldfish have a better memory than me.
VACCINATE YOUR KIDS: Yes, there was a study done in the 1990’s “proving” that vaccines were linked to autism. But 1. it was done on only twelve kids 2. there were no control subjects 3. every study afterward refuted the findings and 4. the lead researcher had a huge conflict of interest. There’s no reasonable scientific evidence to suggest that vaccines cause autism, and a lot of evidence to suggest they cause good things, like your kid not dying of polio.
Effed Up: The f-Word (no, not feminism) didn’t come from “Fornication Under Consent of King,” or “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” Instead, the first known use is from a 13th-century poem, where it’s spelled “fuccant,” conjugated like a Latin verb.
A Story With Teeth: George Washington didn’t actually have wooden teeth. The truth is way weirder (and worse). His false teeth were made of an eclectic mix of materials, including lead, gold, hippo ivory, and probably the teeth of slaves.
Don’t Panic: Contrary to popular belief, people didn’t freak out when H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was played on the radio, and no one seriously believed an alien invasion was happening. Instead, newspapers played up the story to make radio look bad.
Use Your Brain: The idea that we only use ten percent of our brains is totally false. While we don’t use all of our brains at any given time, the activation is spread out throughout our brains at different points in time, and the inactive neurons are still important. We can thank psychologist William James for the expression, although he originally used it as a metaphor.
Don’t Detox: Detox diets flat-out don’t work. In a healthy body, the kidneys and liver flush out toxins regularly, and diet has very little to do with that process. So there’s really no point going on a detox – except for bragging rights, and isn’t that really the point anyway?
It’s Just A Theory: Because of limited public knowledge about what a theory is, people often think that the “theory” of evolution is still a matter of scientific debate. But a theory is actually an explanation for the way the world works that stands up under scientific scrutiny, meaning that the “theory” of evolution is close to being a scientific fact. Now, if only someone would tell that to my weird cousin.
Bluebloods: Whether it’s oxygenated or not, your blood’s always red (although deoxygenated blood is a deeper red). While your veins look blueish under your skin, that’s a property of light refraction through your skin and not a property of your blood!
A Penny Saved: As the Mythbusters proved on their show, dropping a penny from the top of the Empire State Building can’t kill anyone. A penny dropped from that height would go up to 64.4 mph; fast enough to hurt, but not to grievously wound or kill. Darn, there go my plans for the weekend.
Vacuuming: Being exposed to a vacuum like space wouldn’t make you explode or your internal fluids boil. It would, however, lead to unconsciousness from hypoxia (oxygen deficiency), followed shortly thereafter by death. Cheerful!
In 1492…: Columbus didn’t discover America. Actually, he didn’t even get to America. He landed on the Barbados, hit up some of Central and South America, and caused brutal, destructive mayhem everywhere he went, but he somehow failed to do the one thing we remember him for. Can we just cancel Columbus Day already?
If Your Friend Jumped Off A Cliff…: Lemmings don’t jump off cliffs, whether or not their friends do. The idea that they do was made popular by the film White Wilderness, where photographers herded lemmings off a cliff for a good shot. And after that, people just followed the misconception like, well, lemmings.
Sick And Tired: A vomitorium is a passage under a row of seats in an auditorium, and the name has caused some amusing confusion. Since ancient Roman stadiums had vomitoria, people often believe that the Romans had special rooms for making themselves be sick so they could continue eating.
Color Me Surprised: Chameleons don’t actually change color to blend in with their backgrounds. Instead, they generally shift hues to regulate their temperature or display their intentions to other chameleons. Like humans, chameleons may change their color when angry or put on bright hues to attract a mate!
Rest In Peace: While elephant skeletons are sometimes found together, there’s no instinct that prompts older elephants to go find an “elephant’s graveyard” to die in, away from the rest of the herd. While elephants don’t exhibit the “elephant’s graveyard” instinct, humans do; it’s called “Florida.”
Everyone Has Their Sh*t Together (but me): It’s easy to think that you’re the only one without your life together, especially when you say your friends on Facebook getting married while you’re covering a microwaved hot-pocket in ranch dressing and chugging enough Diet Pepsi to replace your cerebrospinal fluid. But the best/worst thing about adulthood is that no one really has it all the way together, and everyone makes dumb mistakes sometimes (see below!). So get out there, and don’t let the fear of looking like you don’t have your stuff together stop you from having fun! Just maybe cut down on the Pepsi, okay?