51 Favourite Facts You’ve Always Believed That Are Actually False
Napoleon wasn’t short? Bananas don’t grow on trees? Here, the world’s most contagious myths and misconceptions—debunked.
Napoleon Was Short
A tall tale. At five six, he was slightly above average height for a Frenchman of the time.
Don’t Eat and Swim
This doesn’t increase the risk of cramps; alcohol is the biggest risk increaser. But a full stomach will make you short of breath.
Salty Water Boils Quicker
Adding a sprinkle of salt to water makes no difference. It can actually make boiling take longer.
Oil Stops Stuck Pasta
Nope. It’ll only make it greasy. Stirring prevents sticking.
Master the art of cooking up meatballs with these pro tips.
Left and Right Brain
There’s no solid division between the talents of each hemisphere; the left brain can learn “right-brain skills” and vice versa.
Dropped Pennies Kill
Terminal velocity of a penny is 18 to 30 kilometres per hour. Not fast enough to kill—but it sure would sting.
Check out this surprising list of Canada’s most fascinating exports!
Three Wise Men
Nowhere in the Bible does it specify that there were three.
Here’s the real reason why bunnies are so popular for Easter.
MSG = Headaches
There’s no scientific proof—just anecdotal evidence implicating monosodium glutamate.
Have these home remedies for headaches on hand to battle a stressful day.
Dogs Sweat by Salivating
No—they regulate temperature through panting. They actually sweat through their footpads.
Great Wall of China
It’s not visible from space. No single human structure is visible from orbit, but you can see cities at night.
A flushed toilet does not rotate the other way in the Southern Hemisphere. The Coriolis effect doesn’t alter water in toilets.
Einstein Failed Math
Nope. He failed an entrance exam for a school but still excelled in math.
Humans and Dinosaurs
Despite 41 per cent of U.S. adults thinking we coexisted, humans and dinosaurs actually missed each other by 64 million years.
We take a look at Canada’s most unforgettable natural habitats.
Not really “holes,” but rather hugely dense objects with massive gravitational pull.
These moon facts will make you look at the night sky a little differently.
We Have Only Five Senses
Some scientists insist on 21, including balance, pain and temperature.
Vaccines Cause Autism
Groundless fears based on fraudulent research that’s been shown to have been manipulated.
Don’t Touch Baby Birds
Most birds have a limited sense of smell, so they won’t abandon babies who “smell” of humans.
Alcohol Kills Brain Cells
Even in heavy users and alcoholics, brain cells aren’t killed, only damaged.
Police don’t require a 24-hour waiting period before accepting a missing-persons report.
Different Tongue Parts
There are not different sections of the tongue for each taste: bitter, sour, salt, sweet and umami (savoury/meaty).
Only 10 Per Cent of the Brain is Used
The proportion of the brain “firing” at any one time is task dependent, but ultimately, every region is used almost every day.
Try these mental workout exercises to sharpen your mind.
These were never medieval torture devices, but 18th-century fakes were created for sensational circuses.
Body Heat and the Head
Only in infants is most heat lost through the head (unless the head is the only uncovered part of the body).
They’ll be really confused, but it’s OK. They’re more likely to hurt themselves if they’re not awoken.
Bananas Grow on Trees
Actually, they grow on massive herbs that just resemble trees.
It turns out even the banana peel can be a useful tool around the house.
Milk Increases Mucus
Nope, it doesn’t. There’s no need to avoid dairy if you have a cold.
Bats Are Blind
Not only can bats see, but they also use echolocation. That’s why they’re so awesome!
Caffeine Dehydrates You
Not really. The diuretic effect of caffeine is offset by the amount of water in a caffeinated drink.
Goldfish’s Three-Second Memory
While not the smartest creatures, goldfish boast a memory span of three months.
Shaving Thickens Hair
Regrown hair isn’t thicker, coarser, or darker; it just appears so because it grows back with a blunt tip.
Here are four other uses for shaving cream.
Seven Years to Digest Gum
The chewy base of gum is indigestible and passes straight through. The remainder is absorbed.
Alcohol Keeps You Warm
It merely dilates warm blood vessels near the skin, creating the impression of warmth. It can actually drop core body temperature.
Not a room Romans used for Bacchanalian binges, but the name for the entrance to a stadium.
Sugar = Hyperactivity
Studies have disproved this. Poor or rowdy behaviours still occur in children with sugar-free diets.
Bulls Hate Red
Bulls are colour-blind. They actually perceive the motions of the bullfighter’s cloth as a threat.
Bagpipes Are Scottish
Sorry, Braveheart fans: They were prevalent in the Middle East centuries before Western Europe.
Toads Cause Warts
Humans can catch warts only from other humans. Those bumps on toads are just their skin glands.
SOS = “Save Our Ship”
It doesn’t stand for anything. SOS became a Morse code distress signal because it’s so easy to transmit: three dots, three dashes, three dots.
Adam and Eve Ate an Apple
They ate the forbidden “fruit” of the tree of knowledge—nowhere in Genesis does it say it was an apple.
Check out these 7 Health Benefits of Apples.
Celebrities Die in Threes
Of 449 celebs who have died since 1990, only in seven cases did three die in the same five-day period, according to data from the New York Times.
Sleepers Swallow Eight Spiders Per Year
Spiders usually don’t crawl into beds during nighttime wanderings because they offer no prey. You probably swallow zero spiders per year.
Everest is the Tallest Mountain
Only above sea level. If you measure Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano from its underwater base, it stands more than 33,000 feet tall—4,000 above Everest.
Van Gogh Cut Off His Ear for a Lover
It was just a small piece of lobe, and he did it during a violent spat with Pat Gauguin. Whether Van Gogh then gave it to a local girl remains unknown.
The Pilgrims First Landed at Plymouth Rock
They landed in what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, and signed the Mayflower Compact there. Plymouth came five weeks later.
A Story Can “Break” the Internet
“The Internet is a very resilient system,” says Web pioneer Vint Cerf. “Shutting the whole thing down has not happened [since] it has been in operation.”
Your social networking habits might be affecting your brain more than you know.
Slaves Built the Pyramids
Egyptologists say this ancient construction job was a great honour granted only to respected labourers, who remains entombed near the site today.
Ben Franklin Wanted the Turkey to Represent America
While designing a national seal, Franklin proposed an image of Moses, not a wild turkey, to represent America.
All Your Fingernails Grow at the Same Rate
Because blood flow stimulates nail growth, the nails on your dominant hand actually grow faster.
Ninjas Wore Black
This “uniform” comes from years of fiction and folklore. Real ninjas wore anything that would help them blend into daily life.
Originally published as 51 Favorite Facts You’ve Always Believed That Are Actually False on ReadersDigest.com.