Some of the most common “facts” everyone knows are actually untrue. For instance, even though it’s been proved you cannot see China’s Great Wall from space, there are still many textbooks which claim the opposite. Therefore, here are nine facts you may believe are true, when in reality they are anything but.
1. Even a small coin dropped from the roof of a skyscraper will kill you.
Scientists have convincingly demonstrated that even a small coin dropping at what might reasonably be considered a terminal velocity is not capable of penetrating a concrete or asphalt surface. Therefore, it would not be able to cause serious damage to a human being. Not even a coin moving at the speed of sound can wound flesh – though we would speculate it may smart a little.
2. The Great Wall of China is visible from space.
Everyone claims to know the Great Wall of China is the one man-made object you can see from space. But NASA makes it clear this is not true. The Chinese themselves know this only too well because their astronaut Yang Liwei reported the fact on his return to earth. Despite all this evidence, far too many textbooks just go on printing the wrong information without checking what authorities now say.
3. Cracking your knuckles is bad because it will lead to arthritis.
Cracking your knuckles will not lead to arthritis, that at least is what orthopedic surgeons tell us. The sound we hear, and may find uncomfortable to listen to, is just the popping of nitrogen bubbles in our synovial fluid. This substance looks a little like egg whites and is designed to reduce friction within our joints as we move. With so many people disliking the sound, it’s hardly surprising that such a story was invented – no doubt as one way to stop ‘knuckle-crackers’ disturbing the rest of us.
4. In a fit of madness, Van Gogh cut off his ear over a woman.
It’s true that famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh did have part of his ear sliced off. But the chances are this may have happened as the result of a fight with another painter. This was definitely not an action committed in a transient moment of madness, nor was it any kind of hopelessly romantic gesture for a paramour.
What makes all this slightly confusing is that, after the ‘disagreement’ between van Gogh and the French artist Paul Gauguin (who may have accidentally cut off the ear in question), they made a pact that neither man would talk about what happened. This was (allegedly) to protect Gauguin from any risk of prosecution. That at least explains why history does not seem to have an entirely accurate and verifiable version of the event.
5. Your body takes seven years to digest a piece of chewing gum.
Chewing gum only stays inside your body for a few hours – or certainly days at the most. Health experts say that your body can’t digest any of the ingredients in chewing gum. So your body simply removes the problem by allowing it to pass through and then out of your body quite naturally.
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6. Walt Disney’s body was frozen in a cryonic process.
Disney’s biography reveals that his death in 1966 was the result of a lung cancer condition. After this event, his body was not frozen but was cremated in Glendale, California. However, the president of the Cryonics Society of California did disclose that the Walt Disney Studios had once asked for some information about the technology. Perhaps this report alone was enough to start the rumours and speculation about Walt Disney’s possible involvement with this slightly mysterious and futuristic concept.
7. While you’re asleep, you’ll swallow an average of eight spiders a year.
Fortunately, there is not the slightest truth in this fact. Arachnology experts can see no reason why a spider would deliberately creep into a bed. After all, it’s not an area inhabited by any spider prey species and arachnids are not known to show any particular interest in the human race. In fact, scientists believe spiders see us as having much in common with a large boulder.
And for those nervous about falling asleep with a wide open mouth, the truth is that this will most likely cause you to snore. So that sound, and the vibrations, would be more than enough to frighten off any spider in the vicinity.
8. When told her poor subjects were suffering hunger, Marie Antoinette replied ‘”Let them eat cake.”
There’s nothing in the historic accounts to suggest the French Queen ever made such a comment. But the old myth still has it that, when Marie Antoinette was informed that her French peasantry were hungry and did not even have any bread to eat, she callously retorted: “Let them eat cake.” Historians familiar with the life of this French queen agree that she was, in fact, very sensitive to the needs of the French poor and had made her own charitable donations.
Perhaps her lavish lifestyle, which she made no attempt to conceal, was the real reason this story became so popular.
9. Your hair and fingernails will continue to grow after death.
This rather morbid fact is certainly untrue. However, the truth may be equally unpleasant. The BBC have reported that our nerve cells die too – and very quickly. They stop growing within three to seven minutes. Nevertheless, dehydration causes the skin surrounding the hair and fingernails to retract, which is actually what makes them just appear longer. Apparently, lots of moisturizer is applied to the fingernail area to counteract this occurrence.