Can you really see the Great Wall of China from space? Do we only use 10 percent of our brainpower? Here is the truth behind 15 lies that your school told you.
15. Humans didn’t evolve from Apes.
We’ve all probably seen the chart – the one with the ape, which gradually stands up to become a human – without giving it a second thought. Although humans and apes such as Chimpanzees are 99 percent genetically identical, we didn’t evolve directly from them but share a common ancestor. Humans and apes diverged from this common ancestor around 6-8 million years ago.
14. An Apple never fell on Isaac Newton’s head.
The story that Isaac Newton was sitting around in his garden one day, when an apple fell on his head, and he came up with the theory of gravity is more of an exaggeration. There is no record of this from Newton, although he told the story to friends and likely embellished it over time. In fact, Newton spent two years working on his theory of ‘Universal Gravity’.
13. The Pilgrims came to America for more than just religious freedom.
It is true that the pilgrims left England as they were persecuted for trying to separate from the Church of England. These ‘separatists’ then went to Holland, where they did enjoy religious freedom. The part often left out of the story is that they decided to make the trip to America because work was hard to find and they worried their kids were losing their English heritage.
12. Christopher Columbus never proved the Earth was round.
The story goes that Columbus was at odds with the Church who thought the Earth was flat, so he set sail to prove them wrong. The truth is that most intelligent people of his time already knew this to be true, and he was really just trying to see how large the oceans were. Even 2000 years earlier, back in Ancient Greece, it was written that the Earth was a ‘Sphere’.
11. Einstein never failed math.
It is often repeated that Einstein wasn’t a great student, even failing math. Maybe this helps some struggling students feel better, but sorry to say, it isn’t true. He received mostly good grades, and by age 11 was reading college level physics books. He did however flunk an entrance exam, but not the math part.
10. Slaves didn’t build the Pyramids.
The myth that the Pharaoh used thousands of slaves to construct the Pyramids outside Giza dates back to Ancient Greek accounts and has been depicted in Hollywood films. Recent discoveries show that the workers were actually paid laborers, who were well fed. Some workers who died during construction were even buried in tombs nearby – quite an honor.
9. You can’t see the Great Wall of China from space.
Not with the naked eye anyway. Even from a low orbit and especially from the moon, astronauts have never claimed to be able to see the Great Wall. Even the first Chinese astronaut admitted as much. Parts of the wall are visible in a photograph taken by an astronaut in 2004. Desert roads and long bridges are however visible to the naked eye.
8. The Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America.
Despite Columbus getting his own Day, and credit for the “discovery”, Vikings landed in North America 500 years before he was even born. It was Leif Eriksson who first sailed across the Atlantic, and landed in what is now Canada. The Vikings then settled in Newfoundland but only lasted there a few hundred years, partially due to clashes with the natives.
7. Blood doesn’t look blue because there’s no oxygen.
Veins close to the surface of the skin often look blue, but this has nothing to do with lack of oxygen. They only appear blue to the eye because of how light penetrates the skin and bounces back. Blood is in fact always red; it is brightest when full of oxygen and darkest when the oxygen is depleted.
6. Edison didn’t invent the light bulb.
The invention is usually credited solely to Edison, although 70 years earlier Humphrey Davey had already invented the Arc Light. There were several other people working on the incandescent bulb before Edison, he and his team just happened to perfect the method. They experimented with numerous methods before they got a light bulb to stay on for 600 hours, using Japanese bamboo.
5. Humans have more than five senses.
Of course, we all know about smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound, but these are just our primary senses; there are believed to be over twenty non-traditional senses. They include the sense of space, hunger, vibration, pain, time and temperature. Senses help us to process external and internal information – but only in the physical world. So, no, the sixth sense is not included on the list.
4. Toilet water doesn’t flush in different directions in each hemisphere.
Thanks to Bart Simpson, an entire generation believes that toilets in Australia flush in the opposite direction to those in America. This was thought to be because of the rotation of the Earth, and the ‘coriolis effect’. It is really just the shape of the bowl, and angle of the water that affects the how it spins.
3. The Trojan horse probably wasn’t real.
The Ancient Greek myth goes, that in order to breach the walls of Troy, the Greeks offered their enemy a giant wooden horse. When they brought the horse into the city it turned out to be filled with Greek soldiers, who then sacked the city. Evidence shows that there was such a city and it may have been destroyed during a war. However, there is no sign that the mythical horse was real.
2. There is gravity in space.
Even though astronauts do float around in space, there is still gravity there. The effects are just diminished the further from Earth you are. The International Space Station and its occupants are actually falling towards Earth. However, the station is moving sideways at such high speeds it stays in orbit, giving the appearance that everyone inside is floating.
1. We use more than 10 percent of our brains.
Thanks to movies like ‘Lucy’, the myth that we only take advantage of 10 percent of our brainpower has remained for more than 100 years. In fact, nearly all of our brain is active at any given moment. Throughout the day we likely use the full 100 percent. The brain uses 20 percent of all our energy even though it only weighs 3 percent of our total body weight.