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51 favourite facts you’ve always believed that are actually false

Napoleon wasn’t short? Bagpipes aren't Scottish? Bananas don’t grow on trees?

51 favourite facts you’ve always believed that are actually false
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Here, the world’s most contagious myths and misconceptions – debunked.

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1. Napoleon was short
1. Napoleon was short
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A tall tale. At five six, he was actually slightly above average height for a Frenchman of the time.

Just as his military genius has been studied throughout the years, we've also been fascinated with the life – and quirks – of the first emperor of France.

Here are 15 things you probably didn't know about Napoleon.

2. Don’t eat and swim
2. Don’t eat and swim
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This doesn’t increase the risk of cramps; alcohol is the biggest risk increaser. But a full stomach will make you short of breath.

A grumbly tummy can help you make better decisions or improve your sex life, but an empty stomach is not so helpful for shopping or exercise.

3. Salty water boils quicker
3. Salty water boils quicker
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Adding a sprinkle of salt to water makes no difference. 

It can actually make boiling take longer.

It is important for dishes that need to cook for a long time, that your pot or pan has a good-quality heavy base to distribute the heat evenly. So which pot should you use to cook?

4. Oil stops stuck pasta
4. Oil stops stuck pasta
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Nope. It’ll only make it greasy. Stirring prevents sticking.

Did you know floating a few tablespoons of vegetable oil on the surface of the water of a bird bath will help keep mosquitoes from using it?

5. Left and right brain
5. Left and right brain
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There’s no solid division between the talents of each hemisphere; the left brain can learn “right-brain skills” and vice versa.

Trying to give your brain a bit of exercise? Here's 6 simple games to build a happy and healthy brain.
 

6. Dropped coins kill
6. Dropped coins kill
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Terminal velocity of a standard penny is 18 to 30 kilometres per hour. Not fast enough to kill – but it sure would sting.

Back in the day, putting a coin or other hard, flat object on a baby’s belly to help to heal an umbilical hernia was a common practice. Take a look at these other home remedies that will only make you worse.

7. Three wise men
7. Three wise men
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Nowhere in the Bible does it specify that there were three.

Want to know something freaky? In the Bible, it is significant that Noah led seven pairs of all clean animals, one pair of every unclean animal and seven pairs of birds into the ark.

When the flood subsided, God, who had created the world in seven days, sent a redeeming rainbow with seven colours.
 
Here's some other origins of superstitions and lucky charms.

8. MSG = Headaches
8. MSG = Headaches
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There’s no scientific proof—just anecdotal evidence implicating monosodium glutamate. But here's how to tell what kind of headache you have, and also how to survive the 8 different types of migraine.
 

9. Dogs sweat by salivating
9. Dogs sweat by salivating
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No—they regulate temperature through panting. They actually sweat through their footpads.

And if you've ever wondered which is the best dog breed in the world, you'll surely find out here.

10. Great Wall of China
10. Great Wall of China
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It’s not visible from space. No single human structure is visible from orbit, but you can see cities at night.

11. Water rotation
11. Water rotation
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A flushed toilet does not rotate the other way in the Southern Hemisphere. The Coriolis effect doesn’t alter water in toilets.

12. Einstein failed math
12. Einstein failed math
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Nope. He failed an entrance exam for a school but still excelled in math. Now meet these 8 people who are smarter than the great man himself.

13. Humans and dinosaurs
13. Humans and dinosaurs
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Despite the famous stat going around that 41 per cent of American adults believe dinosaurs and humans coexisted, we actually missed each other by 64 million years.

14. Black holes
14. Black holes
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Not really “holes,” but rather hugely dense objects with massive gravitational pull. Here are 15 more scientific mysteries that the world's boffins still can't figure out.

15. We have only five senses
15. We have only five senses
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Some scientists insist on 21, including balance, pain and temperature.

16. Vaccines cause autism
16. Vaccines cause autism
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Groundless fears based on fraudulent research that’s been shown to have been manipulated.

17. Don’t touch baby birds
17. Don’t touch baby birds
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Most birds have a limited sense of smell, so they won’t abandon babies who “smell” of humans.

18. Alcohol kills brain cells
18. Alcohol kills brain cells
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Even in heavy users and alcoholics, brain cells aren’t killed, only damaged.

19. Missing-persons report
19. Missing-persons report
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Police don’t require a 24-hour waiting period before accepting a missing-persons report.

20. Different tongue parts
20. Different tongue parts
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There are not different sections of the tongue for each taste: bitter, sour, salt, sweet and umami (savoury/meaty).

21. Only 10 per cent of the brain is used
21. Only 10 per cent of the brain is used
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The proportion of the brain “firing” at any one time is task dependent, but ultimately, every region is used almost every day.

22. Iron Maidens
22. Iron Maidens
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These were never medieval torture devices, but 18th-century fakes were created for sensational circuses.

23. Body heat and the head
Body heat and the head
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Only in infants is most heat lost through the head (unless the head is the only uncovered part of the body).

24. Wake sleepwalkers?
24. Wake sleepwalkers?
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They’ll be really confused, but it’s OK. They’re more likely to hurt themselves if they’re not awoken.

25. Bananas grow on trees
25. Bananas grow on trees
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Actually, they grow on massive herbs that just resemble trees.

26. Milk increases mucus
26. Milk increases mucus
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Nope, it doesn’t. There’s no need to avoid dairy if you have a cold.

27. Bats are blind
27. Bats are blind
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Not only can bats see, but they also use echolocation.

28. Caffeine dehydrates you
28. Caffeine dehydrates you
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Not really. The diuretic effect of caffeine is offset by the amount of water in a caffeinated drink.

29. Goldfish’s three-second memory
29. Goldfish’s three-second memory
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While not the smartest creatures, goldfish boast a memory span of three months.

30. Shaving thickens hair
30. Shaving thickens hair
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Regrown hair isn’t thicker, coarser, or darker; it just appears so because it grows back with a blunt tip.

31. Seven years to digest gum
31. Seven years to digest gum
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The chewy base of gum is indigestible and passes straight through. The remainder is absorbed.

32. Vikings’ horns
32. Vikings’ horns
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The helmets were created by a costume designer for a 19th-century Wagner opera.

33. Alcohol keeps you warm
33. Alcohol keeps you warm
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It merely dilates warm blood vessels near the skin, creating the impression of warmth. It can actually drop core body temperature.

34. The Vomitorium
The Vomitorium
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Not a room Romans used for Bacchanalian binges, but the name for the entrance to a stadium.

 

35. Sugar = Hyperactivity
35. Sugar = Hyperactivity
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Studies have disproved this. Poor or rowdy behaviours still occur in children with sugar-free diets.

36. Bulls hate red
36. Bulls hate red
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Bulls are colour-blind. They actually perceive the motions of the bullfighter’s cloth as a threat.

37. Bagpipes are Scottish
37. Bagpipes are Scottish
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Sorry, Braveheart fans: they were prevalent in the Middle East centuries before Western Europe.

38. Your hair and nails keep growing after death
38. Your hair and nails keep growing after death
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Wrong – but your skin tissue does recede, making them appear longer.

39. Toads cause warts
39. Toads cause warts
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Humans can catch warts only from other humans. Those bumps on toads are just their skin glands.

40. SOS = “Save Our Ship”
40. SOS = “Save Our Ship”
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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.

41. Adam and Eve ate an apple
41. Adam and Eve ate an apple
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They ate the forbidden “fruit” of the tree of knowledge – nowhere in Genesis does it say it was an apple.

42. Celebrities die in threes
42. Celebrities die in threes
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Of the 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.

43. Sleepers swallow eight spiders per year
43. Sleepers swallow eight spiders per year
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Spiders usually don’t crawl into beds during nighttime wanderings because they offer no prey. You probably swallow zero spiders per year.

44. Everest is the tallest mountain
44. Everest is the tallest mountain
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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.

45. Van Gogh cut off his ear for a lover
45. Van Gogh cut off his ear for a lover
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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.

46. The Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock
46. The Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock
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They landed in what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, and signed the Mayflower Compact there. Plymouth came five weeks later.

47. A story can “break” the internet
47. A story can “break” the internet
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“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.”

48. Slaves built the Pyramids
48. Slaves built the Pyramids
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Egyptologists say this ancient construction job was a great honour granted only to respected labourers who remain entombed near the site today.

49. Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to represent America
49. Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to represent America
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While designing a national seal, Franklin proposed an image of Moses, not a wild turkey, to represent America.

50. All your fingernails grow at the same rate
50. All your fingernails grow at the same rate
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Because blood flow stimulates nail growth, the nails on your dominant hand actually grow faster.

51. Ninjas wore black
51. Ninjas wore black
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This “uniform” comes from years of fiction and folklore. Real ninjas wore anything that would help them blend into daily life.

This article originally appeared on RD.com.



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