Mary Anna Thomas

22 High School Falsehoods We Mistakenly Believed Were Facts

When we grow up, we hang on to every word our parents and teachers say. But fast forward into adulthood, and we soon learn that we have been lied to about many things. Here are 22 things that we were taught in high school that turned out not to be true.

Diamonds Are the Hardest Substance

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Diamonds rank a perfect ten on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, and it was once believed that they were the hardest substance on Earth. However, recent scientific research suggests that a material called boron nitride might be even harder than diamonds. 

Lightning Never Strikes the Same Place Twice

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Despite what we were told in high school, lightning can and often does strike the same place twice. Lightning is attracted to tall objects, such as trees, that act as conductors, making them prime targets for multiple strikes.

The Great Wall of China Can Be Seen From Space

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Another common misconception is that The Great Wall of China can be seen from space. While it is an impressive structure, the naked eye cannot see it from space. The myth is likely to have been spread before space travel, as people exaggerated the enormity of the wall.  

Napoleon Was Short

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British propaganda often depicted Napoleon as a short man to diminish his stature and power. But the truth is that Napoleon was between 5 feet 6 and 7 inches, not the 5 feet 2 inches that people believed. 

There Are Only 5 Senses

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The idea that there are only five senses is a common misconception. In addition to the traditional five (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch), there are at least another five, including proprioception and interoception

Everyone Needs 8 Glasses of Water a Day

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The idea that everyone needs precisely eight glasses of water daily is untrue. Factors like body size, activity level, climate, and overall health can influence your water needs. Someone who exercises intensely or lives in a hot, humid climate will likely require more water than someone who is less active and lives in a cool environment.

Atoms Are the Smallest Units of Matter

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Science class taught us that atoms are the smallest unit of matter, but we now know they can be further broken down into even smaller particles. Protons, neutrons, and electrons were discovered to be subatomic particles of atoms, and now there is evidence that quarks are the building blocks for protons and neutrons. 

The Earth Is Flat

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Believe it or not, some people, including teachers, believe that the Earth is flat. Evidence from explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, who completed voyages that circled the globe, helped convince people of the spherical Earth, although some people still think otherwise.

Christopher Columbus “Discovered” America

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Contrary to popular belief, the Americas were home to well-established civilizations with rich cultures and societies for thousands of years before Columbus. These cultures had their trade networks, agricultural systems, and architectural marvels long before the rest of the world knew about them.

Sugar Makes Kids Hyper

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While sugar has been a culprit for hyperactive children for many years,  scientific research doesn’t support a direct link between sugar and hyperactivity in most children. It likely originated from parents noticing a connection between sugary treats and increased energy in their children.

You Can’t Have Negatives in Your Bank Account

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While it’s certainly not ideal, it is possible to have a negative balance in your bank account. While some banks were strict about people getting into debt, it is very common for people to have an overdraft these days. 

The Roman Empire Fell in 476 A

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The idea that the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD simplifies the reality of this historical event. The fall of the Roman Empire is typically associated with the Western Roman Empire, which faced a decline for centuries due to a complex mix of economic issues, political instability, and invasions. 

All Deserts Are Hot

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Hot deserts can soar above 40°C (104°F), something we all still know to be true. But there are also cold deserts characterized by extreme temperature variations. While they can be hot during the day, deserts like the Gobi in Asia and the Great Basin in North America can reach very low temperatures at night

Bald Eagles Steal Babies

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Bald eagles are opportunistic hunters but are not known for attacking large prey. They primarily focus on catching fish or small mammals they can overpower rather than babies that would be too weak to pick up. 

George Washington Had Wooden Teeth

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While it is true that George Washington had very bad teeth that eventually led to him requiring dentures, they were not wooden. The myth is likely to have come from the ivory used in his dentures that might have become stained over time to give them a wood-like appearance.

Witches Were Burned at the Stake

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The burning of witches at the stake is a common image associated with witch trials, but it’s not entirely accurate. Burning was a capital punishment method used in Europe during the Medieval periods for various crimes, including heresy and witchcraft. But, in the rest of the world, most witches drowned or died in prison.

Chameleons Change Colors to Camouflage Themselves

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Chameleons are famous for their ability to change colors, but camouflage isn’t always the main reason. In fact, they also change color to communicate with other chameleons, such as signaling dominance, attracting mates, or expressing aggression.

 You Can Only Taste Certain Things on Certain Parts of Your Tongue

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In the past, a diagram of the tongue divided into sections, each supposedly responsible for a specific taste, was widely circulated. This “taste map” has been debunked, as all regions can detect all five tastes.

Abraham Lincoln Freed the Slaves

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In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared enslaved people free in Confederate states. While this was a significant step, it didn’t end slavery overnight. It took the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 to officially abolish slavery throughout the United States.

Sir Isaac Newton “Discovered” Gravity When an Apple Fell on His Head

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While an apple falling from a tree might have inspired Newton, there’s no evidence that it hit him on the head. The falling apple likely served as a springboard for his thoughts on the universal force of gravity.

 Albert Einstein Failed Math in School and Was a Terrible Student

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Albert Einstein’s reputation as a poor student failing math is inaccurate. While he clashed with the rigid Prussian education system, he excelled in some subjects at a young age, particularly science and mathematics. 

Raindrops Are Tear-Shaped

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Rain droplets first condense high up in the atmosphere, becoming nearly spherical due to surface tension. They then fall when they encounter air resistance, becoming more round than tear-shaped. 

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