Top 50 Modern Life’s Common Misconceptions

April 22, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

SWNS_50_FACTS_01Experts have unveiled a list of life’s top 50 misconceptions – including the mistaken belief coffee is made from beans and that Everest is the world’s tallest mountain.

Many of the ‘faux facts’ date back generations and have become part of common folklore but are often based on rumour or the result of Chinese whispers.

But closer inspection reveals that commonly-held assumptions such as ‘Chameleons change their colour according to their surroundings’ are, in fact, wrong.

Coffee is actually made from a type of seed and while Everest is the highest peak above sea level, it is not the tallest from base to summit.

And a quick bit of research reveals that Chameleons actually change their colour according to temperature and mood.

Researchers also discovered that the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space, and humans don’t lose most of their body heat through their heads.

The list was compiled by Ripley’s Believe it or Not! London, a visitor attraction dedicated to the bizarre in Piccadilly Circus.

A spokesman said: “If you’re told something enough times, you’re sure to start believing it.

“The misconceptions in this list are all pretty plausible, so it’s understandable that many Brits will have read it and been certain it’s true, with many of us being told these from an early age.

“Unbelievably, all of these commonly believed facts are in fact common misconceptions that we have myths and misconceptions.

“We’ve found this research really interesting as the whole Ripley’s attraction is filled with exhibits that have the ‘Believe It or Not!’ factor. As our founder Robert Ripley used to say, it is often the strangest things that are true.”

The study also revealed many believe we lose body heat fastest through our head and that ‘Sushi’ means ‘raw fish’ when it actually means “sour-tasting”.

Other misconceptions to appear in the list were that caffeine dehydrates you, and when you’re in London you’re merely six feet away from a rat, which is purely a myth.

Another unbelievable faux fact is that peanuts aren’t in fact nuts – they’re a legume, a type of plant.

Others may be surprised to find out that fortune cookies are not actually a Chinese tradition, they were in fact invented by Americans.

One quarter of Brits believe your blood is blue until it gets oxygenated, this is also untrue, human blood is always red.

A bull being enraged by the colour red is something many believe to be true and is portrayed in cartoon TV shows across the world, but it’s in fact the movement of the cape held by the Matador that causes them to ‘charge’.

‘Lightening can’t strike in the same place twice’ is another more well-known misconception, when truthfully it can strike any location more than once.

According to the National Weather Service, the Empire State Building is hit by lightning an average of 25 times per year.

But nobody should be ashamed to admit they’ve been caught out by one of these misconceptions as 82 per cent of UK adults have admitted that at one time or another, they’ve been in the same boat.

And one in five of them have felt embarrassed about it when they’ve found out its untrue while one quarter found it to be funny.

More than eight in ten Brits confessed they find it quite easy to believe people and some even agree that ‘if it’s on the Internet – it’s true’.

But it was revealed it’s a friend or relative such as a parent who ends up breaking the news about a common misconception.

The spokesman from Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London added: “It’s interesting to see that such a high percentage of us have believed these common misconceptions, without even questioning it. It proves you should always question what you’re told!”


1.      Coffee is made from beans
Believe It or Not: It is actually made from a seed called a bean

2.      Chameleons change colour to match their surroundings
Believe It or Not: Chameleons change as a response to mood, temperature, communication and light instead of the object they are touching

3.      Mount Everest is the ‘tallest’ mountain in the world
Believe It or Not: The summit of Mount Everest is higher above sea level than the summit of any other mountain, but Mauna Kea is the tallest when measured from base to summit.

4.      The Great Wall of China can be seen from space
Believe It or Not: The Apollo astronauts confirmed that you can’t see the Great Wall of China from the Moon. In fact, all you can see from the Moon is the white and blue marble of our home planet

5.      One human year is equivalent to seven dog years
Believe It or Not: It depends on the size and breed of the dog

6.      You lose your body heat fastest through your head
Believe It or Not: This is a myth, experts say humans would be just as cold if they went without a hat as if they went without trousers.

7.      The Earth revolves around the Sun
Believe It or Not: Technically, what is going on is that the Earth, Sun and all the planets are orbiting around the centre of mass of the solar system

8.      Different parts of your tongue detects different tastes
Believe It or Not: This was scientifically disproven by later research; all taste sensations come from all regions of the tongue, although different parts are more sensitive to certain tastes

9.      Peanuts are a type of nut
Believe It or Not: Peanuts, along with beans and peas, belong to the single plant family, Leguminosae.

10.     Giving children sugar makes them hyper
Believe it or not: This is not the case, most research has concluded that sugar does not cause hyperactivity

11.     Humans have five senses
Believe It or Not: It turns out, there are at least nine senses and most researchers think there are more like twenty-one or so

12.     Fortune cookies are a Chinese tradition
Believe It or Not: This was in fact invented by the Americans

13.     Sushi means ‘raw fish’
Believe It or Not: Sushi actually translates as sour-tasting

14.     Vikings wore horned helmets
Believe It or Not: There is no evidence to suggest Vikings ever wore horned helmets

15.     The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is an apple
Believe It or Not: The bible never mentions the forbidden fruit was an apple

16.     Vitamin C is an effective treatment for a cold
Believe It or Not: Most experts have stated there is little or no evidence that vitamin C can help treatment of a cold

17.     Penguins mate for life
Believe It or Not: Penguins are mostly monogamous, however there are some species like the Emperor Penguin which is serially monogamous, they mate with one couple for the whole season but the next year they will probably mate with another penguin as the urgent need for breeding will make them avoid waiting for the same couple the following year.

18.     Caffeine dehydrates you
Believe It or Not: While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect – meaning that they may cause the need to urinate – they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration

19.     When in London, you are merely six feet away from a rat
Believe It or Not: This is just a rough estimate as rodents are not evenly spread apart

20.     There is a dark side of the moon
Believe It or Not: As the Moon is constantly rotating on its own axis, there is no area of the planetoid which is in permanent darkness

21.     A toilet’s flush will change direction depending upon which hemisphere it is in
Believe It or Not: The real cause of “backwards”-flushing toilets is just that the water jets point in the opposite direction

22.     Mars is red
Believe It or Not: The red colour we see in images of Mars is just the result of iron rusting

23.     Sunflowers track the sun across the sky
Believe It or Not: A common misconception is that sunflower heads track the Sun across the sky. The uniform alignment of the flowers does result from heliotropism in an earlier development stage, the bud stage, before the appearance of flower heads

24.     People use just 10 per cent of their brain
Believe It or Not: Neurologists describe the myth as false and state we use virtually every part of the brain, and that (most of) the brain is active almost all the time

25.     Your fingernails continue to grow after you die
Believe It or Not: The dehydration of the body after death can cause retraction of the skin around hair and nails, giving the illusion that they have grown. All tissues require energy to sustain their functions, and no such thing is possible once the mechanism that promotes normal growth shuts down at death.

26.     Bats are blind
Believe It or Not: Despite the tiny eyes and nocturnal lifestyle, none of the roughly 1,100 bat species is blind.

27.     Dropping a penny from the Empire State building would kill someone
Believe It or Not: A penny only weighs about a gram and it tumbles as it falls. Because of the tumbling and the light weight, there’s so much air resistance that the penny never really gathers that much speed before it hits its terminal velocity. A gram of weight traveling at a relatively slow speed might hurt a little if it hit you on the head, but it’s not going to kill you.

28.     Handling a baby bird will make its mother reject it
Believe It or Not: Most birds have a very poor sense of smell, so in most cases are unable to even notice human scent on baby bird

29.     You need to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person to the police
Believe It or Not: There is no rule that states you have to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person

30.     Your blood is blue before its oxygenated
Believe It or Not: This is not true, human blood is always red

31.     A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds
Believe It or Not: This is not true, in fact, goldfish actually have very good memories for fish. They can be trained to respond various ways to certain colours of light; different kinds of music; and other sensory cue

32.     You need to wait an hour after eating before you can swim safely
Believe It or Not: As with any exercise after eating, swimming right after a big meal might be uncomfortable, but it won’t cause you to drown.

33.     Bulls are enraged by the colour red
Believe It or Not: It is a proven fact that Bulls only see in Blues and Yellows. They only react to the red cape because of the movements that flutter around.

34.     Seasons are caused by the earth being closer to the Sun
Believe It or Not: As Earth orbits the sun, its tilted axis always points in the same direction. So, throughout the year, different parts of Earth get the sun’s direct rays.

35.     Eating lots of chocolate will give you spots
Believe It or Not: There is no concrete evidence that suggests eating more chocolate can cause spots

36.     Shaving your leg hair will make it grow back quicker
Believe It or Not: No, shaving hair doesn’t change its thickness, colour or rate of growth. Shaving facial or body hair gives the hair a blunt tip. The tip might feel coarse or “stubbly” for a time as it grows out

37.     Frankenstein was the name of the monster in Mary Shelley’s book ‘Frankenstein’
Believe It or Not: Frankenstein was the name of the monsters creator

38.     Microwave radiation can cause cancer
Believe It or Not: Most experts say that microwave ovens don’t give off enough energy to damage the genetic material (DNA) in cells so they can’t cause cancer

39.     Men think about sex every seven seconds
Believe It or Not: There is no real evidence to support this statement

40.     Ostriches bury their head in the sand when they are scared
Believe It or Not: Ostriches swallow sand and pebbles to help grind up food in their stomachs. This means they have to bend down and briefly stick their heads in the earth to collect the pebbles. It is not because they are scared.

41.     Waking sleepwalkers harms them
Believe It or Not: Waking a sleepwalker won’t cause them any harm

42.     Albert Einstein failed maths at school
Believe It or Not: He failed one entry exam to a school but in fact, he actually excelled at mathematics throughout his schooling and even considered becoming a mathematician for a time.

43.     Salty water boils quicker
Believe It or Not: The salt water requires more exposure to the heat in order to boil than water alone, so the boiling point is elevated and the time it takes to get the water to boil increases.

44.     Carrots help you see in the dark
Believe It or Not: Carrots contain vitamin A, or retinol, and this is required for your body to synthesise rhodopsin, which is the pigment in your eyes that operates in low-light conditions. If you have a vitamin A deficiency, you will develop nyctalopia or night blindness. Eating carrots would correct this and improve your night vision, but only to the point of an ordinary healthy person – it won’t ever let you see in complete darkness

45.     Houseflies only live for around 24hours
Believe It or Not: The adult housefly can live up to one month in the wild

46.     Eating cheese before bed will give you nightmares
Believe It or Not: Cheese is believed to give you more emotionally charged dreams but not necessarily nightmares

47.     The capital of Australia is Sydney
Believe It or Not: The capital of Australia is Canberra

48.     Tomatoes are a vegetable
Believe It or Not: Tomatoes are a fruit

49.     Going out in the cold with wet hair will make you ill
Believe It or Not: There is no evidence to support this, it is regarded now as an old wives tale

50.     Alcohol keeps you warm
Believe It or Not: Alcohol may make your skin feel warm, but this apparent heat wave is deceptive. A nip or two actually causes your blood vessels to dilate, moving warm blood closer to the surface of your skin, making you feel warmer temporarily. At the same time, however, those same veins pumping blood closer to the skin’s surface cause you to lose core body heat

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