Well, this one may depend on when you went to high school, but for this millennial, these are the things we were taught in high school that have been proven not to be true. Personally, I still want to go back and correct every teacher who told me I wouldn’t always have a calculator in my pocket; the joke is on them.
Dinosaurs are extinct
If you didn’t already know this fun fact, you can rejoice that you walk the earth with dinosaurs! It’s now understood that birds are descendants of theropod dinosaurs, meaning dinosaurs are not completely extinct. Paleontologist Steve Brusatte, author of the book The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, told Reader’s Digest, “Today’s birds evolved from dinosaurs, which makes them every bit as much of a dinosaur as T. rex or Triceratops.”
Chameleons change color to blend into their background
This one ruins all cartoon lizards for the rest of time. Chameleons change color for communication and temperature regulation, not just camouflage. Maybe we can have a mood ring chameleon; he’s an empath, naturally.
There are only three states of matter
We were all taught about the most common forms of matter: solids, liquids, and gases. But did you know there are four more? Plasma, Bose-Einstein condensate, quark-gluon plasma, and degenerate matter are lesser known but just as important. The most important thing to know is that cats are liquid (for those reading, this is a joke; don’t liquify your cat).
Brontosaurus wasn’t a real dinosaur
The last one about the dinosaurs, I promise. But this one goes out to all my The Land Before Time fans. The Brontosaurus is now recognized again as a distinct genus of dinosaur. Little Foot was an Apatosaurus, which is in the Brontosaurus family.
George Washington chopped down a cherry tree
6-year-old George Washington said, “I cannot tell a lie” when he confessed to chopping down his father’s cherry tree. Well, the lie detector has determined that the whole story is a lie! This myth was propagated by Washington’s first biographer, Mason Locke Weems. Oh, and his teeth were dentures, but not made out of wood. Washington’s dentures contained real teeth, probably from cows and horses and definitely from people, as well as ivory, gold, and lead. Brush your teeth; that is not a myth.
Dinosaurs looked like big lizards
I’ve questioned this one since I first learned about fossils, and still annoyingly comment on documentaries about species that have been extinct since long before mankind came to study them. How do we know the T. rex didn’t rock a mullet? Well, discoveries have shown that many dinosaurs had feathers, not just lizard-like skin. I’m sticking with my mullet theory until proven otherwise.
You can’t fold a piece of paper in half more than 7 times
For those Gen Alpha’s reading this, paper is a product typically made from trees that was once used for us to write on, with pens and our hands. This has been disproven by demonstrations that have folded paper more than seven times. MythBusters folded a football field–sized piece of paper in half 11 times. No, I don’t have a link to 100 yards of paper.
The Great Wall of China is visible from space
If space was on your next vacation list because you wanted to see the Great Wall of China, you may want to look into seeing it while on Earth instead. The Great Wall is not visible to the unaided eye in low Earth orbit; some astronauts have claimed they could see it with snow to make it stand out. Don’t lose all hope for space sightseeing; 15 manmade structures are visible from space.
Einstein failed math
If you were one of those kids encouraged to keep trying in school because ‘even Einstein failed at math,’ hopefully the encouragement worked, but it won’t in the future. “In 1984, a Princeton University team led by John Stachel prepared to publish Einstein’s papers. The group found evidence that Einstein was a kid genius who had conquered college-level physics by age 11 and was fluent in Latin and Greek. Stachel also found what he thought was the source of the Einstein math myth. Stachel told The New York Times that when Einstein was 16 and studying in Switzerland, he received grades of “1” in math on two straight report cards. On a scale of 1 to 6, “1” was the best. But then the school switched its system so that a “6” was the top grade given. At that point, Einstein got a “6,” which made it look like he was suddenly flunking math. He wasn’t—he was still getting the equivalent of an A.”
The Salem witch trials involved burning witches
No one was burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials; most were hanged. The confusion comes from witches being burned at the stake in Europe as heretics. In the colonies, witches were accused of committing crimes against the government, which was a felony punishable by hanging. I guess all the drama of ‘Would she go up in a quick burst of smoke’ would be taken away if we put hangings in the movies.
We only use 10% of our brain
Sorry, all those ‘unlock your brain’s full potential’ ads are just using an old Einstein joke to make money; he once told a journalist he only used 10% of his brain as an answer to a question concerning his intelligence. The reality is that we use 100% of our brains at different times for a variety of functions.
The Earth has seasons because of its proximity to the sun
According to NASA, “Earth’s tilted axis causes the seasons. Throughout the year, different parts of Earth receive the Sun’s most direct rays. So, when the North Pole tilts toward the Sun, it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere. And when the South Pole tilts toward the Sun, it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Betsy Ross made the first American flag
This one hasn’t been disproven; it just hasn’t been proven. Ross died in 1836; 34 years later, her grandson told the story of his grandmother being personally approached by George Washington to sew the flag for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Everyone just took his word for it, along with signed affidavits from other family members.
Antarctica is the second-largest continent
This misconception may arise from distorted map projections; Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent out of seven. If the picture says so, it must be true, right? It’s still a whole continent of cold.
The Titanic didn’t sink because of the iceberg
I’m not even sure if I learned this one in school or just from the cult-following of the movie Titanic when it came out. So not only is this movie the worst love story ever (Rose was awful, admit it), but it left out the crucial detail that there was a fire in the hull for three weeks before the collision.
The Nile is the only river that flows north
Rivers follow gravity and flow downhill, not their compass. The Lena River in Russia, the St. Johns River in Florida, and the Red River that flows between the U.S. and Canada are all rivers that flow downhill in a northern trajectory.
Pluto is a planet
I take this one personally. Pluto will always have my heart as the 9th planet in our solar system. Scientists, on the other hand, demoted Pluto to a dwarf planet in 2006. Three things are needed to be considered a planet: it must be round, it must orbit the sun, and it must have cleared its orbit of debris. Pluto is not a cleaner, apparently. CF
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