35 Lies You Learned in School
As a kid, you probably didn’t question what you learned in school. After all, why would your teachers lie? Well, it turns out that you should've raised your hand more.
From myths surrounding vitamin C and chewing gum to the bull behind bulls loathing the color red, we’ll dispel those common lessons you never thought to question.
Lie: Chameleons Change Colors for Camouflage
In popular culture, chameleons are synonymous with stealth. But the reptile’s most well-known trait—changing color at will—isn’t about blending in with its surroundings. Contrary to what school taught us, chameleons don’t develop plaid markings if they sit on a checkered shirt. In reality, chameleons are more like mood rings than ninjas.
Lie: Coffee Will Completely Dehydrate You
That morning cup of Joe has so many perks: it wakes you up, keeps you focused and gives you an excuse to hang out in the breakroom for a few minutes. But we’re often told to be wary of its supposed dehydrating properties. Great news: your favorite beverage just got better.
Lie: Melatonin Is an All-Natural Sleeping Pill
Undisputed fact: sleep is great. It recharges us and aids our immune system. But many of us aren’t getting enough of it. Melatonin, a natural hormone, is often taken in dietary supplement form to promote restfulness.
Lie: Daddy Longlegs Are a Type of Spider
The first thing we’d like to clear up is that daddy longlegs are arachnids, but they aren’t spiders. Yes, harvestmen, as they’re often known, have eight legs and enjoy hanging out in cellars, but these arachnids are more similar to scorpions.
Lie: Dogs Don't Sweat — They Just Pant
We’ve all seen a dog breathing heavily, tongue out, after chasing down a tennis ball. When a dog pants, water evaporates from its tongue and nasal passages. This panting lowers a dog’s body temperature quickly, so it’s your canine companion’s way of cooling down. But that doesn’t mean dogs don’t sweat, too.
Lie: You Should Tilt Your Head Back to Stop a Bloody Nose
Whether you’ve been practicing your telekinetic abilities while marathoning Stranger Things or you’re simply dealing with seasonal allergies, don’t tilt your head back to stop that pesky nosebleed. Instead, sit up straight and tip your head forward just a bit. That’s right: The solution is the opposite of what you were taught.
Lie: Cracking Your Knuckles Is Bad for Your Joints
Many of us crack our knuckles every day. And, as kids, we were probably warned that stretching our fingers would lead to poor joint health and osteoarthritis. It’s clear now that knuckle cracking has been given a bad rap.
Lie: A Camel’s Humps Store Water
Yes, a company that specializes in everything from water bottles to water-toting backpacks has been named after camels, but that doesn’t mean this animal’s iconic humps actually store water. Those prominent protrusions are actually lumps of fat, not water reservoirs.
Lie: Toads Can Give You Warts
Even though toads have bumpy skin, those pocks aren’t contagious. Better yet? Despite what all of your witchy instincts are telling you, those bumps aren’t warts at all. If you caught toads with your bare hands as a kid, you can rest assured that your skin won’t face any lingering consequences.
Lie: You're More Likely to Catch a Cold in the Winter
Winter is often billed as "flu season," or the optimal time to stock up on cough drops and tissues. But catching a cold isn’t directly related to being cold. Whether you’re inside or outside, frosty temperatures don’t cause a common cold or flu.
Lie: Drinking Alcohol Warms Your Body
Part of the allure of a hot toddy on a winter afternoon is the promise of the libation warming you up. Even drinks that aren’t warm by nature, like a stiff glass of whiskey on the rocks, are said to fortify us against the cold. Or, as it turns out, they help us think we’re bracing the cold okay.
Lie: Earth's Proximity to the Sun is the Reason for Seasons
Distance might make the heart grow fonder, but it doesn’t cause Earth’s seasons. We’re taught that the closer a planet is to the sun, the warmer its climate. The logic seems like it should apply to Earth’s seasons too. But, in reality, it’s all about the blue planet’s tilt.
Lie: Statues Made in Ancient Greece Were Always Colorless
Contrary to what your textbook says, artists from ancient Greece and Rome didn’t just make white marble sculptures. Many artists practiced polychromy, or painting objects with a variety of colors. But when you’ve seen sculptures in museums and dig sites they’re anything but colorful, so what gives?
Lie: Snakes Unhinge Their Jaws to Swallow Prey
Snakes are known for biting off more than they can chew—or, in their caset, swallowing prey whole. For starters, the Burmese python can swallow a cat-sized appetizer or an antelope entrée. However, in order to take on these super-sized meals, snakes don’t dislocate their jaws.
Lie: Bulls Grow Angry at the Sight of Anything Red
When you think of a bull, you most likely picture bullfighting, where an angry, hulking beast charges towards a matador’s iconic red cape. And the bull does this because it loathes the color red, right? Well, no. In fact, bulls don’t really see the color red, metaphor or otherwise.
Lie: Twinkies Have an Incredible Shelf Life
When the nuclear apocalypse hits, we all know only two things have a 100 percent chance of survival: cockroaches and Twinkies. Or so we’ve been told. Despite being full of the preservative known as sorbic acid, Twinkies don’t have an infinite shelf life.
Lie: We Only Use 10% of Our Brains
Remember that Scarlett Johansson movie, Lucy (2014), in which she unlocked her brain’s "full potential" and acquired superhuman abilities? If you answered, "only vaguely," that’s normal—and it’s not because you’re only using 10% of your brain. This enduring myth has no definitive origin point, though most experts link it to American psychologist and author William James.
Lie: Deoxygenated Blood in Our Veins is Blue
We can hear our eight-year-old selves with freshly-scabbed knees asking, "If blood is red, why are veins blue?" The truth is, it has nothing to do with deoxygenated blood.
Lie: Black Holes Are Gaping Holes That Suck Things In
Black holes are certainly mysterious. The stuff of science fiction novels and time travel movies, there are things researchers still don’t know for certain about their properties. But a few commonly held beliefs can be dispelled.
Lie: Global Warming and Ozone Layer Depletion Are One and the Same
Even though these processes are often conflated, they impact different layers of the atmosphere. The ozone layer is part of the stratosphere, whereas the greenhouse gases linked to global warming build up in the troposphere.
Lie: Swallowed Chewing Gum Stays in Your Body for 7 Years
As the name implies, chewing gum is meant to be chomped—not swallowed. But the idea of swallowed gum staying in your body for seven years holds as much validity as a swallowed watermelon seed sprouting a farm in your gut.
Lie: Vitamin C Will Keep Colds Away
Yes, vitamin C is undoubtedly good for you. Keep drinking that orange juice! But consuming mass amounts of the substance won’t stave off colds. In the 1960s, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling popularized the idea of ingesting "megadoses" of vitamin C as a way to prevent sickness.
Lie: Lightning Doesn't Strike the Same Place Twice
The old saying goes, "Lightning never strikes the same place twice," but lightning just isn’t that picky. And why would it be? Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds, or between the clouds and the ground, equalizing themselves. It has no interest in picking out a new piece of land to strike.
Lie: All Bats Are Blind
While their eyesight varies from species to species, bats certainly aren’t blind. According to National Geographic, bats aren’t only able to see, but large bats can actually see extremely well—three-times-better-than-humans well, in some cases.
Lie: Water Boils Faster with a Little Salt
Salt is certainly a handy ingredient. Without a doubt, it improves the taste of most dishes. But this miracle add-in doesn’t have the mutant ability to boil your pasta water more quickly. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. What you were taught in "home ec" can be clarified with a basic chemistry lesson.
Lie: After Eating, You Should Wait 30 Minutes Before Swimming
The whole "Waiting 30 minutes to an hour to digest before swimming" thing? Baloney.
Lie: Specific Parts of the Tongue Are Tied to Particular Tastes
In grade school, your first formal taste test probably involved salty, sweet, bitter and sour liquids with a colorful "tongue map." The goal: Determine which parts of the tongue distinguish each of the four tastes. If you were frustrated by this bogus test back then, prepare to feel vindicated...
Lie: The Great Wall of China Is the Only Manmade Structure Visible from Space
Picture it: In the darkness of space, a blue-green sphere, speckled with clouds and punctuated by a grey-brown ridge, looming before you. Earth from space—made complete by the only human-made structure visible from space, the Great Wall of China. Well, it’s time to rethink whatever it is you picture in your mind’s eye.
Lie: Carrots Improve Your Vision
Unlike other vegetables, which are lauded for their more general health benefits, carrots have been branded with a superpower—they’ll improve your eyesight. But eating carrots helps you evade the need for eyeglasses as much as eating spinach gives you Popeye’s super strength.
Lie: Redwood Trees Are the Largest Still-Living Land Organisms
California’s ancient redwood trees tower above the forest floor, with the largest on record coming in at 379 feet tall. However, these record-setting trees aren’t the largest still-living organisms on the planet. Belonging to the genus Armillaria, A. solidipes (or honey fungus) nabs the title.
Lie: All Elephants Are Terrified of Mice
We all have our fair share of “irrational” fears. After all, so many people are afraid of spiders, which — unless you’re living in Australia — are pretty small compared to the relative size of humans. Following that line of thought, it seems possible that 5-ton elephants might fear mice.
Lie: Bananas Grow on Trees
Although banana plants can be the size of trees — growing up to 25 feet tall in some cases — the plants aren’t trees. And that means, contrary to popular belief, bananas don’t grow on trees. In fact, the banana plant is the world’s largest perennial herb.
Lie: A Severed Earthworm Can Regenerate Into Two New Earthworms
Okay, so this one isn’t too far off base. According to Live Science, planarian flatworms can regenerate into two or more new worms when the original subject winds up spliced. But earthworms aren’t like planarian flatworms or the hydra from Greek mythology.
Lie: A Goldfish’s Memory Lasts 3 to 7 Seconds
Unlike Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory from Finding Nemo (2003), goldfish don’t deal with constant short-term memory loss. Although the popular orange fish aren’t octopus-level smart, they are capable of learning and retaining information.