We’ve all been there: sitting in class, absorbing information like a sponge, only to find out later in life that some of what we learned wasn’t entirely accurate. Our educational system is a complex one, constantly evolving and updating, but sometimes misconceptions still manage to slip through. Here are 15 common misconceptions or inaccurate pieces of information you probably learned in school.
1. The Great Wall of China is Visible from Space
One common myth is that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from space. This, however, is not true. Astronauts have confirmed that without aid, it’s almost impossible to see the Great Wall from space due to its narrow width.
2. Columbus Discovered America
Christopher Columbus is often credited with discovering America. The reality, however, is that the continent was inhabited by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years before Columbus arrived. Moreover, the Viking explorer Leif Erikson reached North America nearly 500 years prior to Columbus.
3. Chameleons Change Color to Blend In
We’ve often been told that chameleons change their color to match their surroundings. In fact, chameleons primarily change color to regulate their temperatures or to communicate, not for camouflage.
4. Humans Have Five Senses
In school, we learn about the five human senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. However, scientists now recognize many more senses, such as balance, temperature, pain, and the sense of body position (proprioception).
5. Bats are Blind
The saying “blind as a bat” might lead you to believe that bats have poor eyesight. Contrarily, bats are not blind; their eyesight varies among species, but many bats see quite well and some can even see in color.
6. Tongue Taste Map
Remember the tongue map from school that assigned specific regions for different tastes? Modern research contradicts this; all tastes can be detected anywhere there are taste receptors, which are all over the tongue.
7. Diamond is the Hardest Substance
While diamonds were taught as the hardest known material, scientists have discovered substances like aggregated diamond nanorods and ultrahard fullerite that are harder.
8. Different Parts of the Tongue Taste Different Flavors
The belief that the tongue has specific zones for each taste—sweet, sour, bitter, and salty—is incorrect. In reality, these tastes can be detected by taste buds located all over the tongue.
9. Dinosaurs are Extinct
While it’s true that many dinosaur species are extinct, birds are actually modern descendants of a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods, making them a living group of dinosaurs.
10. We Only Use 10% of our Brain
The idea that humans only use 10% of their brains is a popular myth. Neuroimaging studies show we use virtually every part of our brain over the course of a day.
11. The Sahara is the World’s Largest Desert
The Sahara is often mistakenly considered the largest desert on Earth. In truth, a desert is defined by precipitation, and by that definition, the Antarctic, which is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, is the largest desert.
12. Blood is Blue Until It Hits Oxygen
Contrary to the idea taught in some classrooms, our blood is never blue; it’s always some shade of red. Deoxygenated blood is a darker red, which may appear blue through the skin and veins.
13. Vikings Wore Horned Helmets
In popular culture, Vikings are often depicted wearing horned helmets. There’s no historical evidence to support this. The horned helmets myth likely stems from 19th-century romanticized artistic representations of Vikings.
14. There are Only Three States of Matter
In school, we typically learn about three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. However, there’s a fourth common state of matter known as plasma, which includes things like lightning and stars. Scientists also discuss other states, such as Bose-Einstein condensates and superconductors.
15. Newton Discovered Gravity When an Apple Fell on His Head
The story of Isaac Newton formulating the law of gravity after an apple fell on his head is more legend than fact. While an apple falling may have inspired his thoughts on gravity, there’s no evidence to suggest the apple hit him on the head.
Education is an ever-evolving process, and what we understand about the world changes as we gather more information. So, if you were surprised by any of these misconceptions, don’t worry! That’s the beauty of learning – there’s always more to discover. Remember, it’s always good to question, research, and explore the world with a critical eye. Here’s to lifelong learning, and the excitement of debunking the myths we once held as truths!