“Facts” That Are FALSE
1 Blood is blue inside your body. Human blood is the same color inside your body as it is outside: red. Our veins look blue because the tissue covering them changes the way light is absorbed and scattered, which affects our perception of their color.
2 Paul Revere shouted “The British are coming!” You can thank Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” for spreading that tale. No one knows what, if anything, Revere shouted through the streets of Lexington, Massachusetts, though we do know he told one guard that “the regulars are coming out.”
3 The hottest part of a chili pepper is the seeds. Capsaicin, a chemical compound that binds to the pain receptors on our nerves to produce that fiery heat, is most concentrated in the inner white rib of the chili pepper. The seeds don’t actually contain any capsaicin, but they may be coated in it because they touch the rib.
4 Jesus Christ was born on December 25. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke never mention the date of Jesus’s birth. So why do we celebrate December 25 as the day that Christ was born? It could be because of a Roman Catholic historian from the third century, Sextus Julius Africanus, who believed Jesus was conceived on March 25—nine months before what is now Christmas Day.
5 The Sahara is the world’s largest desert. Technically, Antarctica is. The U.S. Geological Survey defines a desert as “arid land with meager rainfall [usually less than ten inches per year] that supports only sparse vegetation and a limited population of people and animals.” Antarctica averages only six inches of rain a year (mostly as snow) and is almost 5.5 million square miles. The Sahara is only 3.3 million square miles.
6 Chameleons can change their coloring to match any background. The lizards do adjust their skin tone to camouflage themselves in certain environments, but their color range is limited. The really vibrant hues you see on TV and in books aren’t usually meant for tricking predators. Those chameleons are trying to attract a mate or defend their territory. Male chameleons have even been known to change their colors to appear female, which helps them sneak by other males without the threat of a fight.
7 The $100 bill is the biggest bill in circulation. Although the federal government stopped printing them in 1945, currency notes in denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 are still legal tender. If you’ve never seen them, that’s because most have been snatched up by private collectors. But those aren’t even the biggest bills ever printed. Between December 18, 1934, and January 9, 1935, the government put out $100,000 notes featuring President Woodrow Wilson. However, they were only for transactions between Federal Reserve banks and never went out to the general public.
8 ebay was founded by a man who wanted to help his fiancée trade
PEZ dispensers. That’s the story that circulated when the online auction house began, but it was really just a PR tall tale. It is true that PEZ (named after the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz) were originally created, in 1927, to help smokers quit. Almost as strange: The all-important dispensers didn’t get their character-inspired tops until 1957. The first was a witch, for Halloween.
9 The Declaration of Independence made the United States a sovereign country. Congress adopted the final text on July 4, 1776, but most countries didn’t recognize the new government then. The French waited two years, and the British didn’t formally accept losing their colonies until the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
10 Lemmings will blindly join in mass suicide. Norwegian lemmings do migrate in packs, but the well-known image of their mass suicide was staged for the 1958 documentary White Wilderness. Filmmakers tipped brown lemmings from a truck over a cliff’s edge, making it look as if they were following one another to their deaths.
11 A factoid is a fun mini-fact. In fact, it’s the opposite of a fact. Writer Norman Mailer coined the term in 1973 to describe “facts” that were invented by gossip reporters. The suffix -oid (as in humanoid) refers to something that appears like something else but is not.
12 Neanderthals were dumb. They were probably just as intelligent as Homo sapiens, but scientists think that Neanderthals didn’t fare well when the animals they hunted died out after the Ice Age.
13 Eskimos have more words for snow than any other culture. The Canadian Inuit in the Nunavik region do have more than 50 words for it, and the Central Siberian Yupik have 40. But the Scots have the biggest snow vocabulary—421 words.
14 Julius Caesar was born via cesarean section—and the procedure was named for him. In Caesar’s time, a cesarean was performed only on dying women, and Caesar’s mother likely lived long enough to see him attack England. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it might have come from the Latin caedare, which means “to cut.”
15 Citronella candles are the best way to keep mosquitoes out of your yard. The smoke from citronella candles is as effective as that from regular candles—and neither helps much. If you want an all-natural mosquito repellent, try planting some catnip. (Your cat will thank you too.)
16 The green paste served with your sushi is wasabi. Wasabi is expensive and difficult to grow. Since it’s in the same family, most restaurants and food companies use horseradish (with food coloring) instead. Real wasabi is more complex and sweeter than what you get in a typical Japanese restaurant.
17 Ostriches bury their heads in the sand. The birds would suffocate if they did. If a predator is approaching, a frightened ostrich will lay its head and neck flat against the ground as a camouflage ploy. Some human onlookers have assumed that the birds’ light-colored heads were actually in the sand.
18 Minnesota has more lakes than any other state. Minnesota, aka the Land of 10,000 Lakes, actually has almost 12,000 of them—but Alaska has more than 3 million.
19 Space is always cold. Without an atmosphere, there’s nothing absorbing the sun’s harmful rays or trapping in heat. When astronauts are orbiting Earth, the temperature can range anywhere from −250°F to 250°F.
20 The Hope Diamond is the biggest in the world. At 45.52 carats, it is a mere bauble compared with the 545.67 carat Golden Jubilee. 21 You can get tetanus from a rusty nail.
It’s the dirt around the nail that can carry the Clostridium tetani bacteria. 22 Water conducts
electricity. Pure H2O is an insulator. 23 You can tell a ladybug’s age by counting its spots. A ladybug’s spots do not change once it becomes an adult. 24 Earth is closer to the sun in the
summer. Just the opposite: We’re closest in January. 25 Maine is the easternmost state.
Alaska’s Semisopochnoi Island is so far west that it crosses into the Eastern Hemisphere.