“Facts” That Are FALSE

Reader's Digest - - Cover Story True -

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.

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