Top Ten Common Misconceptions

For all those feeling too confident in your education, here are some of the awesome things we were mistaught in school. (I took them from this list – Jah bless Wikipedia.) Hopefully this doesn’t completely shatter your world.

10. Christopher Columbus’s efforts to obtain support for his voyages were not hampered by a European belief in a flat Earth. In fact, sailors and navigators of the time knew that the Earth is spherical, but (correctly) disagreed with Columbus’ estimates of the distance to India. If the Americas did not exist, and had Columbus continued to India (even putting aside the threat of mutiny he was under), he would have run out of supplies before reaching it at the rate he was traveling. The problem here was mainly a navigational one, the difficulty of determining longitude without an accurate clock. This problem remained until inventor John Harrison designed his first marine chronometers. The intellectual class had known that the earth was spherical since the works of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Eratosthenes made a very good estimate of the Earth’s diameter in the third century BC.

9. George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter although he did reputedly discover three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes.

8. The notion that goldfish have a memory of only three seconds is false. They have been trained to navigate mazes and can recognize their owners after an exposure of a few months.

7. Marie Antoinette did not actually use the phrase “let them eat cake” when she heard that the French peasantry was starving due to a dearth of bread. The phrase was first published in Rousseau’s “Confessions” when Marie was only 10 years old and most scholars believe that Rousseau coined it himself, or that it was said by Maria-Theresa, the wife of Louis XIV. What Rousseau or Marie-Theresa actually said was, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” Marie Antoinette was a very unpopular ruler and many people therefore attribute the phrase “let them eat cake” to her, in keeping with her reputation as being hard-hearted and disconnected from her subjects.

6. The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is commonly assumed to be an apple, and is widely depicted as such in Western art, although the Bible does not identify what type of fruit it is. The original Hebrew texts mention only “tree.” Early Latin translations use the word “mali”, which can be taken to mean both “evil” and “apple”. German and French artists commonly depict the fruit as an apple from the 12th century onwards, and John Milton’s Areopagitica from 1644 explicitly mentions the fruit as an apple. Jewish tradition states that the fruit was most likely a fig.

5. Different tastes can be detected on all parts of the tongue by taste buds, with slightly increased sensitivities in different locations depending on the person, contrary to the popular belief that specific tastes only correspond to specific mapped sites on the tongue. The original tongue map was based on a mistranslation by a Harvard psychologist of a discredited German paper that was written in 1901.

4. The Immaculate Conception is not synonymous with the Virgin birth of Jesus, nor is it about a supposed belief in the virgin birth of Mary, his mother. The Immaculate Conception is the Roman Catholic belief that Mary was not subject to original sin from the first moment of her existence, when she was conceived. The concept of the virgin birth is the belief that Mary gave birth to Jesus while remaining a virgin.

3. Napoleon Bonaparte (pictured) was not especially short.

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After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in modern international feet, or 1.686 metres. His nickname was le petit caporal (The Little Corporal). There are competing explanations for why he was called this, but few modern scholars believe it referred to his stature. Another explanation is that Napoleon was often seen with his Imperial Guard, which contributed to the perception of him being short because the Imperial Guards were above average height.

2. Sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children. Double blind trials have shown no difference in behavior between children given sugar-full or sugar-free diets, even in studies specifically looking at children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or those considered “sensitive” to sugar. The difference in behaviour proved to be psychological.

1. There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets.

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2 Responses

  1. Albondigas says:

    I am furious to learn vikings did not wear horns and fully dispute this being on the list. Vikings had horn on their helmets period. Haven't you seen Erik the Viking, Conan the Barbarian, or the 13th warrior. Proof enough for me.

  2. Albondigas says:

    Also, this misconception about Christopher Columbus is wrong as well. The miss conception is that he discovered America for Europe. Vikings did that. Columbus just figured out if you exterminate indians like Hitler did jews you can make a lot of money.

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