Photo courtesy of Jake Ji via Flickr.
When a claim without basis passes as fact, it often continues to do so until the point when most assume it to be true.
Some of these misconceptions are so common, it’s shocking they’ve been heralded as truisms in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Here are some of the many unfounded claims that people believe to be true.
The Great Wall of China is visible from space.
The claim that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the moon is false; in fact, no man-made object can be seen from space, with the exception of city lights. It’s been reported that from just 180 miles up, the Great Wall is nearly invisible.
If you can talk, you can breathe.
It’s an enormous misconception among many, including trained police officers, that if a person can say “I can’t breathe,” his or her speaking negates the claim. While it’s true that if someone is choking on food or an object they might not be able to speak, the lungs’ expiratory reserve volume allows speech even if the person is taking in oxygen.
Napoleon was short.
Records show that Napoleon Bonaparte was 5 foot 2 in French feet, which is actually over 5 foot 6 in imperial measurements. This was about standard for Frenchman at the time, or perhaps slightly taller. The nickname “le Petit Corporal” is thought to have been an endearing term he earned before climbing ranks, unrelated to his size.
Bats are blind.
All bats have eyes and are capable of sight, though it is true that many use echolocation to navigate at night time. Larger bats have excellent eyesight, as much as three times better than that of humans.
Humans have 5 senses.
Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch are five human senses identified by Aristotle. But despite common knowledge, we actually have over 20. Other human senses include balance, pain, spacial awareness, temperature, and time.
Salem witches were burned at the stake.
Witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692 did not burn those found guilty of witchcraft; this addition was fabricated years later in retrospect, confusing Salem persecution with that of witches in medieval Europe. Alleged witches in Salem were instead mostly hanged, or perished in prison.
George Washington had wooden teeth.
Aside from wooden teeth being highly impractical, scans of Washington’s dentures identified their true components — and it wasn’t that of the cherry tree he also never chopped. Instead, his teeth were made of ivory, gold, lead, animal teeth, and potentially the teeth of slaves.
Xmas takes the Christ out of Christmas.
Jesus’ avid birthday celebrators often express disdain for this secular abbreviation. Though the holiday season has certainly become commercialized over the years, the X in Xmas actually comes from the greek letter “chi,” starting letter in Χριστός, which is Greek for “Christ.” Xmas dates back in usage to 1021.