Saturday, March 20, 2010

The 10 Biggest Misconceptions We Learn in School


1) Einstein got bad grades in school Generations of children have been heartened by the thought that this Nobel Prize winner did badly at school, but they're sadly mistaken. In fact, he did very well at school, especially in science and maths. Jury explains this as being down to Americans interpreting Einstein's 4's as D's. Karl Kruszelnicki, however, explains that it was all to do with changes to the system of marking at Einstein's school (back in1896).

2) Mice like cheese While any young child could tell you this, any mice would (if they could speak rather than squeak) explain otherwise. It appears that mice enjoy food rich in sugar, as explained in the Times, as well as peanut butter and breakfast cereals. So a Snickers bar would go down much better than a lump of cheddar.

3) Napoleon was short He was actually around 5ft 7, completely average for the 18th/19th century.

4) Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Edison invented a lot of things - in fact he's one of the most famous inventors of all time - but the light bulb wasn't one of them. What he did was develop a light bulb at the same time as the British man, Joseph Swan, who came up with it originally.

5) Lemmings throw themselves over cliffs to commit suicide Why do we have such negative opinions of lemmings? The poor old things are sometimes so desperate for food that they do, according to the BBC "jump over high ground into water", but they aren't committing group suicide. Paul Jury blames Disney for showing the lemmings doing this in an early nature film. They've been tarnished ever since.

6) Water flushes differently in different hemispheres No it doesn't. Sorry!

7) Humans evolved from apes Darwin didn't actually say this, but he's been misreported ever since. What he did say was that we, and apes, and chimpanzees for that matter, had a common ancestor, once, a long, long time ago.

8) Vikings had horns/helmets with horns. This may upset an awful lot of people, but it's pure myth. According to the Jorvik Centre, it appears that Vikings may have been buried with their helmets and with drinking horns. When they were dug up by the Victorians, they assumed that the helmets had horns.

9) Columbus believed the earth was flat He didn't, you know. He may not have known how big the world was, but he wasn't worrying about falling off the edge of it.

10) Different parts of the tongue detect different tastes You do have different taste buds on your tongue and some are more sensitive than others. But they aren't divided into perfect, easy-to-teach sections.

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