As a kid, it’s hard to believe that our parents and teachers could ever be wrong.
Much of what we learn is taken at face-value; why would our teachers lie to us, and why would they be mistaken? But “facts” aren’t always as conclusive as we would believe.
Oftentimes, newer developments, discoveries, and insights into certain topics can lead to updates to our general knowledge, turning “facts” into outdated mistakes.
For example, doctors used to believe that there was no need to sanitize their hands before giving surgery to a patient; these days, we know just how important it is.
Here are 9 facts that you learned as a kid that are no longer true:
1) “Fact”: Jewish Slaves Constructed the Egyptian Pyramids
Our first history lessons of the Ancient World taught us that the mighty and beautiful Egyptian pyramids were the sad products of slave labor, of tens of thousands of Israelites persecuted by their Egyptian pharaoh overloads.
But there are no records stating that this was ever true; not even the Bible mentions the Jews in Ancient Egypt.
So where does this myth come from?
Comments from a former Israeli Prime Minister who made the false claim on a visit to Egypt. The truth, however, is that Jews didn’t even exist when the pyramids were first built.
Updated Fact: There were no Jews back then. The pyramids were built by Egyptian workers.
2) “Fact”: Salem Burned Witches at the Stake
It’s a commonly accepted fact that the townspeople of Salem were crazy over burning “witches” at the stake.
But Richard Trask, town archivist for the town that Salem became, claims that Salem never burned witches at the stake. Instead, they followed English law, which punished witchcraft with hanging, not burning.
It was only in Europe where suspected witches were lit on fire.
Updated Fact: Salem Hanged Suspected Witches
3) “Fact”: Diamond is the Hardest Material in the World
For as long as we have known diamonds, we have believed them to be the hardest substance or material in the world.
But there are actually three substances harder than diamond, two being lonsdaleite and wurtzite boron nitride.
However, both are unstable in the natural world, which is why they can’t replace diamond’s role. The last material is ultrahard nanotwinned cubic boron nitride, which is compressed boron nitride particles created by researchers.
Updated Fact: Compressed Boron Nitride Particles Are Harder Than Diamonds.
4) “Fact”: Pluto is the Ninth Planet in the Solar System
Since the 19th century, it has been known that a ninth planet after Uranus was in our solar system.
Pluto was first named in the year 1930, and has been our ninth planet since then.
However, in 2003 an astronomer discovered a larger object further behind Pluto, which was then named Eris.
This raised questions in the astronomer community—whether Eris counted as a planet, and whether Pluto did, too. They decided that Pluto was merely a dwarf planet.
Updated Fact: Pluto is a Dwarf Planet.
5) “Fact”: George Washington Had Wooden Teeth
The image of George Washington sporting a wooden set of choppers is one ingrained in the minds of many of us, but the truth is a lot more sinister than we would like to believe.
Historians have recently discovered George Washington’s dentures, which are made out of human teeth and ivory, not wood.
But the human teeth weren’t his—in 1784, Washington bought nine teeth from black slaves. Why slaves? Because they were cheaper than teeth he could buy elsewhere.
Updated Fact: George Washington Had Ivory and Slave Teeth
6) “Fact”: July 4, 1776 was the Day of American Independence
July 4, 1776 marks the day that the first 12 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence; however, Great Britain did not “free” America until September 3, 1783, when they signed the Treaty of Paris.
Updated Fact: America Gained Independence on September 3, 1783
7) “Fact”: There Are Only Five Kingdoms of Classification
Science teachers in middle school taught us that life is divided into five main kingdoms: plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and protists.
However, science has become more nuanced in classifying biology over the last few years. We have continued to unravel the complexity of life, leading to the need to create further kingdoms.
For example, one new kingdom is archaea, which was once part of bacteria. There are also two other kingdoms as well.
Updated Fact: There Are At Least Eight Kingdoms of Life
8) “Fact”: The Only Structure Made by Man Visible From Space is the Great Wall of China
This was never a fact in the first place, but that didn’t stop many teachers and students from believing in it, and the myth spread like wildfire.
There are actually quite a few things that can be seen from space, including large city lights, roadways, bridges, dams, and airports.
Updated Fact: Many Man-Made Structures Can Be Seen From Space
9) “Fact”: It Is Mathematically Impossible To Fold Paper Eight Times
The belief was that once paper has been folded seven times, it is too dense to be folded an eighth time, and students and teachers alike were confident in this idea.
However, one high school student from California surprised everyone when she folded paper 11 times; she did this by not alternating the direction of the fold, and published a paper explaining why this wasn’t the ideal method.
Her record has since been broken, by students who found a way to fold paper 13 times.
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