We live in a world where facts have become meaningless, so to combat this we’re flooding you with meaningless facts.
Look in your fridge. If you’re like any well-adjusted adult with well-adjusted taste, you will no doubt have a fine bottle (carton? Keg?) of chocolate milk front-and-centre.
Now, you probably have never given any serious thought as to where exactly that chocolatey milk gets its chocolatey nature from, but if you did, what are the chances you’d conclude that this delicious flavour comes from the brown, chocolatey cows it has been sourced from?
You might think that sounds ridiculous, but a solid 7% – according to the Innovation Centre for US Dairy – of adults in the US believe exactly that.
Heck, even those who are slightly more agriculturally literate, as the Washington Post puts it, still aren’t completely clued in about the whole chocolate plus milk equation.
A further 48% of respondents admitted to not being “totally sure” where chocolate milk comes from.
While it might be easy to giggle at the trivial misgivings of a clueless bunch on the other side of the world, but misconceptions can be found in more than just the dairy aisle.
Coffee is another victim of ambiguity. You may believe that coffee comes from beans – I certainly did, too.
But coffee beans are in actual fact seeds that have been roasted to gain their coffee-coloured colouring.
Otherwise, they’re generally found in a greeny-blue colour, and often in a pair, in the centre of the much less catchy coffee cherry.
Moving over to your international section, you’ll probably see the broadly named “Asian” section, or maybe your local has labelled it the more specific “Chinese”.
At any rate, if you see fortune cookies, your friendly local shelf stacker has been had.
Despite all the questionable marketing, fortune cookies are as far from Chinese as they come. The MSG-soaked biscuits are as American as apple pie, being born somewhere in Los Angeles in the 20th century.
Better still, when the cookie was introduced to China, it found itself struggling for market share.
Why? Well, because the world we live in is in a constant state of parody, consumers described the import as being “too American”. While we’re still talking things of the Asian persuasion; sushi? It’s not what you think it is.
If you’re thinking of raw fish – note the focus on the word “raw” – as a necessity, you’re thinking of sashimi.
The word “sushi” itself refers to the use of vinegar-soaked rice, rather than the fishy side of things.
It also does not refer to your classic hand roll, which is again just another variant of sushi, called “maki sushi” (巻き寿司、 literally “rolled sushi”).
The characters used to write “sushi”? Well, they don’t really mean anything at all, either. 寿 (“su”) can be described as longevity, while 司 (“shi”) means an office or department.
The only reason the word is written using these characters at all is because the food is so old, it was named while Japan still hadn’t quite worked out its own writing system.
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Indeed, many misconceptions aren’t even in the supermarket at all.
If you’ve watched any kind of mid-to-late-1990s cartoon, you would have seen the spectacle that is bullfighting – a brave matador donning an iconic red cape to ensure maximum bull-based rage.
Except bulls can’t actually see red all too well, and they don’t care about a cape’s colour in the end anyway.
Bulls are more enraged by the waving action (or maybe the beating and taunting, who knows), than any specific colour – their dichromatic vision allowing them to only see the world in shades of blues, yellows, and greys.
Even Mythbusters got involved in this one, and found that bulls were just as enraged by red capes as they were by blue or white.
Keeping with the animalistic theme, did you know that lemmings, of video game fame, do not in fact have rampant suicidal tendencies, as endless YouTube video has professed?
The reason why people started to believe the small rodents were committing suicide on mass may be because of the lemming having huge population booms, which then lead to mass migrations.
In the process, the groups split, meaning where there were once many lemmings, there were few.
Daddy long legs have also long suffered factual disrespect, lampooned for eons about their inability to release their incredibly poisonous venom due to their small stature making them unable to bite humans.
This is not the case. Daddy long legs can absolutely bite humans with their admittedly short fangs, and they can indeed produce venom.
Often, however, their fangs are too weak to pierce the skin, and when they do, they produce more of an irritation than any kind of deadly sting.
Continuing with clearing the good names of our fellow animal kind: bats are not blind, and can see up to three times better than we humans.
They just have their echolocation abilities as a special bonus.
Goldfish also don’t deserve the reputation they have for their forgetful tendencies.
Australia’s own Macquarie University found, over a decade of research on the topic, that goldfish can remember details such as colours, shapes, and sounds, for over a year.
You’re also probably getting your best friend’s age wrong, which no doubt brings them great embarrassment every birthday party.
Much as we might like, one dog year is not simply seven human years.
Small dogs actually mature much quicker than that, being about 15 years of human age by their first birthday, before evening out to age 56 by their 11th.
Bigger dogs, however, will reach their eighties, after an initially slower maturation.
Humans, the most animalistic of all animals, also seem to know very little about their own species, at least according to the always-reliable Internet.
At least at some point in your humanistic existence, you’ve probably come across the claim that our hair and nails continue to grow after death.
This is as biologically questionable as it is factually.
Our hair and nails are propelled by glucose, not magic, and that glucose ceases production the moment we enter the great beyond. The only reason it looks like they’re growing is because our skin tightens as we decay.
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Before that happens however, we are free to crack our knuckles as we please.
Despite your teachers’ insistence, the cracking you hear – the release of gases between your joints – is not the sound of arthritis looming.
So ingrained is this misconception, that a researcher in the US spent years cracking only the knuckles of his left hand, in order to compare with his “known good” right hand.
60 years on, he remains arthritis free.
We also can swim freely after eating, too.
While if you were to eat a buffet’s worth of food before your Olympic aquatics you may find yourself on the receiving end of a nasty cramp, your average swimmer is none the crampier.
In fact, less than 1% of drownings are due to cramps in the first place.
Once you’re out of the water, you need not hurry to dry your head, either.
The human head takes up approximately 10% of the body, and loses just about the same in heat. No more, no less.
Finally, for those still playing, are the big boys.
Quite literally, the very large objects, and their very large misconceptions.
The Great Wall of China, great though it may be, cannot be seen from space. Though this probably goes without saying.
Lightning can also strike the same place twice, in fact, many more times over, despite the old idiom.
This is why buildings like the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower are equipped with conductors at their peak, which are struck 50 to 100 times per year – and thankfully keep those same strikes away from the homely neighbourhoods surrounding.
Biggest of all objects, though? Mount Everest.
Except, it’s not. While Everest absolutely has the highest altitude of all of Earth’s mountains, it is not in actuality the tallest.
That honour goes to Mauna Kea, Hawaii, who should probably be disqualified for having half of its total size submerged below the ocean.
The very Earth these mountains stands upon? Well, that roundness was not in fact discovered by Columbus, and people before his time were not strict flat-earthers.
As always, the Greeks were first.
Pythagoras originally theorised that the Earth was flat in the 6th century, BC, before Aristotle corroborated the idea two centuries later, noting that constellations rose higher in the sky as travellers drew closer.
A further hundred years later, in the 3rd century, BC, Ptolemy cooked up a precursor to the still-used latitude/longitude system of measurement.
So, how did you go? Your knowledge of the world now seeming as alternative as the facts in a Kelly Conway interview?
There is a simple solution to this of course: learning, and education.
Better still, just hop on YouTube, or your friendly favourite (reputable) search engine.
Because some fun facts really aren’t facts at all.
They’re still fun though.