A Pack Of Lies

Somebody (Hitler? Goebbels? Lenin? Trotsky?) once said, “If you tell a big enough lie loud enough and long enough people will eventually believe it.”  It’s terribly ironic that, in the Age of Information, there are quite a few of those kind of “truths” kicking around, and a lot of what we call common knowledge is just a load of crap.  Here are some glaring examples that just fall apart when you think about them:

1 – Einstein did NOT fail high school math.  Think about this for a minute!  The guy was a genius who E=MC2-ed himself to the top of the intellectual ladder, along with Newton, Copernicus and da Vinci.  What are the chances he had trouble with Grade 10 algebra?  Besides, the records show that he skipped most of what we would call high school, anyway.

2 – You can NOT see the Great Wall of China from space.  Here’s the deal.  Yes, the Great Wall is absolutely huge.  Yes, it’s the largest man-made structure on earth, and yes, it runs for thousands of kilometres, but — surprise — it’s less than 4 metres (12 feet) wide.  Your house is probably wider.  Looking down from space, the Great Wall of China is invisible — just like your house.

3 – You do NOT use “only” 10% of your brain.  The truth is, even with all our advanced technology, we know so little about the brain’s function that nobody knows how much of our brain’s capacity we actually use.  However, given some people I’ve worked with, 10% might be wildly optimistic.

4 – Coca-Cola™ does NOT dissolve teeth.  Folks, they use dental work to identify bodies that have been lying around for centuries.  Every museum on Earth has at least one set of Cro-Magnon chompers.  The corrosive elements that Mother Nature can throw at the human body make Coca-Cola look like a bubble bath.  This is just another Coke™ myth that circles our planet once a generation.

5 – Undercover cops do NOT have to tell you they’re police.  Police, undercover or otherwise, cannot entrap you into committing a crime, but they are under no legal obligation to identify themselves before you commit that crime on your own.  Use your head!  If undercover cops had to tell you they’re cops, it would kinda defeat the whole purpose of “undercover,” now, wouldn’t it?

6 – Jedi is NOT a recognized religion anywhere in the world.  Despite the best efforts of literally millions of Star Wars nerds, no national or international body outside a few fans clubs views Jedi as an organized religion.  The word is you can claim to be a Jedi on your income tax form and reap all the religious benefit and advantages.  You can’t.  Don’t believe me?  Try it!

7 – There are NOT more people alive today than have ever lived in all of history.  Do the math!  Even using the ten millennia of recorded history, fifty generations a millennium and the current reproductive rate of 23 per thousand (for most of history, it was closer to 80) the result is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 billion people.  Even counting all the lost Australian backpackers, at 7 billion, this generation isn’t even close.

8 – Mr. Rogers was NOT a Navy Seal sniper in Vietnam.  Quit saying that!  There is absolutely no evidence that Fred Rogers served in the military, nor even that he ever left the continental United States — although there’s an e-rumor that he went to Maui once, on vacation.

And finally

9 – You do NOT eat 7, 9, 12 or 16 spiders every night in your sleep.  Spiders prefer dry, still, quiet places where they can spin a web and catch themselves some breakfast.  Occasionally, maybe, a single spider might venture across your bed, but, unless they’re unusually stupid, the inhale/exhale of breathing air would scare them off.  I’m sure this lie gets retold so much because it’s a guaranteed gross out.

Stuff We Don’t Know

thinker-1294493_1920One of the great ironies of human existence is that, as we increase our knowledge of the world around us, we’re also discovering that — uh — we don’t actually know dick — about tons of stuff.  I’m not talking about quarks or gene sequencing or quantum physics or all that other scientific hocus pocus.  That’s for people who are interested such things, and we generally have to take their word for what works and how.  No, I’m talking about everyday occurrences.  Stuff that just happens and nobody really knows why.  Of course, there are theories, but — so far — we’re still guessing.  Personally, I think Mother Nature is just giving her smarty-pants children a smack to remind us to stay humble.  Anyway, here are three examples, and if you have another theory, feel free.  I’m always open to suggestions.

Yawning  — We yawn when we’re tired.  We yawn when we’re bored.  We yawn when other people yawn.  We yawn when we’re about to commit a felony.  (Didn’t know that, did you?)  Even animals yawn.  But nobody knows why.

Dreaming — Everybody dreams and everybody from Sigmund Freud to the guy who cuts your hair has a theory about why we spend our sleeping hours creating fiction.  Unfortunately, these are all just theories, and at last look, even Stephen Hawking doesn’t have a clue why we dream.

But, my favourite is:

Gravity — Everybody knows what gravity is until you ask somebody to explain it.  Try that, and you’re going to get a bunch of mumbo jumbo that ends up with Isaac Newton.  The problem is Newton never explained gravity; he just said it existed.  Here’s the deal.  The sun has enough gravity to keep the Earth from wandering off into space like a lost puppy.  The Earth has enough gravity to keep the Moon spinning around us.  And the Moon has enough gravity to affect the tides back here on Earth.  However, go 200 kilometres straight up from where you’re sitting, and there is no gravity — none!  Where did it go?  That’s a good question that I don’t think even Einstein ever attempted to answer.