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.
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.