I do some teaching, and my kids are constantly turning in essays with tragically inaccurate examples, like "When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb..." or "Even Einstein got bad grades in school..." which society has for some reason decided to convince them are true. Actually, my kids are turning in examples more like "When Edison invented the atomic bomb..." or "When Ben Franklin signed the Magna Carta..." but that's mostly just a function of my kids being morons.
Anyway, yes, I said inaccurate, because those two statements - and many more like them - are classic instances of egregious common misconceptions. I'll admit: before I started looking into it, I thought these were true, too. So in an effort to straighten things out - and also get to make fun of history - here comes the truth about 10 of the most widely believed misconceptions out there.
1. Einstein got bad grades in schoolUm... have you heard about this guy Einstein? Famous physicist? Relativity and all that? A genius, even? I'm pretty sure little Albert could handle his business in 4th grade arithmetic. Yes, contrary to popular belief, Einstein was a top student in elementary school, getting mostly top grades on the German grading scale of 1-6, which silly Americans later assumed, backwardly, were "D"s. The idea stuck because everybody loves the idea that their poor student can go on to great things. Sorry, parents, Einstein was teaching himself calculus at age 12. Your little lip-twiddling 'tard will be working at Hardee's.
2. Mice like cheeseWhy would mice like cheese? Processed cow milk is not exactly available to them in their natural habitat, is it? No, mice MUCH prefer peanut butter, breakfast cereals, and other things similar to the grains and seeds they've gotten used to over millions of years of evolution. In fact, some mice are even lactose intolerant and will die if they eat cheese. F you, Tom and Jerry.
3. Napoleon was shortNope. Napolean was 5'7", average height for a Frenchman of the time. I don't think he was particularly angry either, though we seem to have no trouble citing him as both the paragon and origin of the "short man's syndrome" so common at New Jersey nightclubs. The confusion came from the difference between the British inch and the French 'pouce', which was longer, and made Brits think Napoleon was only around 5'3", a misconception which British propaganda was happy to propagate.
4. Thomas Edison Invented the Light BulbEdison was a smart mother f*er, but he didn't invent the light bulb - somebody else had already done that by the time he started fiddling with the idea. Edison did, however, invent the first light bulb that actually worked well, at the same time as another guy, Joseph Swan. Edison got to be famous for it though, because he beat Swan in ro-sham-bo, and then bitch-slapped him.
5. Lemmings Throw Themselves Over CliffsWhat, are lemmings retarded? Yes, mass suicide sounds like a wonderful evolutionary trait to have built into your species to ensure its survival. Lemmings do no such thing, except occasionally when they're drunk at bachelor parties. This great misconception was perpetrated by none other than Disney, who, in all their evil, decided their early nature film "White Wilderness" would be much more awesome if it showed a bunch of rodents flinging themselves off cliffs. They were correct, of course, but that doesn't make this "phenomenon" any less B.S.
6. Water Flushes Differently in Different HemispheresToilet water doesn't flush a specific direction depending on what hemisphere you're in. Water flushes the same way, unless you're in the middle of certain huge hurricanes, or if you crank it really hard with a dingy oar like we used to with our toilet water back in Minnesota.
7. Humans Evolved From ApesNeither Charles Darwin nor any reputable evolutionist ever said that humans evolved from chimpanzees or gorillas or any other ape alive today (and certainly not those angry monkeys with those blue asses). They simply claim that monkeys and humans both evolved from a common ancestor that died out millions of years ago. You know, some sort of primitive monkey-caveman creature that had some smart babies that eventually became human, and some dumb-ass babies that eventually became apes.
8. Vikings Had HornsThis one hurts me 'specially. Actually, the title should read "Vikings Wore Helmets With Horns," unless you think Vikings' skulls actually had horns protruding from them, which I wish to sweet Odin was the case. But in any event, no, even Viking headwear didn't sport horns - not a single Viking helmet has ever been found with anything jutting out of it. Besides awesomeness, of course.
9. Columbus believed the Earth was flatPeople have suspected that the Earth might be round since as early as Eratosthenes in 240 B.C. - it was mostly just a bunch of dogmatic nut-jobs who continued to insist that the Earth was a birdbath you could fall off of if you sailed too close to the edge. So by the time Columbus rolled around in 1492, pretty much everybody knew they were dealing with a sphere, Chris included. He did get a little confused about the size of the sphere, though, which is why he thought the Caribbean was India, leading to the whole dot vs. feather issue today.
10. Different parts of the tongue detect different tastes.What, your elementary school health class lied to you? Turns out, taste buds on all parts of your tongue can detect all different tastes, though there are increased sensitivities in different areas for most people. Want proof? Try dipping the dip of your tongue into some coffee grounds and see if you can taste the bitter. As my great uncle Ralph, who lost half his tongue in 'Nam, used to say, "Hrm rmrng rmhrm mrhng!", which translates to "I don't need the front half of my tongue to taste your aunt Gladys's sweet ass!"
By popular demand, below are some sources for these... I've just linked one for each as of now, but there are others; feel free to Google! Or Bing, if you're a communist.
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