10 Facts You Learned in School That Are Absolutely False

Sometimes, facts we learn become outdated or proven false, and we feel a little stumped. It’s time to relearn what you may have been taught in school!

1. Dropping A Penny From The Empire State Building Could Kill A Passerby

empire state building

The Mythbusters tested a theory that if you dropped a penny off the Empire State Building, it would be so fast and powerful that it could kill someone below.

However, they found that even when they shot each other with a gun, firing the penny at the same speed as it would fall from the top of the building, it only caused some minor pain and not serious harm.

This proves that the myth is false, as a penny cannot gain enough velocity from such a height to kill someone.

2. If You Swallow Gum, It Will Stay In Your Stomach For Seven Years

chewing gum

Ever have a teacher scare you from chewing gum in class?

The myth suggests that swallowing a piece of gum will stay in your stomach for seven years before being digested.

This isn’t accurate – if swallowed, the gum will pass through the digestive system and be excreted.

Although there is no cause for concern most of the time, swallowing large amounts of chewing gum could lead to a blockage in the intestines, particularly in children. Therefore, it’s best not to swallow chewing gum.

3. Christopher Columbus discovered North America

christopher colombus

Most of us believe that Christopher Columbus discovered North America. This is what we are taught in school and why there is a holiday for him.

However, this needs to be corrected— on his four trips, Columbus only ever made it to the Caribbean islands and parts of Central and South America but never set foot in North America itself.

Therefore, although we often associate the discovery of America with Columbus, this is not actually the case. ​​​​

4. Camels store water in their humps


Contrary to popular belief, camels do not store water in their humps. Instead, the hump is used to store fat which the animal can use as nourishment when food is scarce.

When this fat gets used up, the hump will become limp and droop down. Fortunately, it will eventually return to its normal shape if given enough food and rest. ​​​​​

5. You Only Use 10 Percent Of Your Brain 

pointing to brain

Many people believe that we only use 10 percent of our brains; however, this has been disproved.

Neurologist Barry Gordon stated that much of the brain is actually active most of the time, and fMRI imaging techniques have shown that even when a person is performing simple tasks or resting/sleeping, much of the brain is in use.

The amount of brain in use varies from person to person and depends on what they are doing or thinking at any given moment. ​​​​

6. America was an independent nation on July 4, 1776

indepdence day

While the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by the 12 colonies, America did not achieve true freedom until after it won the Revolutionary War.

7. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction

parts of speech

Many people are taught in school that you can’t start a sentence using the words ‘and’ or ‘but.’ However, this is not a rule of grammar; it’s more of a preference when it comes to style.

Therefore, we don’t have to follow this rule and can start sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’ if we want to. ​​​​

8. Sharks can smell a drop of blood from miles away


Sharks have an extraordinary sense of smell, but the notion that they can detect a drop of blood from miles away is exaggerated.

While some sharks may be able to identify traces of blood up to a quarter-mile away, it takes time for the scent to reach them and doesn’t always elicit an attack.

Ocean currents carry smells, and the more motion there is, the faster they travel.

Sharks usually don’t particularly enjoy human meat and fluids, so it’s unlikely that they would be interested in any scents coming from humans, as it’s not associated with food.

9. Witches Burned At The Stake In The United States

witch burning

At the time of the Salem Witch Trials, burning witches was not practiced in the United States as part of any form of justice. Instead, it was believed most were executed by hanging.

In Scotland, witches were strangled to death before their bodies were burned.

10. Pluto is a planet


Pluto was discovered in 1930, and for many years it was our beloved ninth planet in our solar system.

However, after a number of other icy worlds were found within the Kuiper Belt, Pluto’s status as a planet was re-evaluated and changed to that of a dwarf planet. Dwarf planets are not to be considered planets, just asteroids.

This change was due to its small size of only 1,400 miles in diameter and the fact that there were other Kuiper Belt Objects roughly similar in size.

This shift in classification serves as a reminder always to be open to re-examining facts, even the ones we have long held as true. ​​​​

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It is important to remember that although much of what we learn in school may be true, times change and new discoveries may challenge our long-held beliefs.

See more facts you learned in school that are no longer true.

This article 10 Facts You Learned in School That Aren’t True was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. Please share the posts if you find them helpful!

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