We’ve been seeing an awful lot of “let’s debunk these wacky false claims!” videos lately — but even though there have been so many of them, I still haven’t gotten sick of them yet. Case in point: College Humor’s latest video, “13 Things You Think Are True But Aren’t.” Hosted by comedian Adam Conover (who you might remember from our exploration of the engagement ring back in February), it highlights 13 random facts and tidbits most of us have grown up thinking are true… and then totally disproves them. Sorry if you really, really wanted to believe that the flush toilet was invented by someone named Thomas Crapper; it wasn’t. Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper is understood to be a complete fabrication.
The big picture question, though, is this: Why do we love believing these kinds of “facts,” even though they’re not true? Conover’s theory chalks it up to the fact that they all tell good stories. We get a kick out of, say, thinking that Albert Einstein sucking at high school math; it both makes him relatable and adds to his legend at the same time. Sometimes, though, the real story is way better than the fictional one, so it pays to dig far down enough to find out the truth.
Here are seven of my favorites; scroll down to watch the whole video.
1. Napoleon Wasn’t Actually That Short
He was 5’7”, which was pretty tall for the time. The whole “OMG, he’s so short, he must be compensating for something” idea originally kicked up as a piece of British war propaganda. I will say this, though: At a museum exhibit a number of years ago, I saw both Napoleon’s giant, enormous, throne-like chair set up right next to the plain ol’ wooden one that Thomas Jefferson used, and, well… the difference was, shall we say, mark'ed. Funny what our choice in furniture can say about us as people, isn’t it?
2. Cow Tipping Isn’t a Real Thing
Cows sleep lying down. You can’t knock a cow to the ground if it’s already there in the first place.
3. George Washington’s Dentures Weren’t Made of Wood
They were made of gold, hippopotamus bones, donkey teeth, and… lead. Although evidence of lead poisoning goes back as far as ancient Rome, we didn’t really start to figure out how bad it was for us until the late 19th century. Whoops.
4. It’s Not a Medical Fact That You Have to Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day
In actuality, how much water you should drink depends on a whole lot of different factors. The “eight by eight” rule — that is, that we should drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day — is easy to remember, which is why it’s so popular. Personally, I feel like hell if I don’t drink enough water, so I just keep rotating between two different water bottles I keep in my fridge throughout the day. Works for me.
5. Undercover Cops Are Not Required to Tell You They’re Undercover If You Ask Them
If we learned nothing else from Breaking Bad, it’s this.
6. Al Gore Didn’t Claim He Invented the Internet
What he actually said during the now-infamous 1999 interview with Wolf Blitzer is this:
"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."
As Snopes notes, the phrasing is a little clumsy, but he didn’t claim he “designed or implemented” the Internet. He was, however, “responsible, in an economic and legislative sense, for fostering the development of the technology that we now know as the Internet.”
7. You Can’t See the Great Wall of China from Space
No astronauts have ever reported being able to see it from up there. Sorry, everyone.
Watch the whole video here:
Images: College Humor/YouTube (7)