Don’t believe everything you read. What might start as an incorrect observation can become a false “fact” that is widely accepted. This is the evolution of the myth and our history is peppered with more than a few things that just aren’t true.
Napoleon was short
Napoleon’s nickname may have been “Le Petit Caporal,” drawings may depict him standing among much taller soldiers and he may have had an inferiority condition named after him (the Napoleon complex), but the truth is Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t short. Napoleon’s height was measured in French feet, which listed him as being 5 foot 2 inches. That’s short, but using the Imperial system, Napoleon stood at 5 foot 6 inches, an average height for men in his country. What about the nickname? Napoleon was given the “Petit” tag because of his friendly and respectful nature toward his soldiers; and since most of them were above 6-feet tall, that’s why he seemed small by comparison
The five second rule
Having an arbitrary rule justifying the consumption of food dropped on the floor within a certain time frame is convenient, especially when said food is a brownie. Unfortunately, tests (and logic) confirm that germs will stick to most foods right on contact.
Pigeons blow up if you feed them uncooked rice
Wedding guests are often told to refrain from throwing uncooked rice because of the explosive consequences that it can have on birds, especially pigeons. Ann Landers and The Simpsons both warned us about it, so it must be true.
If rice hurts their insides, then birds are pretty dumb. Did you know that birds eat rice grains during the cold months to maintain a healthy body mass? No bird explosions due to rice have ever been documented. The fact is that birds don’t drink enough water to cause any significant stomach swelling due to rice. The no-rice wedding rule really exists to keep guests from taking a tumble.
If you shave your hair, it returns thicker and faster
Despite studies from the 1920s showing the opposite, many men believe that shaving, waxing and cutting hair can accelerate its growth and that the hair will return thicker and darker. In reality, it’s one big special effect.
For one thing, the hair that we touch, see and style isn’t alive. Living hair lies under the skin and scalp, so cutting it won’t change the texture or speed that it grows. The fact is you’re merely seeing your hair at a different stage. Cutting your hair doesn’t change the color either: Since the sun naturally lightens hair, new growth looks darker, but it all evens out in the end.
The Salem witches were burned
In February of 1692, an investigation was launched into alleged witchcraft among citizens in colonial Massachusetts. Over the next year, some 150 people were arrested and 20 of those convicted were executed. Contrary to popular belief, however, the accused “witches” were not burned.
While some European laws encouraged burning after death as a way to “cleanse” witchcraft, it was forbidden in Massachusetts — this ruling was because the judicial system was operating under English law. As a result, the “witches” all died through hanging, except for one: Giles Corey, who was crushed to death for refusing to enter a plea.
Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake”
“S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”
- Marie Antoinette?
Translated to “If they have no bread, let them eat [cake],” this cruel statement is mistakenly linked to Queen Marie Antoinette. As evidence of its true origin, historians point to two other sources instead: One is 18th-century author Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote of an arrogant princess suggesting brioche for the poor if they didn’t have bread. The other potential source for the quote is Marie-Therese of Spain, who allegedly uttered the quote.
The inventor of the lightbulb was Thomas Edison
Calling Thomas Edison the “inventor” of the lightbulb is false. Although instrumental in developing a commercially successful lightbulb, he did not create it. A closer examination takes us to 1809, when Englishman Humphry Davy created an arc lamp. A decade later, Warren De la Rue built the first sealed lightbulb and in 1840, William Robert Grove lit an entire room of lamps. Unfortunately, the products were expensive with questionable durability. Eight scientists and three patents later, Edison expanded on these ideas to create a longer-lasting, cheaper product. The rest is history, but it wasn’t Edison’s to begin with.
Chicken soup can cure the common cold
Cure is a strong word, but science suggests Moms around the world are still right in forcing spoonfuls of chicken soup down their kids’ throats. Studies have found that the broth actually contains anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce congestion.
Adults don’t grow new brain cells
Much of a human’s crucial brain development happens during childhood, but it isn’t all downhill from there. Studies have shown that neurons continue to grow and change well into the adult years.
Chickens can live without a head
True, and not just for a few minutes. A chicken can stagger around without its noggin because the brain stem, often left partially intact after a beheading, controls most of its reflexes. One robust fellow lived a full eighteen months. Likely he was a real birdbrain, however.
Hair and fingernails continue growing after death
Though hair and fingernails appear to keep growing after death, this is merely a morbid optical illusion at work. In death the human body dehydrates severely, retracting enough skin to expose more nail and hair.
You get less wet by running in the rain
Actual mathematical equations devoted to this popular question have suggested it is true, though not for the simple reasons you might think. Complexities include factoring in the number of rain drops hitting the walker’s head versus smacking the runner’s chest.