Wikipedia on common misconceptions

It is way too easy to get lost on Wikipedia.  Pages upon pages upon pages of information, with links to each other and to outside resources make time stop.  But once in a while one can stumble across a page that conveniently collects numerous bits of knowledge and wisdom in a lengthy item list.  Today I saw just such a page – List of common misconceptions.

Some of those misconceptions are well popularized by now.  Some I’ve seen before by accident (for example, “MythBusters” show on Discovery channel takes care of some).  Some are not at all important to me.  But some really surprised and shocked me.  After reading through the whole list, here are those that were new and surprising to me:

  • It is a common misconception among Americans that the signing of the Declaration of Independence occurred on July 4, 1776. The official signing occurred on August 2, 1776.  Never knew.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte (pictured) was not especially short. 1.68 meters.  I thought he was indeed short.
  • There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets. This is the biggest shock to me.  No, really.
  • In ancient Rome, there was no wide-spread practice of self-induced vomiting after meals, and Romans did not build rooms called vomitoria in which to purge themselves after a meal. Vomitoria were tunnels underneath the seats of a stadium, through which crowds entered and exited.  I’ve heard this too many times and never heard anything of the opposite.  So I assumed it was true.  Better check next time.
  • Entrapment law in the United States does not require police officers to identify themselves as police in the case of a sting or other undercover work.  Every time I saw it in the movies, I thought it was stupid nonsense.  Turns out I was right.
  • When a meteor lands on Earth (after which it is termed a meteorite), it is not usually hot. In fact, many are found with frost on them.  Never knew.
  • It is a common misconception that seasons are caused by the Earth being closer to the Sun in the summer than in the winter. In fact, the Earth is actually farther from the Sun when it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Seasons are the result of the Earth being tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees.  They taught me this misconception at school.  Back when I used to believe my teachers.  Damn it.
  • People do not use only ten percent of their brains.  I never believed this anyway.  Good to know I was right.
  • There is also no evidence that reading in dim light or sitting close to a television causes vision to deteriorate.  Again, I am surprised I was right.  Never ever did I believe this for a second.  And I had proof of my perfect vision.
  • Prolonged exposure to cold weather such as rain or winter conditions does not increase the likelihood of catching a cold.  I kept saying this for years.  Every time people looked at me like I am an idiot. I’m not denying that I am an idiot, but give me a break with the looks when I say at least something that is true.
  • Although it is commonly believed that most body heat is lost through a person’s head, this is not correct. The head loses as much heat as any other part of the body.  I was told this so many times that I almost believed.  Good thing I had my own data for not wearing a hat at -25C.
  • Humans have more than five senses. I always knew that we have more. I just was not smart enough to think of examples.  Thank you, Wikipedia.
  • Bulls are not enraged by the color red, used in capes by professional matadors. Cattle are red-green color-blind. It is not the color of the cape that angers the bull, but rather the movement of the fabric that irritates the bull and incites it to charge. This is new to me. And shocking.  I’ve seen an angry bull once.  I should have been more worried about my movements than my cloths.  I’m glad I survived to learn this.

Have you been surprised by any of the misconceptions in that page?

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