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ScienceOctober 28, 2017

101 fake facts that you’re doomed to remember as true


Thom Adams explains why he posted more than 200 intriguing and false facts on the internet, and how he learned that he too has an idiot brain.

As a science educator, my stock and trade is in truth. My job involves taking complicated or broad concepts and making them accessible to a range of different audiences, all from different backgrounds, cultures, and demographics. Communicating truth is hard. Mostly because our brain is an idiot. Fail to deliver your message correctly and the brain might not remember it, or worse, remember the opposite of what you said. Because it’s an idiot. That’s what I work against. An idiot brain.

So with that in mind, I decided to have some fun with the brain on Twitter. There had been a string of “For every like this tweet gets I’ll say an unpopular opinion/something I like/a thing that has hair” tweets, and so I thought: why not? I posted this:

I thought I’d get maybe 20 or so, have a bit of a laugh and enjoy making stuff up for a bit.

My brain is an idiot. It’s now sitting on 437 likes. I have written just over 200 fake facts. Here are some of them.

  1. The first bird to ever use an Xbox controller was a Kea called Parau.
  2. The gold in Tutankhamun’s tomb had been stolen from the tombs of other pharaohs.
  3. England’s biggest horticultural export is the fig.
  4. The same molecule that makes chicken taste like chicken can also be found in ground up oyster shells.
  5. Prince Phillip is widely credited with the invention of the party popper.
  6. Thyme is technically a tree.
  7. By definition a snake’s body is a limb.
  8. The roller coaster was invented during the Hundred Years’ War as a way of launching supplies across rivers.
  9. The toenail of your little toe is called the ‘spungle’.
  10. Courgette is actually the feminine noun of cucumber.
  11. The first video ever uploaded to Youtube had to be taken down in 2016 for violating their Terms of Service.
  12. There is a nerveless area of skin half the size of a playing card on the top of your foot. Your brain compensates for it.
  13. The biggest arms manufacturer in the world is Hasbro.
  14. By weight, bay leaves contain more caffeine than coffee beans. They are used to make a stimulating tea in Morocco.
  15. Vikings never fired flaming arrows at boats carrying the dead. They would sink them by running them over with a larger boat.
  16. There is a ‘Buzzy Bee’ still at the top of Mt Everest, left there by Edmund Hillary.
  17. Originally the Fonz was going to wear a leather vest but the popularity of the Village People made them switch to a jacket.
  18. Johnny Cash once got into a fist fight with Colonel Sanders over a sports game.
  19. There are more submarines in lakes right now than there are in the oceans.
  20. Gold nuggets were named after chicken nuggets – not the other way around.
  21. Buzz Aldrin left a pen on the moon after the first visit. Eugene Cernan, the last moon walker, found it. It still worked.
  22. There is a pattern on the inside of your upper eyelid that is as unique as your fingerprint.
  23. At least two unconnected cultures have used sparrow skulls as a form of currency.
  24. The President of Senegal was one of the scientists who developed the Large Hadron Collider.
  25. The kneecap is the roundest part of your body.
  26. The Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to a scientist who proved that a tree falling in the woods really does make a sound.
  27. JRR Tolkien refused to let his books be read out loud to people until after his death, preferring to keep his words ‘on the page’.
  28. Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s ‘The Simple Life’ is one of the most syndicated TV shows in the world.
  29. All fossils found in Canada belong to the Queen.
  30. The first sunglasses were actually animal skin scraped so thin that it became transparent.
  31. Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ is a sequel. The first book is lost forever.
  32. One of the gems on the Crown Jewels is a marble glued there by Edward the Confessor’s son.
  33. Researchers in the Antarctic will use apply whitening toothpaste to their drills when boring into the ice shelf.
  34. Due to the inclusion of certain metal isotopes in its construction, the standard trombone is actually radioactive.
  35. ‘Bat Out of Hell’ was written by Meatloaf after an argument with Ozzy Osborne.
  36. The word ‘Loanshark’ was originally, ‘Loans, hark’.
  37. Jellified red wine was used as a lubricant by the ancient Greeks.
  38. One of the rings of Saturn is almost pure silver dust.
  39. Every member of Iron Maiden was a Quaker.
  40. The national anthem of Lithuania is palindromic. It plays backwards exactly the same way that it plays forwards.
  41. In Brazil they call Brazil nuts ‘Argentines’.
  42. The first pair of scissors was left-handed.
  43. The @ symbol was invented by Charles de Gaulle.
  44. Every member of The Baha Men is dead.
  45. A furlong was defined as the distance a mule can run in two minutes.
  46. The Eiffel Tower has bumps along its ‘legs’ that spell the French national motto in braille.
  47. The phrase, ‘If pain persists, see your doctor’ has been copyrighted by Bayer.
  48. Venetian blinds were invented in Venice.
  49. Cat Stevens first name is Catherine.
  50. The first copy of the Oxford English dictionary is missing the word ‘dictionary’.
  51. New Zealanders use more toilet paper per capita than any other country.
  52. Otters have been known to coat stones with fish scales to lure in birds.
  53. The largest sushi roll ever made would be impossible to transport through the Channel Tunnel.
  54. Morris dancing was invented by a guy called Morris.
  55. 95% of people are pronouncing the name of the band ‘Live’ incorrectly.
  56. X-rays cannot pass through Velcro.
  57. The Boy Scouts were counted as part of the American military until 1986.
  58. Once a year all of Wikipedia is printed off and placed in a vault in Norway.
  59. While Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the toilet, he was killed by one.
  60. A copy of Detective Comics #38 exists with an error that has Batman constantly refer to his sidekick as ‘Bobin’.
  61. The producers of the movie ‘Air Bud’ are currently suing Apple for copyright infringement.
  62. Genghis Khan brought dressage to Europe.
  63. Resene has a 100 year contract to provide paint for the Hoover Dam.
  64. Where’s Wally books are used in the entry exam for MI6.
  65. Bubbles have a seam.
  66. In Lesotho it is considered rude not to offer someone a bite of your food before you start eating.
  67. Dave Bautista has been the leader of an improv troupe for the past twenty years.
  68. The National Library of Singapore uses woven human hair for bookmarks to preserve the condition of the pages.
  69. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Prometheus Unbound’ contains the first use of the word ‘Whoops’.
  70. An adolescent owl is called a ‘novice’.
  71. On average, three people are injured every time an audience gives a standing ovation.
  72. Napoleon was ashamed of his nipples and refused to let anyone see them. Even during medical treatments.
  73. There are no synonyms for thesaurus.
  74. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ is the most stolen book in the world.
  75. Peppermint can’t be smelt by guinea pigs.
  76. The Lego headquarters has had to be rebuilt three times due to shoddy construction.
  77. MRI scans of cat brains have revealed that they see humans as a prey species.
  78. The lowest tone that can be hit by a specific tuba is called the ‘crass’.
  79. The ‘Peter Piper Procession’ is a yearly contest wherein participants compete to say the ‘Peter Piper’ tongue twister the fastest.
  80. Examination of recently discovered texts indicates that the Hittites first invented the slinky.
  81. Today more messages are sent using carrier pigeons than are sent via fax.
  82. The banjoist from the ‘Duelling Banjos; scene of Deliverance was offered a record deal. It reached number 15 on the Billboard charts.
  83. According to the International Federation of Poker, socks don’t count as an item of clothing in strip poker.
  84. The Geneva Convention’s prohibition of improper use of distinctive emblems during warfare also applies to the Jolly Roger.
  85. Every screw used in the construction of Vatican City has a cross on the head. They must never be upside down.
  86. The shoes of King Edward IV were weighted with lead to make his walk seem more imposing.
  87. During the breeding season, female cockroaches smell like pineapple.
  88. The music of the band ‘Rush’ has been featured in more video games than any other band or musician.
  89. Emeril Lagasse refused to ever use a spatula.
  90. Kevin Bacon founded an organisation that re-homes rescued factory farm pigs.
  91. Voltaire’s father was a cobbler.
  92. In American Football, touchdowns were originally called ‘tapstops’.
  93. The names of all missing persons in Honduras are kept in a register called ‘The Imponderables’.
  94. There exists a Sherlock Holmes story containing a kiss between Holmes and Watson but all copies are held by the Doyle estate.
  95. The founders of Johnson & Johnson were not related.
  96. A solid gold fidget spinner has been made, but it broke its first users index finger due to its weight.
  97. The longest game of mah-jong ever lasted for three years. It finished when the house it was being played in burned down.
  98. In Argentina, ‘Where in the World is Carmen San Diego’ is called, ‘In Pursuit of the Red Rebellious Bird’.
  99. Historical records indicate that the dairy cow’s moo used to be significantly louder than it currently is.
  100. Penguins have wavy feathers that produce a similar effect when moving through water as golf ball dimples do in the air.
  101. The banana tree is the tallest growing grass in the world.

After the 214th fake fact I had to stop. Truth meant nothing. I spent two days calling my daughter Hergus which, first, isn’t her name and second, isn’t anyone’s name. Purple ceased to have meaning. Science was a melted lump of confusion in the middle of my lounge. I had to stop.

But my brain is still an idiot.

The Spinoff’s science content is made possible thanks to the support of The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, a national institute devoted to scientific research.

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