FASCINATING FACTS: 9 ‘Amazing Facts’ That Are Totally Untrue

The internet loves nothing better than a good mind-blowing fact, but unfortunately, the emphasis tends to go more into the “mind-blowing” part than the “fact”.

The real world is pretty amazing on its own, so you have to wonder why anyone would even bother making stuff up in the first place.

Sometimes these come about by an honest misunderstanding, maybe a bit of classic “story embellishment” for those sweet, sweet internet points, but sometimes you’ve got to wonder whether we’re just being trolled.

Everybody likes to have a couple of these amazing facts on hand to make themselves sound smart at parties, but if you can tell the true from the false then you can one-up them by correcting them and sounding even smarter (that’s what human interaction is all about, right?).

So, the next time someone wheels out a mind-blowing tidbit in the hope of sounding clever, bat it straight back at them with a slam dunk of deep fried knowledge and steal the glory for yourself. Plus, you know, contribute to the eradication of mindless pseudoscience and the proliferation of misinformation, and promote real science education.

But, let’s be honest, it’s mainly about sounding clever.

So, have you heard the one about sharks and vending machines?

9. Vending Machines Kill More People Than Sharks


You know the phrase: “Sharks don’t kill people, convenient snack dispensers do” (or something along those lines, I forget).

People love pointing out things that are more likely to kill you than sharks. Whilst this does vital work in undoing the unfairly bad reputation of sharks – and should therefore be applauded – many of the comparisons drawn don’t make an awful lot of sense given that the majority of us don’t exactly spend a lot of time around sharks anyway.

Which brings us on to vending machines.

This fun little factoid is mostly drawn from a couple of studies that looked into a trend for vending machine-related deaths. One estimates that, between 1978 and 1995, there were around 37 fatalities. However, the number of fatal shark attacks in Australia and the United States over the same period was somewhere in the region of 66. The statistic most likely comes from just looking at the data from a single year, which is not exactly a reliable way to find patterns.

This, taken into account with the fact that you will encounter far more vending machines than sharks in your life, and you can probably access your favourite snacks in relative safety.

8. You€™’re More Bacteria Than €œYou€

Microbe World

A commonly quoted statistic is that there are 10 times as many bacteria cells in your body than human cells, whether the implication is supposed to be mind-boggling or stomach churning, it’s almost certainly wrong.

Not only is this misleading, as the relative size of a bacterium compared to a human cell is absolutely miniscule (about a hundredth of the size), but it’s also probably not true at all.

There’s actually very little research into the number of cells, bacterial or otherwise, in the human body, and the 10:1 figure probably came from a now disproven estimate in a paper from 1972. This dearth of proper research led researchers in 2014 to have a proper count.

It turns out that, cell for cell, human and bacteria are about neck and neck at an average ratio of 1.3:1, but given the aforementioned size difference, you’re almost certainly more “you” than anything else.

7. You Can Bite Through Your Finger Like A Carrot


The full “amazing fact” is usually something along the lines of “Did you know that you could bite through your own finger as easily a carrot, but your brain stops you”.

This is usually followed by about 10 seconds of people tentatively biting their own fingers, having not considered the horrific consequences should they manage it.

In a study in 2012, researchers tested just how much jamming force a human finger could take. In the experiments, cadaver fingers were exposed to 1886 N of force in 200 different jam positions and were described as experiencing “fractures” rather than being sheared off. This is dramatically more than the force required to bite through a raw carrot, which is around 200 N.

The best you can hope for is probably a partial amputation.

Those scientists were investigating the shearing power of electric car windows, but there was one (albeit, unconfirmed) case of a couple biting each other’s fingers off in lieu of the more traditional wedding ring. Despite even those levels of crazy, the pair were actually unable to bite all the way through, resorting instead to cutting through the rest “in the normal way”.

6. Fruit Stickers Are Edible


Often cropping up in the “things you didn’t know you’re doing wrong” lists that the internet is so fond of, is the assertion that those annoying stickers on your fruit are in fact edible.

The claim is often made that they are made from FDA approved “edible paper” and affixed with “food grade adhesive” which, in fairness, makes them technically edible.

This is definitely a technicality though, as normal paper is “technically” edible, insofar as it probably wouldn’t do you any harm, but it’s still not advisable as a lunchbox item.

This, however, is not the same as being intended for human consumption, and there have been reports of people choking on fruit stickers since the rumour started. Basically, fruit stickers are about as edible as, say, a cotton shirt, but you probably wouldn’t find it in any recipes.

Given that there’s bound to be the odd person who eats a sticker by accident, it would actually be much more shocking if they weren’t edible.

5. If Your Drop A Penny From The Eiffel Tower

Jacques Brinon/AP

…or the Empire State Building or anything else high, then it will reach such speeds that it will tunnel through you from apex to anus upon impact. Never mind the fact that a penny reaches terminal velocity after about 50 feet.

Don’t worry, you can walk the streets of any highrise city safe in the knowledge that, should some spare change slip from the pocket of a despairing banker on a window ledge, it is more likely to flutter to the ground like a leaf than transform itself into a deadly missile.

The shape of the penny means that the drag force air resistance will slow it down to a fairly leisurely 25mph. If it struck you, it would probably feel like getting flicked on the forehead.

Falling pens, however, could very well bore a hole in your cranium, reaching speeds of around 200mph, so it’s them that you want to look out for.

4. Ginger People Are Going Extinct


Climate change is definitely bad news for polar bears and waterfront property owners, but (if you believe the press) it could also spell doom for the redheaded population.

The theory goes that ginger genes evolved in response to a cool, cloudy existence in western Europe in order to maximise the amount of vitamin D people could absorb from sunlight. Apparently, now that climate change is heating things up, this recessive adaptation is going to die out.

This is is a big claim considering that it’s not how genetics, climate change nor human evolution works.

The redhead gene is recessive, meaning that both parents would have to be carriers for the child to be ginger, but for it to die out completely, all carriers would have to stop having sex. As modern humans are now largely unaffected by evolutionary pressures, climate change probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on this, even if it were to make the world uniformly sunnier (which it won’t).

By an amazing coincidence, it appears that this rumour was started by a genetic ancestry testing company. Strange.

3. Albert Einstein Failed Maths At School


People love the idea of a genius that failed academically. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both dropped out of university, John Lennon was expelled from college, and Einstein – that genius of geniuses – supposedly failed maths, despite going on to develop one of the most beautiful theories in modern physics.

This kind of thing gives people hope that, although they spent more time smoking in the toilets than concentrating in class, they too might go on to make brainbox history.

Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the rest of the world, Einstein was actually really good at maths, and he’s got the report card to prove it.

Little Albert had actually mastered differential and integral calculus by the tender age of 15, although he did get in trouble for back chatting his teachers when he thought they were being too authoritarian – which is probably what gave rise to the maths myth.

2. 95% Of The World’s Oceans Are Unmapped/Unexplored


We have mapped the ocean. Look, here’s a map.

We haven’t mapped it in the same detail as, say, Rotherham town centre, but with an average resolution of around 20 to 50 km, it’s not bad.

As for “unexplored”, yes, it’s true that we haven’t clapped human eyes on the vast majority of the deep ocean, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything about it. We know temperatures, depths, geography, salinity, currents, PH and plenty more – and pretty much everywhere up to 180 metres has been well covered.

Put all of this together and we’ve got a very good idea of not only what the ocean looks like, but the kinds of creatures that could survive in its many depths – even if we haven’t taken selfies with them yet.

That said, there might still be something big down there, speaking of which…

1. There Was A Triassic Kraken That Ate Dinosaurs And Made Art With Their Bones

Walt Disney Pictures

Well, were this a fact, it would certainly be an amazing one.

Back in 2011, a paleontologist called Mark McMenamin discovered the remains of an Ichthyosaur. Nothing unusual about that, but the strange thing was that the bones of the creature’s spine were arranged in a oddly geometric fashion that looked a lot like the tentacle of a giant cephalopod .

McMenamin’s theory was that they had been arranged like that by some kind of enormous prehistoric kraken as a kind of self-portrait. Modern octopuses are known to create “gardens” (yes, like the song), but these are more like piles of rubble than works of art.

So, was there a self-aware cephalopod preying on marine reptiles and creating grisly artworks on the sea bed? Probably not.

The “tiled” pattern formed by the vertebrae is actually a perfectly reasonable, stable way for the bones to arrange themselves on the seabed after the animal decomposed.

Sorry Cthulhu fans, looks like that one’s still a pipe dream.

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