Five “Facts” that can easily be debunked

I remember a few years ago when Snapple had a brilliant marketing campaign where they printed facts under the caps of their calorie-bomb high fructose corn syrup drinks.  I was amazed because I grew up as a trivia fiend, although this wasn’t by choice.  You see, as a young man, my family often had game nights and the family favorite was Trivial Pursuit.  My mom, an extremely intelligent lady, held absolutely nothing back during the games, utterly crushing the mind and soul of myself and my brother.  Losing an innocent family game night because you couldn’t quite remember who all was present during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles or an inability to recall the specifics of the Magna Carta is a tough pill to swallow as an 8 year-old.  Any way, my infatuation with trivia and random facts has grown ever since that day, and the popularity of Trivia Crack has me all sentimental over trivia.  However, a sinister plot that I suspect is the work of Tupac’s ghost is leading certain bits of widely believed rumors to be held as fact, even though their falsity can be easily proven.

Fact #1: The Eisenhower Interstate System as a runway

It is widely believed the Eisenhower Interstate system, in addition to expediting travel times of overweight beach goers, serves as an important tool should the United States ever come under invasion of a foreign enemy.  If a plane is flying over the Midwest and needs to ground for an immediate emergency landing, the pilot quickly finds himself in a bit of a pickle.  Fortunately, the Eisenhower Interstate System has devised a plan to help this desperate pilot; they went ahead and made one out of every five miles of the interstates in the United States completely straight to act as a runway in the event of an emergency landing.  Thanks, Ike!

Did you know that almost a quarter of all the cars driven in the United States utilize the Eisenhower Interstate System?  That’s around 62 million vehicles.  The entirely of the Interstate System is basically 47,000 miles, meaning on average, there are nearly 1,300 cars per mile using the Interstates.  Obviously, this figure is slightly flawed, as each of these 62 million cars isn’t traveling on the roads every day and there certainly isn’t 1,300 cars occupying a single mile of road space at a given time, but let’s say there are, I don’t know, 30 cars in a given mile of interstate space.  Landing a plane on a commercial runway takes two extremely skilled professionals and a tower of people whose sole purpose is to keep the runway free of other “distractions”.  Point being, landing a plane is hard, much harder considering the implications of running into a moving car.  “But what if there’s an emergency?” you foolishly ask.  Time for a second “did you know?”  Did you know there are over 15,000 commercial airports in the United States.  Not JFK Airport huge, but certainly Jefferson County Airport sized.  If 15,000 still doesn’t seem like a lot, consider that right now, there are currently less than 15,000 McDonald’s restaurants operating in the United States.  In this country, the chances of finding a runway are greater than eating a Big Mac.  So in short, the Interstates are NOT made so one out of every five miles is perfectly straight, and the US Department of Transportation is happy to debunk that myth as well.  The Eisenhower Highway System is in place partially to assist the United States military in the event of an emergency, but it’s mostly to aid ground forces in transporting their gigantic trucks and equipment in a more convenient, expedited fashion.

Fact #2 – Dragonflies only live for a day

Ah, summertime.  Warm weather, a cold glass of lemonade, a day spent out at the lake and OH MY GOD WHAT’S THAT GIANT BUG KILL IT KILL IT WITH FIRE AHHHHHHH!!!  Dragonflies; the giant, terrifying flying insects that sound like massage chairs are a summertime staple, scaring the ever-loving bejesus out of the tranquil, ornery lake goer.  Fortunately, the insidious, depraved, insect-fearing sect of society can rest easy knowing that horrible, ugly bug they saw earlier that afternoon will be dead by the next day, because dragonflies only live for a day!

Could you imagine going from filling diapers with soggy poop as a baby to filling diapers with soggy poop as an adult in a single day?  Because, if dragonflies truly are cursed with a 24-hour life cycle, they are undergoing the entirely of their maturing process in half of a workweek.  Although a dragonfly will likely never witness the Super Bowl, they can rest easy knowing their biggest predators, such as reptiles or amphibians will die horrible, slow deaths since they are unable to sustain a population.  Lucky for this mosquitos though!  Without dragonflies eating mosquitos the population of the world’s most annoying creature who isn’t Anna Kendrick will surely take off.  But, have you noticed a distinct abundance of dead, decaying frogs?  Are you currently enslaved by a race of mosquito overlords?  No to both of those?  Well thank God dragonflies live a lot longer than a day.  In fact, most dragonflies have a life cycle of at least six months, while some can live to become 6-7 years old.  Even in their adult flying stage, most dragonflies live for a minimum of four months.  If you’re thinking four months still isn’t a very long lifespan for a giant, carnivorous, flying insect, you are correct, but it’s not as if adult dragonflies are simply dying of natural causes.  Dragonflies have a long, extensive list of predators and the irregularity of their ecosystem often means they aren’t able to find food, meaning the number one cause of dragonfly death is starvation.  To suggest dragonflies have a life cycle of only a day is kind of like suggesting the average lifespan of a citizen in the Soviet Union is 1943 was roughly two years.  In fact, no insect, even mayflies, have a 24-hour lifespan.  So next time someone talks about how short of a lifespan bugs have, you can tell them their lifespan is short, and then instantly walk away without another word, leaving them to think horrible, morbid thoughts.  Speaking of bugs dying…

Fact #3 – A drop of alcohol on a scorpion will cause it to sting itself to death

What I assume to be a future serial killer came across a stunning revelation when he was presumably torturing innocent animals: a drop of alcohol on a scorpion will cause it to immediately sting itself to death.  It makes sense, in theory.  We all had a buddy in college who would go out, hammer about five or six vodka Red Bulls and then be ready to rumble.  He would hit the streets just begging for an altercation to become physical.  He was so hopped up on energy and adrenaline his beer muscles were flexing harder than ever and he wanted nothing more than to snarl like an animal and commit aggravated assault.  Now picture a scorpion; a tiny, relatively harmless (that’s an article for another day), unassuming desert creature.  If a few shots of Goose turn your 240-lb frat brother into the incredible Hulk imagine what a few drops of rubbing alcohol would do to a tiny, little scorpion.  Well, some twisted murderer tried this and discovered scorpions will go totally insane if alcohol is administered to their backs, and they will even sting themselves to death!  That’s hardcore!

A similar myth about lobsters exists.  Namely, it states lobsters “scream” when dipped into boiling water.  Fortunately, the explanation isn’t that insidious, as the audible screeching sound is actually just steam escaping the shell.  Still a horrible way to die, but at least the lobster dies a relatively quick, painless death.  But as you can see, lobsters aren’t becoming self-aware and possessing mammalian qualities, so why would a scorpion?  Scorpions are a pretty amazing specifics.  They are extremely venomous, they are excellent hunters, and most importantly, they play can defense, possessing a thick, outer exoskeleton made of chitin, which is basically a less cool name for bug armor.  Underneath this layer of bug armor contains all the scorpion’s important parts; it’s central nervous system, digestive system, the part that makes it cry during sad movies, etc.  The scorpion’s muscular system is essentially a system of pulleys, allowing muscles to contract inward, but not outward, which can easily be seen by the bend of the scorpions stinger.  Pop quiz time.  What is one of the major effects alcohol has on the human body?  If you said vomit and poor decisions, that’s technically correct, but I was looking for dehydration.  Specifically, if alcohol is able to penetrate a “crack in the armor” (like, say, a ridge covering the attachment muscles of a scorpion) the alcohol could severely dehydrate the body.  Since a scorpion’s muscles operate in a similar manner as humans (meaning they need blood to activate the muscles) dehydration could lead to a sudden loss of hydraulic function in the muscles.  If this were to happen, the muscles could all begin to seize and contract automatically, meaning the scorpion has no control over it’s body, including it’s stinger.  Unfortunately, the positioning of the stinger means scorpion are often the victims of their own fatal sting. The “drunk, insane” scorpion isn’t stinging itself to death because it’s gone mad, it’s being murdered because dehydration has compromised it’s muscular system, effectively causing it to inadvertently sting itself to death.  So, first guy who tried this experiment, you weren’t testing a cool theory about the effects and getting a crazy scorpion drunk, you were causing an innocent creature to have a seizure until it accidentally killed itself, you murderer.

Fact #4 – Einstein failed math in school and was a terrible student

Every directionless slacker with a heart of gold is greeted with the same motivational message every year; “the great Albert Einstein was once a stupid idiot just like you”.  It’s certainly an inspiring message: the underachieving, goof-off student who struggled through high school went on to become one of the greatest thinkers in human history.  It’s on par with the story about Michael Jordan failing to make the varsity team his sophomore year of high school, only to attend the greatest basketball college in America two years later.  But, even the most lost souls can relate to Einstein.  “Hey, if this goofy guy with his tongue hanging out can become a world-renowned genius, then so can I.”

In fact, Einstein was once asked about this inspiring situation.  How did it make him feel going from a mathematics failure in school to becoming one of the greatest minds of all time?  Simple, because he didn’t fail math.  In fact, by Einstein’s own admission, he had already mastered integral and differential calculus at age 15, and at age 12 he was already voluntarily teaching himself more advanced math because his class was moving along too slowly for him.  His parents bought him books so he could teach himself even more math over summer vacation and his was constantly trying to replicate and discover new theoretical frameworks at a time most of us have yet to hold hands with a girl.  Now, Einstein was a bit of a troublemaker in school, as his “class clown” label seemed to fit, but only because he was constantly questioning the authority of his teachers.  Safe to say, this disrespect for “the man” can probably be chalked up to his working knowledge of advanced calculus as a pre-teen.  The message portrayed to lazy kids that they too can one day become Albert Einstein is perpetrating a lie, and offensive to both Einstein and the kids.  A kid who spends his summer vacation picking his nose and playing Call of Duty will never become Einstein, and it’s offensive and immoral to even get the kid’s hopes up.  Aim lower, American schools.  And please, stop making those stupid posters with Einstein’s face on them.

Fact #5 – The Great Wall of China is visible from space

The Great Wall of China.  Constructed in 200 B.C. by the Qin Dynasty, the 13,000 mile wall was made to keep those vicious, horrible Mongolians out of China.  And, boy did it work.  In fact, the massive size of the wall, coupled with its staggering length make it the only man-made objective observable from space.  It’s even been claimed the Great Wall is visible from the moon!

First of all, defining “space” is a rather subjective terminology.  If you consider space being “on the moon” this would make the Great Wall roughly 230,000 miles from that giant, white rock in the sky.  At a staggering average width of 30 feet, viewing the Wall from the moon would be equivalent to viewing a singular human hair from two miles away.  But what about low-earth orbit?  That’s only like 100 miles in the atmosphere, and that counts as “space”, and you can definitely see the Wall from the height.  And guess what, you sure can!  But you can also see a bunch of other man-made structures from that height, some being way clearer than the Great Wall.  The rumor about “seeing the moon from space” originated as nothing more than a bout of hyperbole to describe to the penniless heathens who can’t afford a trip to China the magnitude and size of the Wall.  Being the “only man-made structure visible from space” can definitely be attributed to a lack of research, a creative bout of propaganda, or sheer ignorance of fact.  So, one of the most popular, wide-believed facts is actually a total lie, and it’s so incredibly easy to disprove the use of research was almost redundant.


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