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9 “Facts” You Learned In School That Are No Longer True

As we grow older, we realize that even the facts we once believed to be absolute can change over time. This is because knowledge and understanding are constantly evolving. Several facts that we learned about in school may have changed in a manner that failed to capture the full truth. In this article, we will re-educate ourselves on nine such facts, while maintaining the scientific integrity of the information.

Fact 1: America’s Independence Day:

THEN: The United States declared its independence on July 4, 1776. NOW: However, the United States did not achieve official independence until seven years later, in 1783.

In the United States, the celebration of Independence Day on July 4th involves lively parades, delicious barbecues, and spectacular fireworks displays. However, it’s worth highlighting that, despite the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and its subsequent signing by the 13 colonies in August, the country was not yet fully emancipated from British rule. The American Revolution persisted until the momentous signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, a pivotal event that marked America’s true independence.

Fact 2: George Washington’s Teeth:

THEN: George Washington’s teeth were made of wood
NOW: Washington’s teeth were human teeth from his slaves and also made from ivory.

Contrary to popular belief, George Washington’s teeth were not made of wood. Instead, his dentures were made from a combination of human teeth from his slaves and ivory. Although historical records do not provide specific information about the individuals from whom the teeth were sourced, written accounts strongly indicate that George Washington acquired teeth from slaves. He maintained a ledger that documented these transactions. During the 18th century, it was not uncommon for slaves to sell their teeth to dentists as a means of earning money. Consequently, it is highly probable that Washington underwent surgical procedures to have these teeth implanted.

Fact 3: Pluto as a Planet

THEN: Pluto is a planet
NOW: Pluto isn’t a planet.

Pluto’s status as a planet has changed over the years. Previously, it was considered the ninth planet in our solar system. However, in 2003, astronomers discovered a larger object beyond Pluto named Eris, which prompted a reevaluation of what qualifies as a planet. Based on size and location, Pluto, along with Eris, was reclassified as a dwarf planet. Although there are ongoing debates on whether to reinstate Pluto’s planet status, currently, it is classified as a dwarf planet.

Pluto is no longer considered a planet.

Fact 4: The Hardest Substance


THEN: Diamond is the hardest substance
NOW: Ultrahard nanotwinned cubic boron nitride is the hardest substance.

Contrary to what we previously believed, researchers have discovered substances harder than diamonds. Wurtzite boron nitride and lonsdaleite were found to resist indentation with more strength than diamonds. However, these substances are rare and unstable. Another contender, ultrahard nanotwinned cubic boron nitride, which was created by compressing boron nitride particles, has also been identified as a harder substance.

Fact 5: Salem Witch Trials


THEN: Witches in Salem were burned at the stake
NOW: They were actually hanged.

Contrary to popular belief, the witches accused during the Salem Witch Trials were not burned at the stake. At the time, New England followed English law, which prescribed hanging as the punishment for witchcraft, not burning at the stake. Burning witches at the stake was a practice seen in Europe, where witchcraft was considered heresy.

Fact 6: Builders of the Pyramids


THEN: Israelite slaves built the pyramids
NOW: Egyptian workers built the pyramids themselves.

In contrast to a common misconception, it is not accurate to attribute the construction of the pyramids to Israelite slaves. Recent archaeological discoveries provide compelling evidence that the pyramids were, in fact, built by Egyptians themselves. Laborers were sourced from underprivileged families throughout the nation and were held in high regard for their labor. Their dedication was exemplified by the provision of burial crypts in proximity to the pyramids, underscoring the significant honor and esteem they garnered for their work.

Fact 7: Folding Paper


THEN: Folding a piece of paper more than seven times is mathematically impossible.
NOW: The record stands at 13.

The idea that folding a piece of paper beyond seven times is an impossibility is not accurate. Britney Gallivan, a high school student, achieved the remarkable feat of folding a massive roll of toilet paper 11 times. She revealed that the crucial technique involved alternating the folding direction correctly. This achievement has inspired other students at St. [school name] and beyond. Mark’s School in Massachusetts broke Gallivan’s record by folding paper 13 times.

Fact 8: Great Wall of China

THEN: It was once believed that the Great Wall of China is the sole man-made structure visible from space. NOW: However, numerous man-made features can be seen from space.

Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall of China is not the only man-made structure visible from space. Although this rumor has persisted for a long time, it was finally debunked by the first Chinese astronaut, Yang Liwei. While the Great Wall can be seen under certain conditions, such as with snow or with a zoom-capable camera, there are many other man-made structures that can be observed from space. This includes the lights of large cities, major roadways, bridges, airports, dams, and reservoirs.

Fact 9: Classification of Life


THEN: Five (or three) kingdoms of classification exist.
NOW: There might be as many as eight kingdoms.

In our school days, we were taught about the three primary domains of life (animals, plants, and bacteria), or the more detailed version comprising five, which included fungi and protists. However, scientific understanding has evolved, leading to a more intricate classification of life. In the United States, six kingdoms are now acknowledged: plants, animals, protists, fungi, archaebacteria, and eubacteria. Additionally, there could be as many as eight kingdoms, including further classifications within bacteria and protists.

The Evolution of Knowledge

The knowledge we gain throughout our lives is ever-changing. What we believed to be true in the past may have been corrected, or even misunderstood. By staying open to new information and embracing the evolution of knowledge, we have the opportunity to continually educate ourselves. Understanding these nine facts that have changed or were taught wrongly helps us realize the importance of questioning and reevaluating what we consider to be true.

References:
1. Business Insider

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