The passage of time can make even the most steadfast of facts to no longer be true. For instance, it was once believed that doctors didn’t need to wash their hands before surgery, but it’s now known that doing so is imperative in order to prevent infection. Take a look at 8 supposed facts that aren’t really true:
1. THEN: America won its independence on July 4, 1776.
NOW: America didn’t officially gain independence until 1783.
2. THEN: George Washington’s teeth were made of wood.
NOW: His teeth were actually human teeth from his slaves. Some were made from ivory.
A set of dentures worn by George Washington are kept at the Mount Vernon plantation house museum. They’re fashioned out of ivory and human teeth, with the human teeth being purchased from slaves that sold them to dentists to make some money in the 18th Century. Apparently Washington paid just one-third of the going rate for the teeth. It’s likely that Washington had his dentures implanted into his jaw.
3. THEN: Pluto is a planet.
NOW: Pluto isn’t a planet.
4. THEN: Diamond is the hardest substance.
NOW: Ultra-hard nano-twinned cubic boron nitride is the hardest substance.
It’s been known that there are two substances that are harder than diamond since 2009. These substances, known as wurtzite boron nitride and lonsdaleite, are 18% and 58% better at resisting indentation than diamond respectively. The only problem is that they’re both quite unstable and rare elements. Yet another substance that’s even harder than the aforementioned two was discovered by researchers in 2013. Called ultra-hard nano-twinned cubic boron nitride, it essentially consists of boron nitride particles that have been reorganized into the shape of a layered onion
5. THEN: Witches in Salem were burned at the stake.
NOW: They were actually hanged.
The notorious Salem Witch Trials are widely believed to have involved suspected witches being burned at the stake, but it never actually happened – they were hanged instead. When the Trials were taking place, the US state of New England still followed English law, which dictated that witchcraft was punishable by hanging as opposed to burning at the stake. The confusion arises from the European church calling witchcraft heresy, an offense which was punishable by burning at the stake.
6. THEN: Israelite slaves built the pyramids.
NOW: Egyptian workers built the pyramids themselves.
7. THEN: Folding a piece of paper more than seven times is mathematically impossible.
NOW: The record stands at 13 folds.
8. THEN: The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from space.
NOW: Many man-made places are actually visible from space.
This so-called “fact” gets regurgitated to third-graders the world over, but there’s actually nothing factual about it at all. In 2003, a Chinese astronaut shattered the myth by confirming that the Great Wall of China wasn’t actually visible from space. In contrast, the lights of large cities, major roadways, bridges, and airports can be seen from space.