8 Pieces of Common Knowledge (That Are Totally Wrong)

  • Think you’re smart for knowing these little facts? Think again.

Some things are such universal facts that we consider them to be common knowledge. The sky is blue, birds go tweet, and a bear craps in the woods.

But there are also some things that we think are common knowledge, but that are actually nothing but myth. Here are eight of the most common misconceptions that get repeated over and over again in our daily lives.

Maybe they’ll help you win a trivia contest somewhere.

“So why do they call them ‘peanuts’ if they’re not actually nuts…?”

1) Fortune Cookies Are Chinese

You know the drill. You order some Chinese food, and you’ve feasted on your international delicacies, you get to dig into a stale piece of dough that has a slip of paper with cryptic messages inside it.

But if you actually went to China, you wouldn’t find any fortune cookies. In fact, the first recorded fortune cookies come from Japan.

The Japanese fortune cookie tradition came over to the US sometime in the early 1900s. Around WWII, the tradition was taken over by Chinese-American restaurant owners.

In fact, the fortune cookie is so alien to China that they consider it a distinctly American tradition.

2) Henry Ford Invented the Assembly Line

Henry Ford was undoubtedly an enterprising man, and the assembly line played a huge part in popularizing his cars. But unlike most people think, he didn’t invent it.

It’s hard to say who came up with the assembly line. The Chinese used similar division of labor to produce agricultural tools and weapons centuries ago, and 12th Venetian shipyards ran on what’s basically an assembly line.

So, no, Henry Ford didn’t invent the assembly line. But he certainly did a lot to perfect the concept to give rise to modern mass production.

3) An Espresso Shot Has More Caffeine Than a Cup of Coffee

When you need a quick pick-me-up, you order a shot of espresso. After all, it has a lot more caffeine than your regular cup of coffee… Right?

That depends entirely how you look at it. Sure, the usual one-ounce shot of espresso has more caffeine than one ounce of regular coffee — 63 mg against 15 mg.

But who drinks drip coffee one ounce at a time? When it all balances out, a shot of espresso has about the same amount of caffeine as a good ol’ cup of joe.

The only benefit of an espresso shot is that you can knock it back much faster than a cup of coffee.

4) People Thought the Earth Was Flat Before Columbus

Before Columbus proved that there was a continent between Europe and Asia, people thought the Earth was flat. That’s easy to believe – some people think we live on a flat disc still today.

But pre-Columbian people weren’t as dumb as we think. The ancient Greeks, for example, universally believed the Earth was spherical as far back as 500 BC — though that might’ve been because they thought a sphere looked better than a disc.

Aristotle is generally accepted as having been the first person to provide physical evidence for Earth’s roundness. And then, around 240 BC, Eratosthenes calculated that the Earth’s circumference was between 24,000 and 29,000 miles.

Today, we know the circumference of the planet is about 24,900 miles. Good job, Eratosthenes.

5) Dogs Don’t Sweat

If you have a pooch at home, someone has probably told you that dogs are incapable of sweating. Instead, they “sweat” by salivating – that’s why they pant when they’re hot.

But despite what you may have heard, Spot does sweat. Dogs have sweat glands on their paws that produce sweat just like your armpits do. That’s why you may have seen your dog leave wet pawprints on the grounds on a hot, dry day.

That said, those sweat glands are nowhere near enough to keep your dog cool. Panting is a much more important method for dogs to control their temperature – but it doesn’t replace sweating.

6) Medieval People Died in their 30s.

There’s nothing to envy about medieval life. You toil in the fields, trying to avoid getting killed by plague or warfare, so that you can pass away at the ripe old age of 35.

Except not. While it’s true that the average life expectancy in the Middle Ages was far below today’s, people regularly lived into their 60s or even 70s.

It’s actually the sky-high infant mortality rate that skews the statistics of medieval life expectancy. If people managed to survive the first five years or so of their lives, they had a good chance to go on to become venerable seniors.

7) You Have to Wait 24 Hours to File a Missing Person Report

Your loved one has disappeared, and you call 911. But then you’re greeted with an unnecessarily cruel rule – you have to wait a full 24 hours before you can report a person missing.

This is a common misconception that could potentially cost human lives. If you have good reason to believe that someone is missing and could need help, for the love of all that is good, pick up the phone.

There are no laws that prevent you from filing a missing person report if you genuinely suspect someone needs help. In fact, any actual law enforcement official will tell you contact them as soon as you can.

The 24-hour myth most likely comes from books and TV shows that were written by people who don’t actually know how the police work.

8) We Only Use 10% of Our Brain

Our brains are weird in that they somehow block us from using most of their processing power. If we could tap into that remaining 90%, we could all become everyday Einsteins.

Or so you might think, but it’s not true. Brain scans have shown that we use most of our brain even during very simple tasks.

However, the brain is kind of sectioned off, so depending on the task or what someone is thinking of, some areas might show more activity than others. Still, your entire brain is working hard in pretty much every situation.