1. THEN: America won its independence on July 4, 1776.
NOW: America didn’t officially gain independence until 1783.
July 4th marks Independence Day in the United States, and it’s a celebration replete with parades, barbecues and fireworks. Although the Declaration of Independence was adopted by 12 colonies on July 4th, 1776 and signed by 13 colonies the following August, America was still under British rule. The American Revolution raged on until September 3rd, 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed and America truly became free.
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.
Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh back in 1930. He submitted his finding to the Harvard College Observatory, which allowed an 11-year-old English girl to give the newly discovered planet its name. In 2003, an astronomer found that there was an even larger object beyond Pluto, and he named it Eris. This sparked a debate regarding the criteria for what makes a planet a planet. Following the debate’s conclusion, astronomers decided that neither Pluto nor Eris made the cut, so Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status.
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.
The myth that the Israelites built the pyramids reportedly stems from comments made by former Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, during a visit to Egypt in 1977. Jewish people actually didn’t exist during the period when the pyramids were constructed. Archeologists recently found proof that the Ancient Egyptians actually built the pyramids themselves. Workers came from poor families in the north and south of the country, but they were highly respected, with some even being given crypts located close to the pyramids they built.
7. THEN: Folding a piece of paper more than seven times is mathematically impossible.
NOW: The record stands at 13 folds.
The myth that paper can only be folded seven times was dispelled by a Californian high school student called Britney Gallivan. Together with some volunteers, she bought a giant $85 roll of toilet paper and amazed everyone by managing to fold it no less than 11 times. She even developed an equation based on the thickness and width of the specific paper. In 2013, students at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts managed to fold paper 13 times.
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.