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Is coffee made from beans and do chameleons really change their colour to match their surroundings? Well wonder no more as a group of experts have revealed a list of modern life’s top 50 misconceptions.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London compiled the list of ‘faux facts’, many of which are passed round daily, and explains coffee is actually made from a seed called ‘bean’ and chameleons change as a response to mood, temperature, communication and light instead of the object they are touching.

Other misconceptions are that Mount Everest is the ‘tallest’ mountain in the world and The Great Wall of China can be seen from space.

A spokesman for Ripley’s Believe it or Not! London, which commissioned the study, said: “If you’re told something enough times, you’re sure to start believing it. The misconceptions in this list are all pretty plausible, so it’s understandable that many Brits will have read it and been certain it’s true, with many of us being told these from an early age.”

How many did you believe to be true?




1.     Coffee is made from beans (74%)

Believe It or Not: It is actually made from a seed called a bean

2.     Chameleons change colour to match their surroundings (69%)

Believe It or Not: Chameleons change as a response to mood, temperature, communication and light instead of the object they are touching

3.     Mount Everest is the ‘tallest’ mountain in the world (57%)

Believe It or Not: The summit of Mount Everest is higher above sea level than the summit of any other mountain, but Mauna Kea is the tallest when measured from base to summit.

4.     The Great Wall of China can be seen from space (55%)

Believe It or Not: The Apollo astronauts confirmed that you can’t see the Great Wall of China from the Moon. In fact, all you can see from the Moon is the white and blue marble of our home planet


5.     One human year is equivalent to seven dog years (53%)

Believe It or Not: It depends on the size and breed of the dog

6.     You lose your body heat fastest through your head (53%)

Believe It or Not: This is a myth, experts say humans would be just as cold if they went without a hat as if they went without trousers.

7.     The Earth revolves around the Sun (53%)

Believe It or Not: Technically, what is going on is that the Earth, Sun and all the planets are orbiting around the centre of mass of the solar system

8.     Different parts of your tongue detects different tastes (51%)

Believe It or Not: This was scientifically disproven by later research; all taste sensations come from all regions of the tongue, although different parts are more sensitive to certain tastes

9.     Peanuts are a type of nut (47%)

Believe It or Not: Peanuts, along with beans and peas, belong to the single plant family, Leguminosae.

10.  Giving children sugar makes them hyper (47%)

Believe it or not: This is not the case, most research has concluded that sugar does not cause hyperactivity

11.  Humans have five senses (46%)

Believe It or Not: It turns out, there are at least nine senses and most researchers think there are more like twenty-one or so


12.  Fortune cookies are a Chinese tradition (45%)

Believe It or Not: This was in fact invented by the Americans

13.  Sushi means ‘raw fish’ (43%)

Believe It or Not: Sushi actually translates as sour-tasting

14.  Vikings wore horned helmets (43%)

Believe It or Not: There is no evidence to suggest Vikings ever wore horned helmets

15.  The forbidden fruit mentioned in the Book of Genesis is an apple (43%)

Believe It or Not: The bible never mentions the forbidden fruit was an apple

16.  Vitamin C is an effective treatment for a cold (41%)

Believe It or Not: Most experts have stated there is little or no evidence that vitamin C can help treatment of a cold


17.  Penguins mate for life (41%)

Believe It or Not: Penguins are mostly monogamous, however there are some species like the Emperor Penguin which is serially monogamous, they mate with one couple for the whole season but the next year they will probably mate with another penguin as the urgent need for breeding will make them avoid waiting for the same couple the following year.

18.  Caffeine dehydrates you (41%)

Believe It or Not: While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect — meaning that they may cause the need to urinate — they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration

19.  When in London, you are merely six feet away from a rat (39%)

Believe It or Not: This is just a rough estimate as rodents are not evenly spread apart


20.  There is a dark side of the moon (37%)

Believe It or Not: As the Moon is constantly rotating on its own axis, there is no area of the planetoid which is in permanent darkness

21.  A toilet’s flush will change direction depending upon which hemisphere it is in (36%)

Believe It or Not: The real cause of “backwards”-flushing toilets is just that the water jets point in the opposite direction

22.  Mars is red (35%)

Believe It or Not: The red colour we see in images of Mars is just the result of iron rusting

23.  Sunflowers track the sun across the sky (32%)

Believe It or Not: A common misconception is that sunflower heads track the Sun across the sky. The uniform alignment of the flowers does result from heliotropism in an earlier development stage, the bud stage, before the appearance of flower heads

24.  People use just 10 per cent of their brain (31%)

Believe It or Not: Neurologists describe the myth as false and state we use virtually every part of the brain, and that (most of) the brain is active almost all the time

25.  Your fingernails continue to grow after you die (30%)

Believe It or Not: The dehydration of the body after death can cause retraction of the skin around hair and nails, giving the illusion that they have grown. All tissues require energy to sustain their functions, and no such thing is possible once the mechanism that promotes normal growth shuts down at death.

26.  Bats are blind (30%)

Believe It or Not: Despite the tiny eyes and nocturnal lifestyle, none of the roughly 1,100 bat species is blind.


27.  Dropping a penny from the Empire State building would kill someone (29%)

Believe It or Not: A penny only weighs about a gram and it tumbles as it falls. Because of the tumbling and the light weight, there’s so much air resistance that the penny never really gathers that much speed before it hits its terminal velocity. A gram of weight traveling at a relatively slow speed might hurt a little if it hit you on the head, but it’s not going to kill you.

28.  Handling a baby bird will make its mother reject it (29%)

Believe It or Not: Most birds have a very poor sense of smell, so in most cases are unable to even notice human scent on baby bird

29.  You need to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person to the police (27%)

Believe It or Not: There is no rule that states you have to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person

30.  Your blood is blue before its oxygenated (27%)

Believe It or Not: This is not true, human blood is always red

31.  A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds (25%)

Believe It or Not: This is not true, in fact, goldfish actually have very good memories for fish. They can be trained to respond various ways to certain colours of light; different kinds of music; and other sensory cue

32.  You need to wait an hour after eating before you can swim safely (24%)

Believe It or Not: As with any exercise after eating, swimming right after a big meal might be uncomfortable, but it won’t cause you to drown.


33.  Bulls are enraged by the colour red (24%)

Believe It or Not: It is a proven fact that Bulls only see in Blues and Yellows. They only react to the red cape because of the movements that flutter around.

34.  Seasons are caused by the earth being closer to the Sun (53%)

Believe It or Not: As Earth orbits the sun, its tilted axis always points in the same direction. So, throughout the year, different parts of Earth get the sun’s direct rays.

35.  Eating lots of chocolate will give you spots (23%)

Believe It or Not: There is no concrete evidence that suggests eating more chocolate can cause spots

36.  Shaving your leg hair will make it grow back quicker (23%)

Believe It or Not: No, shaving hair doesn’t change its thickness, colour or rate of growth. Shaving facial or body hair gives the hair a blunt tip. The tip might feel coarse or “stubbly” for a time as it grows out

37.  Frankenstein was the name of the monster in Mary Shelley’s book ‘Frankenstein’ (22%)

Believe It or Not: Frankenstein was the name of the monsters creator

38.  Microwave radiation can cause cancer (20%)

Believe It or Not: Most experts say that microwave ovens don’t give off enough energy to damage the genetic material (DNA) in cells so they can’t cause cancer

39.  Men think about sex every seven seconds (20%)

Believe It or Not: There is no real evidence to support this statement


40.  Ostriches bury their head in the sand when they are scared (20%)

Believe It or Not: Ostriches swallow sand and pebbles to help grind up food in their stomachs. This means they have to bend down and briefly stick their heads in the earth to collect the pebbles. It is not because they are scared.

41.  Waking sleepwalkers harms them (18%)

Believe It or Not: Waking a sleepwalker won’t cause them any harm

42.  Albert Einstein failed maths at school (18%)

Believe It or Not: He failed one entry exam to a school but in fact, he actually excelled at mathematics throughout his schooling and even considered becoming a mathematician for a time.

43.  Salty water boils quicker (17%)

Believe It or Not: The salt water requires more exposure to the heat in order to boil than water alone, so the boiling point is elevated and the time it takes to get the water to boil increases.


44.  Carrots help you see in the dark (16%)

Believe It or Not: Carrots contain vitamin A, or retinol, and this is required for your body to synthesise rhodopsin, which is the pigment in your eyes that operates in low-light conditions. If you have a vitamin A deficiency, you will develop nyctalopia or night blindness. Eating carrots would correct this and improve your night vision, but only to the point of an ordinary healthy person – it won’t ever let you see in complete darkness

45.  Houseflies only live for around 24 hours (14%)

Believe It or Not: The adult housefly can live up to one month in the wild

46.  Eating cheese before bed will give you nightmares (13%)

Believe It or Not: Cheese is believed to give you more emotionally charged dreams but not necessarily nightmares

47.  The capital of Australia is Sydney (13%)

Believe It or Not: The capital of Australia is Canberra

48.  Tomatoes are a vegetable (13%)

Believe It or Not: Tomatoes are a fruit


49.  Going out in the cold with wet hair will make you ill (13%)

Believe It or Not: There is no evidence to support this, it is regarded now as an old wives tale

50.  Alcohol keeps you warm (12%)

Believe It or Not: Alcohol may make your skin feel warm, but this apparent heat wave is deceptive. A nip or two actually causes your blood vessels to dilate, moving warm blood closer to the surface of your skin, making you feel warmer temporarily. At the same time, however, those same veins pumping blood closer to the skin’s surface cause you to lose core body heat

For more weird and wonderful facts, why not visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not! With more than 700 amazing artefacts on display, the attraction celebrates the weird, wonderful and bizarre in all its forms. With everything you can imagine (and plenty more you can’t), Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London is a family day out that’s definitely out of the ordinary. For additional information call 020 3238 0022 or visit Like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London on Facebook here:

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