And yet, plenty of them do! The Internet also makes it easier for us to spread lies, false assumptions, misunderstandings – or simply misremembered “facts” from long ago – far and wide.
But wait, there’s more!
Regardless of where and how these falsehoods started, they’re disturbingly common. Sometimes there’s nefarious work at play (like blatant racism) while other times we just say stuff thinking its true and other people believe us.
But here are 60 things you can stop spreading around – and stop assuming – as if they were true.
1. False: Stonehenge has looked the same for thousands of years
Not only do archaeologists think many of the stones were originally a Welch tomb moved 150 miles to Wiltshire long ago, but the stones aren’t in the exact position any of our ancestors left them in.
According to New Scientist:
“Most of the one million visitors who visit Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain every year believe they are looking at untouched 4,000-year-old remains. But virtually every stone was re-erected, straightened or embedded in concrete between 1901 and 1964…”
Don’t get us wrong, it’s still cool, just watch out for any weird alien theories that rely on their exact alignment. Come to think of it, just watch out for any weird alien theories period.
2. False: The Grand Canyon is the largest canyon in the world
The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (also called the Brahmaputra Canyon) is deeper by 2.6 miles and longer by 37 miles.
It’s located along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet.
3. False: New York/Chicago/Los Angeles is the most dangerous place in America
But the truth is, these three cities aren’t even in the top 5 most dangerous in the U.S. (a dubious dishonor, to be sure).
Violent crime includes all offenses involving force or threat of force and is broken into four categories: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
And the cities with the most? St. Louis, Missouri is first, followed by Detroit, Michigan; and Baltimore, Maryland.
Here are some of the most recent sad stats.
4. False: Roswell, New Mexico is where the most UFOs are spotted
The places with the most UFO sightings in the U.S.? Good old Washington, Montana, and Vermont.
5. False: The White House’s “Lincoln Bedroom” was where Abraham Lincoln slept
It was actually his office and the cabinet room in which he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. (Even cooler!)
To top it off, the bed in the room was never his either – it was acquired by his wife Mary Todd Lincoln for one of the guest rooms in the White House.
6. False: Africa is a country
There are 54 countries located on the continent of Africa.
(And there are also two – Western Sahara and Somaliland – whose independence is under dispute.)
7. False: Iceland is always covered in ice
Iceland is actually a lot greener than Greenland (at least for now) and Greeland is icier than Iceland.
8. False: Puerto Rico is a country
The territory has been contested ever since it was colonized by Spain in 1493. It was handed over to the U.S. in 1898 following the Spanish–American War under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in national elections and do not have U.S. senators.
9. False: The UK and England are the same
The United Kingdom consists – at the moment – of England, Scotland, Wales, and North Ireland.
Great Britain is the island of England, Scotland, and Wales.
10: False: Norway is the northernmost country in the world
But in reality, it’s not even in the top 3 when it comes to northernmost countries. Those are Russia, Greenland, and Canada.
11. All Middle Eastern people are Muslims
Yes, there are many Muslims in the Middle East. But there are also Jews (and not just in Israel), Zoroastrians, Baha’is, and various types of Christians including Assyrian Christians and Coptic Christians, as well.
12. Myth: Greenland is bigger than Africa
Africa is 11,730,000 sq miles and Greenland just 836,000. So don’t trust the linear map. Do some research instead.
13. False, technically: The Statue of Liberty is in NYC
However, the U.S. Geological Survey actually puts it in New Jersey.
According to the National Parks Service:
“Since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1998, Ellis Island, which is federal property, belongs within the territorial jurisdiction of both New York and New Jersey depending upon where you are.”
14. False: The Matterhorn is Europe’s highest mountain
That honor belongs to Russia’s Mount Elbrus (pictured) at 18,510 feet tall.
15. False: The Nile is the longest river in the world
Not a big difference, but good to know.
16. False: The Mississippi River is the longest river in the US
The longest river in the U.S is actually the Missouri River. It’s 139 miles longer than the famous Mississippi.
17. False: Holland is a country
And just like our Carolinas, there is a North Holland and a South Holland as well.
18. False: Maine is the easternmost state
Oddly enough, that honor belongs to Alaska because the Aleutian Islands stretch across the 180º line of Longitude, making it BOTH the easternmost and westernmost state.
19. False: Florida is our southernmost state
Hawaii is the southernmost U.S. state.
20. False: No one in Arizona recognizes daylight savings time
Those that don’t? The Navajo Nations lands.
21. False: Geneva is the capital of Switzerland
And because it houses the Headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross and is a global hub for banking, many believe it is the capital
However, Bern is the real capital city.
22. False: Florida has the longest coastline of any state
But, alas, no.
Alaska has the most coastline of any U.S. state by far with 6,640 miles compared to Florida’s 1,350 miles. And it has beautiful beaches too! (They’re just not quite as warm – and, ya know, some have bears.)
23. False: Alaska has the smallest population of any US state
Well, technically, it used to be true, it just isn’t anymore. As of the 2016 U.S. Census, it’s only the 3rd least populous state.
Wyoming actually has the smallest population, followed by Vermont.
24. False: Georgia is the “peach state” because it produces the most peaches
In fact, California produces about 20 times as many peaches as Georgia!
So check out the sticker on your peach next time you’re at the store. It’s always fascinating to know where your food comes from (and from how far away).
25. False: Route 66 is the longest highway in the U.S.
The longest highway is actually Route 20, which runs from Boston to Newport, Oregon.
26. False: Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the U.S.
But then Alaska came along.
We’re learning a lot about Alaska today, aren’t we?
When Alaska joined the union in 1959, it took the top 10(!) spots for the highest mountains.
And the tallest one is the famous Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). Just look at that thing! In fact, it’s the highest peak in all of North America.
27. False: Boston/Philadelphia/Jamestown is the oldest city in the U.S.
And it makes sense. The British weren’t the first ones to get to what is now the U.S. – the Spanish were. And when they established St. Augustine, Florida, they were created the very first European permanent settlement all the way back in 1565.
That is, of course, if you ignore (as the history books tend to do) all the Native People’s settlements (that colonizers never allowed to become permanent).
28. False: There is only one South Pole
But that’s just the geographic South Pole, and it’s not precise because of the Earth’s wobble. And even if you make it down there for a photo, you’re likely only getting to the Ceremonial South Pole a few meters away, where the photo ops take place.
There are 2 other poles that scientists tend to refer to when they are measuring the location for research: the Magnetic South Pole and the Geomagnetic South Pole – both of which move due to changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.
Finally, there’s something called the South Pole of Inaccessibility, which is measured in relation to ever-changing coastlines. But good luck getting there.
29. False: Krakatoa is east of Java
In fact, that geographic mistake comes from the title of a not-terribly-popular 1969 disaster movie called “Krakatoa, East of Java.”
But Krakatoa is actually an island in the Sunda Strait WEST of Java. No one knows for sure why the title is so misleading but guesses range from liking the sound better to simply not checking a map.
If you go east from Java, you can still get to Krakatoa – you just have to go around the entirety of the Earth first.
30. False: Canada is the world’s largest country
Maybe people just spend their time with the North American part of their globes facing out. Give that thing a spin sometime!
31. False: Seattle is the rainiest city in the U.S.
By some accounts, it’s Mobile, Alabama.
And that trip to Florida you’re lording over your friends? Watch out for karma because Miami and Jacksonville rank #2 and #5, according to NOAA.
Seattle isn’t even the city with the MOST precipitation days (nevermind the accumulation). The cities with the most rain/snow days are Rochester and Buffalo, New York.
32. False: Connecticut is nicknamed “the Constitution State” because the Constitution was signed there
But Connecticut got its nickname because of its Fundamental Orders adopted in 1639 dictating how it was to be governed. Some consider this to be the first “constitution.”
33. False: The first nugget of gold was discovered in California at Sutter’s Mill
Fifty years before the madness started, the first big golden nugget was found at Little Meadow Creek, North Carolina. That state had its own gold rush first and the man who found the 17-pound nugget was duped into selling it for about 1,000 times less than it was worth.
34. False: Alcatraz was the most dangerous and spooky prison in the U.S.
Granted, there were some scary guys in there (hey, it was a prison!) – in fact, it’s often where they sent people other prisons couldn’t deal with – but it doesn’t quite live up to its mythological reputation.
Still, there are some cool facts about it.
35. False: The Chernobyl power plant disaster closed down the entire facility in 1986
The plant was critical to Ukraine’s power needs and Unit 2 wasn’t shut down until 1991, unit 1 in 1996, and unit 3 in 2000.
36. It’s complicated: Antarctica has no time zones
However, there are a number of research stations down there and they each abide by their home country’s individual time zones.
37. False: The Hoover Dam is full of the bodies of workers who died on the job
While people like to tell the stories of men slipping into the concrete and being buried there, concrete takes a lot longer to cure, and any man would have been rescued – if for no other reason than a body in the concrete would affect the structural integrity of the enormous dam.
One man did get caught up and killed in a concrete slide, but his body was recovered.
The men at the dam themselves propagated the stories of men buried there, but later interviews showed that none could attest to actually witnessing an incident.
38. Mostly false: Canada is an impenetrable arctic fortress in the winter
Many cities, such as Vancouver, have mild winters. In fact, Vancouver’s is even milder than New York’s!
Now, Winnepeg, on the other hand…
This rumor probably stems from Canadians laughing at the rest of us when we freak out about snowstorms. They get some bad ones and bear the brunt of some of the more severe weather (such as the Polar Vortex) that we’re now experiencing.
And you can’t blame them for snickering at us when we freak out about a foot of snow.
39. Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world
If you measure base to summit the world’s tallest mountain is Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.