Our knowledge of the world is constantly evolving and as such, some of the things which were once taught in schools are actually no longer true.
Remember when Pluto was declassified as a planet and you began to doubt everything your teachers had ever told you? It turns out that was just the start!
From science and history to English grammar, Oxford Home Schooling has compiled a list of 10 ‘facts’ which you may have heard in the classroom but are now considered outdated.
1) Diamond is the hardest material
Correction: There are six materials on earth which are harder than diamond
It was once taught that diamond is the toughest substance on the planet, but, while it remains the most scratch-resistant, there are actually six materials now known to be harder. These include wurtzide boron nitride – a crystal lattice formed during volcanic eruptions, which is 18% harder than diamond – and graphene – a carbon lattice that is only one atom wide but is the strongest material we know of, in proportion to its thickness.
2) Water can only be found on Earth
Correction: There is water in multiple places in our solar system
We used to think that earth was the only place where water can be found, but NASA has since proved its presence on some of our galactic neighbours.
In 2015, it confirmed water flows intermittently on Mars. Then, later that year, the agency discovered an ocean beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Many suspect that there’s also an ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
3) King Tutankhamun was murdered
Correction: He either died from a chariot crash or from genetic impairments
Some schools used to teach that King Tutankhamun of Ancient Egypt was murdered when someone struck him on the head. However, a 2014 BBC documentary suggested that he died in a chariot crash that ultimately ended in an infection and blood poisoning.
Around the same time, a virtual autopsy of the pharaoh’s body indicates he may have died because of genetic impairments, with evidence suggesting that his parents were siblings.
4) You can’t split an infinitive
Correction: It’s now acceptable
Star Trek’s famous line “to boldly go where no man has gone before” annoyed a lot of hard-line grammatists. It broke a long-standing rule of the English language – that the infinitive form of a verb (ie. to go) should not be split.
However, researchers at Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press found that split infinitives are now almost three times as common now as they were in the 1990s, and as language keeps evolving, most linguists now consider them acceptable.
5) There are three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas
Correction: There are at least five
One of the fundamentals of chemistry, most school students were told that there are three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas. However, scientists now know of a fourth natural state, plasma. Despite not being common on earth, it is thought to be the most prominent form in the universe. There’s also a fifth state, the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), where molecular motion almost stops completely. BECs were discovered in 1995, but so far have only been found in laboratories.
6) Neanderthals were not very intelligent
Correction: They were skilled hunters with advanced tools
Many people used to believe that Neanderthals died out largely because they were less intelligent than Homo sapiens. However recent studies suggest they had similar cognitive abilities and were actually quite skilled hunters. New archaeological evidence shows they used relatively advanced tools and were also better at socialising than once thought.
7) The universe is 13.7 billion years old
Correction: It’s actually 100 million years older
Science lessons used to teach that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, but it turns out we were out by around 100 million years. The European Space Agency’s Planck mission scanned the sky for radio and microwaves. In 2013 they concluded that previous estimates were slightly short, and the universe is actually 13.82 billion years old.
8) No one knows where Richard III’s body is
Correction: He was buried under a car park in Leicester
For over 500 years, historians and archaeologists had been searching for the body of Richard III. The king died from injuries sustained in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The long-standing mystery was solved in 2013 when researchers from the University of Leicester announced that they’d discovered the controversial monarch’s remains beneath a car park in the city.
9) Nothing can travel faster than light
Correction: Things can move faster than light under the right conditions
It’s still true that nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum, or in similar conditions in space.
However, scientists have managed to slow light down by either trapping it inside waveguides made with photonic crystals or inside ultracold atom clouds. This can reduce the speed of light from around 300,000km per second to near zero, so lots of things could outpace it.
10) We have five senses
Correction: We have way more than five
The five main senses – touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell – are still our most fundamental. However we also have lots of other mechanisms helping us to make sense of the world.
For example, we have proprioception – a sense of space. This is how our brain understands where we are in relation to other things. We also have others, such as neuron sensors, which help to control balance.
“Proving things wrong is good”
Greg Smith, Head of Operations at Oxford Home Schooling, said, “Every year in every subject, experts are constantly learning and updating our knowledge. This means that some things which were once taught at school now don’t tell the whole story, or have even been proved to be wrong!
“This can only be a good thing, however, as it shows that we are developing a greater understanding of our world.”
Learn fascinating facts every week with My Weekly’s popular Fancy That page! Subscribe to the magazine for a great money-saving deal.