Snow Sunday: Improve Your Nerd Cred

earth's coreIt seems like everyone on Facebook this week was playing the same game, tagging each other and posting a designated number of little-known facts about themselves. And while it was entertaining enough to read which friends are afraid of clowns or who secretly wants to be a country music star, I think there’s an even more important application for the game. How about “11 little-known facts about science?”

These eleven are not just little-known, many of them were taught to us  incorrectly in elementary school. Some of these misconceptions are still being taught. I had a futile argument with my 4-year-old daughter about the color of blood in your veins (red, not blue) that made me realize that learning doesn’t stop when you grow up. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to keep asking questions, keep our minds open, and keep learning, so that we are not just handing down outdated misinformation. SO, to set the record straight (and with my apologies to my smart, nerdy friends who already know these), here are my eleven favorites:

1. The dinosaur “Brontosaurus” NEVER existed. It was discovered in 1903 that the head of one dinosaur (Camasaurus) was mistakenly attached to the body of another (Apatosaurus) and named “Brontosaurus.”

2. The far side of the moon is NOT the dark side. It receives just as much light as the side visible to Earth. A moon “day” is about a month, two weeks of light and two weeks of dark.

3. There are now 8 planets. (NOT 9.) Pluto was demoted, and is now a dwarf planet. Mnemonic to remember the planets, in order: My very excellent mother just served us noodles. (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.)

4. Killer whales are NOT whales. Killer whales, or Orcas, are actually a member of the dolphin family.

5. Adding salt to water does NOT make it boil faster. Adding salt actually raises its boiling point.

6. Tongue is NOT divided up into certain areas that sense certain “tastes.” Every area of your tongue can taste salt, sweet, sour, and bitter.

7. The seasons are caused by the earth’s 23° axial tilt, NOT by the earth’s distance from the sun on its rotational orbit.

8. The blood in your veins is NOT blue, and does not turn red when oxygenated. It is always red—darker red in the absence of oxygen. Your veins appear blue from the outside because of the way that light interacts with blood and skin.

9. The core of the earth is NOT molten. It is solid. The core is a 700-mile radius ball of mostly nickel, surrounded by an outer core alloy of nickel and iron, which is surrounded by the mantle, which is a gooey layer of magma and other semi-solid rocks and minerals.

10. Diamonds do NOT come from coal. The majority of diamonds discovered predate plants, therefore they predate coal…diamonds are a metastable allotrope of carbon.

11. Copernicus was NOT the first person to suggest a heliocentric model of our solar system—the earliest known theory dates back to 200 BCE and was presented by Aristarchus of Samos.

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