Spot the fake fact

November 10, 2022 • 9:00 am

This article from Linkiest (a real time-waster of a site) adduces, well, you can read the title. Click on the link to “blow your mind”:

As far as I know, all but one of these “facts” are correct, but there is one howler: a “fake fact”.  Can you spot it?  It’s arrantly, blatantly, mind-blowingly WRONG. Put the fact in the comments, but don’t explain why it’s wrong yet; I’ll add the correct answer this afternoon.  I would expect most science-friendly readers here to spot it.

(There’s also a typo in one fact, but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

65 thoughts on “Spot the fake fact

  1. I shall go on record with “egg evolution” as the bogus fact. I note some of the entries are a tad mushy.

    Now the pain begins.

  2. The “fact” that chickens evolved before eggs. Eggs have been around for millions of years, chickens made a few thousand.

  3. “Chicken only started laying eggs later in their evolution” makes no phylogenetic sense, as all outgroups are egg layers.

  4. Yeah, that is a howler. Maybe it was put in to get comments?
    I don’t understand the first ‘fact’, but maybe i was unconscious when I read it.

  5. Concur with above.
    But the surface area of Pluto has been re-estimated to be now slightly greater than that of present-day Russia, both about 17 million km^2. The old USSR was 22 million. So that false fact is not howlingly wrong. (Obviously, I looked this up just now.)

  6. PCC could be objecting to Pluto being labelled a “former” planet 🙂 but objecting to 12 is perhaps more likely. I think 2 is also an underestimate by a factor of a million.

    1. I was just now triggered to remember a cartoon with a chicken and an egg in bed together, and the chicken is smoking a cigarette.

      1. I recently read a cartoon in The New Yorker where God, The Creator of the Universe, is preparing to send both the chicken and the egg to Earth. “Now, be sure to arrive at the exact same time.”

  7. Chickens evolved long before eggs? I very much doubt that. Without double checking everything else, I’m going with number 12 as being wrong.

  8. This one is obviously wrong, I think: 🙂

    12. According to science, the chicken came first – only later did the species evolve the egg as a means of bearing young.

  9. I believe that #1, about the brain, is wrong and #4 (about Russia) is poorly worded: either “the dwarf planet” or “the object formerly considered a planet”.

  10. I can’t confirm the other facts, but I agree with the others here. I thought the egg fact was the egregious error. That is just ridiculous.

  11. #12 is certainly the howler, but I have issues with 15 also. For one thing, “1,000 miles per hour” applies only if you happen to be at the equator, and even then I would guess that few people are actually spinning as they read. Those who are situated at one of the poles are of course rotating once per day.

    1. I have contemplated the effect of the Earth rotating at the equator at the speed of light, more slowly toward the poles.

    2. If you stand on the equator, you certainly are spinning. At midday your head is pointing to the Sun, at mid night, your feet are pointing at the Sun. That means, in 12 hours you have rotated by 180 degrees. Of course that’s not a 1000 mph, even if you measure angular velocity in miles per hour, which you can’t.

  12. While we’re on a run, some trees have been alive for thousands of years. Maybe the author does not consider trees to be creatures…

    1. I considered that one, too. The item has a lot of gray area. I’ll accept the common-enough usage that only members of the Animalia kingdom qualify as critters, but Dawkins’ Ancestor’s Tale shows how blurry even lines like that can be. How about colonies of microscopic animal life? Or other asexually reproducing lifeforms?

      1. Single-celled creatures are immortal. Until stepped on, poisoned, or eaten. Which latter probably happens to most of ’em.

  13. Some sharks live longer than 100 years — I believe individual Greenland sharks have been found that are about 400 years old.

  14. Galena and bismuthinite are minerals, not metals … if they are molten then they are compounds, if they are crystalline then it is snowing galena. Shoddy wording and I have no idea about the veracity.

  15. An article in New Scientist agrees that eggs (female sex cells) long predate the modern chicken. But they also note a semantic/pedantic alternate viewpoint:

    “At some stage during [the] domestication process the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) evolved into a new subspecies, Gallus gallus domesticus, AKA the chicken.

    In practice, it is impossible to pinpoint the moment when this happened. But in theory, at some point two junglefowl bred and their offspring was genetically different enough from the species of its parents to be classified as a chicken. This chicken would have developed within a junglefowl egg and only produced the very first chicken’s egg on reaching maturity. Looked at this way, the chicken came first.”


    1. Since we’re talking semantics, one might argue that the egg containing the first chicken was, de facto, a chicken egg. Therefore wouldn’t the egg have come first?

    2. Even that leads to absurdities. Aside from that ‘first’ chicken being a different species from its parents (which isn’t how species work), once it mated with a not-quite chicken, presumably half of its offspring would also be not-quite chickens. Depending on the exact genome of its mate and the particulars of gametes, it’s possible that all of its offspring could be not-quite chickens, and that chickens as a species would be blinking in and out of existence depending on individual matings.

      No, as you said, it’s impossible to pinpoint this transition.

    3. There is a new book about chickens I saw yesterday that looks at evolution – cannot recall the title…

      Fowl Play: A History of the Chicken from Dinosaur to Dinner Plate (Hardback)
      Sally Coulthard

      For every human there are three chickens!

  16. 12. According to science, the chicken came first – only later did the species evolve the egg as a means of bearing young. Kind of an easy fake to spot.

  17. “1. The human brain receives and stores 11 million pieces of information per second but is only consciously aware of 40.” This statement is spread widely on the internet to justify unconscious bias training… It appears to come from
    Timothy Wilson in his book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious:

    “2. In the time it takes to read this sentence, approximately 1 billion neutrinos from the sun passed through your body.” This *isn’t* fake but appears to be underestimated. See here:

    “3. Something to remember next time you have a cold, a handshake transfers more germs than a kiss.” Seems right:

    “4. Russia has a bigger surface area than the former planet Pluto.” This *isn’t* fake, but it’s slightly incorrect. Plutos’ surface area is bigger. See these links:


    “5. If you were able to drive your car at an average speed vertically, you would reach outer space in about an hour.” This seems about right, but depends on the definition of “outer space.” One definition is the Kármán Line, which is 62 miles above mean sea level ( So, driving 60 mph straight up ought to get one to the Kármán Line in about an hour.

    “6. Sharks can be long lived – up to 100 years.” This *isn’t* fake, but it’s an underestimate. The Greenland shark can live 400 years:

    “7. The oldest known living creature, a clam called Ming, was 507 years old when it was accidentally killed by the scientists studying it. Its age means that it was born when Henry VIII was on the throne of England.” I do not know if it is true that a scientist accidentally killed Ming, but the answer to whether Ming was the oldest animal depends on whether colonial animals are considered. See these two sources:—the-oldest-animal-in-the-world/#:~:text=At%20507%20years%20of%20age,was%20still%20a%20record%20breaker


    “8. There is a method by which peanut butted can be turned into diamonds.” This is true:

    “9. Eating ice cream can give you “sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia” – better known as brain freeze.” True:,a%20transient%20but%20painful%20headache.

    “10. Plants can recognise their relatives and work alongside them to grow stronger.” True:

    “11. On Venus it doesn’t just rain metal, it rains two different types of metal – galena and bismuthinite.” True, well the source I found mentioned snow, not rain:,of%20metal%3A%20galena%20and%20bismuthinite.

    “12. According to science, the chicken came first – only later did the species evolve the egg as a means of bearing young.” This is our FAKE “fact.” No, chickens didn’t exist and then evolve an egg-bearing capacity!,around%20for%20just%2010%2C000%20years.,around%20for%20just%2010%2C000%20years.

    “13. Up to 65% of autistic people are left handed.” Not sure about the “65%.” That seems high and would depend on the definition of handedness. If having mixed- handedness (flipping between hands) is grouped with left-handedness, then maybe:

    “14. Scallops have up to 100 eyes – usually blue in colour.” This *isn’t* fake, but is an underestimate. Scallops can have up to 200 eyes:,a%20lens%20to%20focus%20light.

    “15. As you read this, you and the earth are spinning at 1000 miles per hour and moving through space at 67,000 miles an hour.” This appears generally correct, though the “1000 miles” part varies depending on where one is on Earth, it’s 1,037 mph at the equator. But moving up 45 degrees latitude from the equator, the spin is 733 mph. See here:

  18. I pick chicken and egg but as a non scientist probably for the wrong reasons. First, while I’m sure Jerry can spot bad science in other fields I’m guessing he’s more likely to howl about errors in his. Second, I would guess that any forerunner of the chicken so far removed as to not being egg layers would probably not have been classified as chickens.

  19. I see people already beat me to the two obvious errors, clams (clams? The guy never heard of a bristlecone pine??), and the Metals Raining From Outer Space (eerie music swells…).

  20. I picked question number 5, because cars can’t go fast enough, and they can not produce the amount of energy needed to overcome gravitational forces.

  21. I’d add that #1 is kinda meaningless: “The human brain receives and stores 11 million pieces of information per second but is only consciously aware of 40.” Exactly 40??? What does that mean?

    As an example, as I write this, I can hear my kids making a commotion in the other room. The commotion consists of screams, shouts, commands, complaints, laughter, the sound of things falling to the floor, etc. Is that just one thing that I’m aware of, or multiple things. If multiple things, how many?

    And that’s just for what I’m hearing. The things that I see right now are even more complex…

  22. Greenland sharks jumped out at me immediately.
    I did have to look up “creature”, to be sure it excluded plants.
    The handshake/kiss thing would logically seem to depend on personal hygiene.

  23. Perhaps that clam was the oldest known living animal, but the claim made is for the oldest living creature. I’m sure I read recently that there is a fungus in Michigan that is at least thousands of years old, weighs many tons, and covers perhaps acres.

    1. Some definitions of ‘creature’ are limited to members of the animal kingdom only. Other definitions include all life forms. Still others even include inanimate objects. The site is not wrong in using the term ‘creature’ to apply to animals only, but maybe a bit sloppy. Still, that exclusive zoiocentric(?) usage is common enough that I won’t fault it.

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