Mental Floss video: 50 common misconceptions

A weekly show hosted by John Green, where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, John debunks 50 common misconceptions that most people have about topics such as vikings, exploding birds and peanut butter.

(Via The World's Best Ever)


  1. I disagree about the battery in the fridge thing.  Now, it doesn’t matter if the fridge is ON, but the insulation of the fridge keeps the battery from thermal cycling in areas with extreme temperature variations like the desert.  Thermal cycling will kill a battery faster.  Simple mechanical failure.

    “Temperature cycling between extreme high and low temperatures can cause expansion and contraction of the battery components. Over time, extreme temperature cycling can cause a failure of the battery seal integrity thereby increasing the potential for leakage. ”

    1. of course it might be worse if it were “on” as that would allow it to auto-defrost which would be worse, given your explanation, than just leaving it outside the refrigerator.

    2. Somewhat problematic in Palm Springs to have battery-based yard equipment unless you want to install an AC system for your garage.  Car batteries have a very short life here, too.

  2. Oh I love things like this!

    All my (soon-to-be-former) friends and acquaintanceship thank you for all the future “Actually…” corrections I make. 
    And yes, I’m totally that guy who posts links on all the stupid stuff people post on Facebook.

      1. I’d actually never heard of it until just now. This looks … rather… interesting. Thank you!

        1. That’s it. It’s a British comedy/quiz show about interesting stuff. An awful lot of the useless knowledge in my head came from that show. There’s tons of clips, and whole shows, on youtube; an easy way to waste an hour :)

    1. In all seriousness, one slim lithium battery will kill the child that consumes it.  Of concern, when children 9-15 months old practically eat anything they can touch.

  3. Harpo Marx smuggled secret messages into the Soviet Union for the US state department in the 1930’s (Also thought to be true).

    1. There’s a big long story about this in his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, which is well worth reading. I don’t think it was a regular habit, though.

  4. Is that “chester drawers” one actually common?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before.  Is it a US thing?

    1.  Drove me nuts, when I was living in Alabama, and the furniture stores all advertised on TV/radio (i.e., verbally) “bedroom suites”, pronounced as suits instead of sweets.

  5. Depends on the battery. Alkaline batteries see no benefit being stored at anything below room temperature. 

    NiMH and NiCd batteries self discharge at a MUCH faster rate than alkaline batteries.  In fact, at “room temperature” (about 70 degrees F) NiMH and NiCD batteries will self discharge a few percent PER DAY.  Storing them at lower temperatures will slow their self discharge rate dramatically.  NiMH batteries stored at freezing will retain over 90% of their charge for  full month. So it might make sense to store them in a freezer.  If you do, it’s best to bring them back to room temperature before using them. Even if you don’t freeze your NiMH batteries after charging them, you should store them in a cool place to minimize their self discharge.


    1. Just in the title of Byron’s poem.

      Which, actually, I’ve always heard pronounced “Jew ahn.”

  6.  . . .
    and how do you know that interesting fact?
    A guy on the internet told me.
    I see, and did he explain, at all, why it is true?
    I see.

  7. I swear when i was a kid we’d take dead alkaline a put them in the freezer overnight for a few more minutes of power the next day.

  8. To correct one “myth” busted: John Kennedy said “Ich bin ein Berliner”, and not “Ich bin Berliner.” Thus, due to simple German grammar and usage, and despite the fact that everyone knew/knows what he meant (“I am a Berliner”), what he did indeed say is: “I am a jelly-filled doughnut.” (Jelly-filled doughnuts are called Berliner here.) You could argue that by rules of English grammar, he didn’t call himself a doughnut; but he said it in German, which requires German grammar, so he called himself a doughnut. Case closed.

    1. What you stated above is only true in a very literal reading of “Ich bin ein Berliner”. What he did convey was “I am one you, people of Berlin”. The “ein” really emphasizes that he thought of himself (or others should think of him) as member of the Berlin population.

      If, on the other hand, he said, “Ich bin ein Krapfen!”, well then, no ambiguity at all ;)

      And yes, I am a native German speaker.

  9. As for the Napoleon complex, Napo was always around his Imperial Guard who were selected to be above average in strength and height.  Thus, there is some historical basis for the eponymous complex– it didn’t just come out of left field.

Comments are closed.