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Twenty people were eventually executed as witches, but contrary to popular belief, none of the condemned was burned at the stake. In accordance with English law, 19 of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials were instead taken to the infamous Gallows Hill to die by hanging. The elderly Giles Corey, meanwhile, was pressed to death with heavy stones after he refused to enter an innocent or guilty plea. Still more accused sorcerers died in jail while awaiting trial.

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To be fair, some of those European “witches” were executed by burning at the stake, and others were hanged or beheaded first and then their bodies were incinerated afterward “to protect against postmortem sorcery.”

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Guess what: Electrons don’t orbit the nucleus

This knowledge comes from Lifehacker’s Senior Health Editor, Beth Skwarecki, who knows a lot about a lot (she is the person you want on your trivia team, if ever you have the chance). Beth says:

“If you have an image in your mind of electr...

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As the raindrop falls, it loses that rounded shape. The raindrop becomes more like the top half of a hamburger bun. Flattened on the bottom and with a curved dome top, raindrops are anything but the classic tear shape. The reason is due to their speed falling through the atmosphere. Air flow on t...

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The Great Wall of China isn’t all that visible from space

The Great Wall of China is often billed as the one man-made structure that is visible from outer space, but it just...isn’t. It apparently is possible to see the wall—if you’re low enough and the weather and lighting conditi...

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However, they do report making out roads, airport runways, irrigation ditches, and bridges that are made of materials that do make them stand out from their surroundings.

Interestingly enough, this whole idea began circulating well before humans even went into space, according to

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Even as a raindrop is falling, it will often collide with other raindrops and increase in size. Once the size of a raindrop gets too large, it will eventually break apart in the atmosphere back into smaller drops. This time, the surface tension loses and the large raindrop ceases to exist.

...

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A camel’s hump does not store water

Who told us this and why? There’s no water in that hump, which seems obvious now, but is a thing I readily accepted as a child and haven’t thought much since. According to the

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Earth’s “hidden” continent, they say, is a mostly submerged land mass beneath New Zealand and New Caledonia—an elevated part of the ocean floor, about two-thirds the size of Australia—nicknamed Zealandia.

Zealandia sounds like a place straight out of Game of Thrones, but I see what...

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But then the rug was yanked out from under us August 2006 when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to downgrade Pluto to mere “dwarf planet” status. There are reasons for this, which you can

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Your ears and nose don’t keep growing your whole life

You’ve almost certainly learned, at some point, that we are all destined to live with ever-growing ears and noses, which makes sense if you think of the way elderly people do seem to have these oversized features. Well, it’s not true. Wh...

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And yes some of these myths are still being taught in schools and are thus quite common. Many of these misconceptions come from Victorian writers and historians who reflected their Victorian society into how they thought Medieval life was.

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Before we knew it, we were adults, and our young children were learning about the apatosaurus , and we were like, “No, no, that’s a brontosaurus, silly!” Luckily, in 2015, another paleontologist deci...

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We might have a new continent, too

Quick! How many continents do we have on Earth? If you, like Google, said “seven,” you’d be basically right—depending on who you ask. Although, a Google search reveals this is a question many are confused about:

Eight or seven? Five or seven? Nine?

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It’s still considered to be true that atoms have a nucleus made of protons and neutrons, and that electrons tend to be somewhere in the vicinity. But where are the electrons? It turns out we can’t actually know. Instead, scientists now talk about ‘orbitals’ or ‘electron clouds,’

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Misinformation about the barrier’s visibility dates back decades. A 1932 Ripley’s Believe It or Not! cartoon claimed that the wall is “the mightiest work of man, the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the moon.” The belief persisted into the Space Age. Since Neil Armstr...

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Medieval Europe looked a lot different than you think

Take a moment to picture the Medieval Era for a moment. Do you see dirty, muddy streets? Bland and tasteless food being eaten by folks with little-to-no table manners (not to mention terrible teeth)? Are people emptying chamberpots from ...

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If a camel uses the fat inside the hump, the hump will become limp and droop down. With proper food and rest the hump will return to normal.

Camels are pretty neat.

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Pluto, what are you?

If you start to type, “Is p...” into Google, “Is Pluto a planet?” comes up as a top autofill suggestion (second only to, “Is pneumonia contagious?”). Many of us are confused about this because it most definitely was a planet back when we had to memorize the ord...

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The first of the Brontosaurus genus was named in 1879 by famed paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh. The specimen still stands on display in the Great Hall of Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. In 1903, however, paleontologist Elmer Riggs found that Brontosaurus was appar...

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So if we scientists knew this all the way back in 1903, why did I—a child of the 1980s and 90s—grow up learning about a dinosaur that apparently never existed? Well, it seems that museums were super slow to adjust to the change, and some flat-out disagreed that it should be changed at al...

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Nah. Much of that is wrong, actually. Here’s what the “Fake History Hunter ” has to say about all of it:

This era lasted roughly 1000 years and life was very different at certain time...

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Humans have more than five senses

Touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste—boom, those are the five human senses, right? Yes, those are the five main, basic senses, but we have a whole lot more than nobody really talks about. To start with, as

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Science & History Facts That Changed Since We Were In School

Science & History Facts That Changed Since We Were In School

In the age of misinformation and disinformation, we’re (hopefully) all getting a little better about fact-checking—or at least, about not automatically believing every last thing we read or hear on the internet. But there are some fundamental truths we were taught as kids that, it turns out, were...

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<p>We have a fifth ocean now</...

We have a fifth ocean now

Back in the day, when we were required to identify the oceans on a photocopied map of the world, we only had to remember four: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic oceans. But a new ocean—called the Southern Ocean—has come on the scene. Or rather, it’s always ...

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Geographers debated whether the waters around Antarctica had enough unique characteristics to deserve their own name, or whether they were simply cold, southern extensions of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

“It’s sort of geographic nerdiness in some ways,” [National Geographic Soc...

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As you age, gravity causes the cartilage in your ears and nose to break down and sag. This results in droopier, longer features. Studies have estimated that ears lengthen at a rate of about .22 millimeters per year. The growth appears in men and women, so it’s just one of the many universal joys ...

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The myth of burnings at the stake in Salem is most likely inspired by European witch trials, where execution by fire was a disturbingly common practice. Medieval law codes such as the Roman Empire’s “Constitutio Criminalis Carolina” stipulated that malevolent witchcraft should be punished by fire...

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FFS, is a brontosaurus a brontosaurus, or not?

If I say, “brontosaurus,” I bet a very specific image of a long-necked, long-tailed sauropod comes to mind. It was one of a handful of the dinosaurs we learned about as kids—at least back in my day—along with the tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops,...

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Witches in Salem weren’t burned at the stake

I know we’ve been talking about science-y “facts” so far, but I’ve got to take a quick detour into history for a second to inform you that “witches” were not, in fact, burned at the stake in Salem—they were hanged. Which still is not

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Proprioception includes the sense of movement and position of our limbs and muscles. For example, proprioception enables a person to touch their finger to the tip of their nose, even with their eyes closed. It enables a person to climb steps without looking at each one. People with poor proprioce...

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Raindrops are not tear-shaped

Raindrops are... (wait for it) ...hamburger-bun-shaped!

Basically every illustration you’ve ever seen of a raindrop your entire life shows them to be tear-shaped, but that is a lie. They more accurately are shaped like the top of a hamburger bun, or maybe...

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