- A body of unchanging moral principles regarded as a basis for all human conduct.
- An observable law relating to natural phenomena.
Shattered Illusions: Ten Things about the Natural World You Thought You Knew (But Didn’t)
(NaturalNews) People tend to think that the things they believe are true. And even when they’re terribly wrong, they still believe their fictions as if they were facts.
It’s a healthy exercise to have your false beliefs challenged by reality, so today I’m doing my best to shatter ten false beliefs most people hold about the natural world — food, animals, nature and so on.
Read the list below and see how many you used to believe.
#1) Quaker Oats was started by Quakers
Ummm, not really. In fact, the company has nothing to do with Quakers. It was started in Pennsylvania in 1901 when there were lots of Quakers around, mostly due to the fact that Quakers were known as being honest.
But Quaker Oats isn’t exactly honest. Today, it’s actually owned by PepsiCo, and in the 1950s, Quaker Oats, Harvard University and MIT researchers conducted experiments on human children using radioactive elements to trace the flow of nutrients through their bodies. The children were invited to be part of a “special science club,” but they weren’t told they were being fed Quaker Oats laced with radioactive substances. Side effects of radioactive exposure include skin cell mutations and skin cancer.
When parents found out about the experiments, they sued, and Quaker Oats was eventually forced to pay out $1.85 million, but the case wasn’t settled until decades later — 1997, actually. It’s all detailed in the book The State Boy’s Rebellion by Michael D’Antonio. (
(Note how arrogant this MIT news story is, implying it was okay to experiment on the children because the levels of radioactivity were so low.)
#2) Most of the Earth’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest
Nope. Most of the Earth’s oxygen is actually produced by marine algae, which generate more oxygen than all the trees and land plants in the world.
Called cyanobacteria, algae release oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis (the solar-powered process by which they produce energy).
Spirulina is an oxygen-producing alga that also produces food at the same time (70 percent protein, with anti-cancer nutrients to boot).
#3) The Great Wall of China is the largest man-made structure on Earth
Not even close. The distinction of being the largest man-made structure on Earth belongs to Fresh Kills, the Statin Island, New York landfill site.
It’s 4.6 square miles in size, and so much garbage was dumped there that at its peak, the dump was 80 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty.
Fresh Kills was closed in 2001, flattened and turned into a wildlife refuge. Let’s hope the wildlife doesn’t dig too deep there.
#4) Seventy-five percent of the Earth is made of water
Far from it. In fact, on the basis of pure mass, only about half of one percent of planet Earth is made of water. The oceans occupy only a thin layer of water that sloshes around the upper crust of the planet. The vast majority of the Earth is made of other elements (99.5%), with about one-third of it being iron.
From space, the Earth looks like it’s made mostly of water, and it’s true that the surface area of the Earth has more water than land, but that’s not what the planet is made of internally.
#5) Blue whales are the largest living things on Earth
Not even close. The largest living organism on Earth actually covers 2,200 acres and is nearly 3,000 years old. And yes, it’s a single entity. What is it?
A mushroom. It’s in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon. Most of the mushroom mass is located underground. For further reading, check out the fascinating book: Mycelium Running.
#6) Camels originated in the deserts of the Middle East
Nope. Camels came from North America, where they evolved twenty million years ago. They became extinct in North America during the last Ice Age, but continued to thrive elsewhere.
As stated on the source page (below):
…the origin of camels can be traced to the Protylopus, an animal that occupied the North American continent during the Eocene period. That the Camelidae eventually disappeared from the mother continent is part of the enigma surrounding the extinction of North American Pleistocene mammals. However, by this time Camelidae had already migrated across the Bering Straits to Asia during the late Pliocene or early Glacial epochs.
#7) Light always travels at a constant speed
This high school science myth persists, but it’s not true. Light travels at different speeds depending on what it’s traveling through. Light slows down when it hits water, for example, or even glass (which is why prisms work). When shone through a diamond, light slows to about half its normal speed.
In 2000, a Harvard University team of researchers were able to slow light to a transmission speed of zero by shining it into a Bose-Einstein condensate made from rubidium.
#8) Human beings have only five senses
The right answer? NINE (or more). In addition to touch, taste, smell, vision and olfactory senses, humans also have proprioception (body awareness), nociception (perception of pain), equilibrioception (sense of balance) and thermoception (sense of heat).
And that doesn’t even count the typical “sixth sense” category such as intuition, precognition and other psychic sense. Nor does it consider hunger, thirst, empathy or the sense of electricity running through your skin (like when you touch a live electrical outlet). In truth, there are far more than five senses, and the actual number depends on who you ask.
#9) Ostriches bury their heads in the sand when danger approaches
Naw, that would be stupid. Ostriches run away from danger like everybody else. If they buried their heads in the sand, they would suffocate and die.
#10) Penicillin was first discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming
Not by a long shot (ahem). There are numerous accounts of penicillin being discovered and used decades — even centuries — earlier.
A scientist in Costa Rica, for example, named Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887-1944) discovered and documented penicillin in 1915, thirteen years before Fleming’s “discovery” of 1928.
Earlier than that, Ernest Duchesne documented penicillin in a paper written in 1897, but his paper was rejected by the science journals at the time because he was thought too young to know anything about science. (Dang kids playing around with mold again!)
Even further back in time, the Bedouin tribes in North Africa have followed a process for well over 1,000 years that used mold to make a healing ointment (with antibacterial properties just like penicillin, no less).
Western medicine, of course, tends to believe it is the first to discover things, and it fails to give credit to the use of such medicines by indigenous cultures or discoverers outside academic circles.
More stuff you thought you knew, but didn’t
I first found these ten ideas in the book The Book of General Ignorance. I then researched each one further and cited new sources for most of them. This is a fascinating book to check out if you’re interested in learning things you thought you already knew, but didn’t.
Find it on Amazon.com at
Or pick it up at your local bookstore.
Just be careful not to read it unless you want to shatter many illusions you might presently hold dear.
And while you’re at it, if you’re really looking to have your world rocked, pick up the book by Russ Kick called You Are STILL Being Lied To: The NEW Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths (
Or even my own little-known book on disinfo, called Spam Filters For Your Brain: How to navigate through the lies, hype and mind games of the food, drug and cosmetics industries:
Bonus item: #11) Hitler was a vegetarian
Not unless you think someone who eats sausages and game birds is a vegetarian. Hitler was an avid eater of certain meats, and the idea that he was a vegetarian is a complete myth.
See the historical details in my own article on the subject here:
Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian, but he was a Catholic, by the way. His soldiers even wore belt buckles with the inscription Gott mit uns (God is with us). Read more in the article link above.
Bonus item: #12) Panthers are large black cats
Actually, there’s no such thing as a panther. It’s just a nick-name used by various people to describe a cougar, jaguar or leopard.