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8 Scientific Facts That Have Changed Since You Were In Grade School

J.Crew, Holy Jackets, childhood, old man

This article will make you feel old.

When the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto’s status from planet to “dwarf planet” in 2006, I felt as if my entire understanding of the universe should be called into question.

How could my first grade teacher mislead me so? Were there other scientific “facts” that I built my entire educational foundation atop that warranted further review?

Regrettably, there were. I discovered these eight amended truths that left me nostalgic for a simpler time when I could proudly claim Triceratops as my favorite dinosaur (Spoiler Alert: It didn’t exist).

1. There Are Actually Five Oceans

Apparently four oceans weren’t good enough for those inquisitive maritime enthusiasts at the International Hydrographic Organization. For years, the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic oceans reigned supreme. In 2000, they had to make room so that the neophyte Southern Ocean could join their ranks.

Rumor has it that this was the result of a major lobbying push by Antarctica to claim its own massive body of water, jealous of the North Pole and infuriated by amateur oceanographers and cartographers who mistakenly believe its shores border the icy Arctic Sea. Just because they’re both cold doesn’t justify confusing the two. Kidding, but seriously, they added a fifth ocean.

2. The Map of the World Looks Way Different Than You Think it Does

Speaking of cartographers, I have a bone to pick with them.

Remember when your third grade teacher made you stand in front of the entire class and asked you to point out Ethiopia on the map? And when you wrongly pointed to Buenos Aires, everyone erupted in laughter and you had to call your mom to pick you up because you were so mortified that you ended up crying in the corner, balled up in the fetal position?

Maybe that was just me.

Still, I contend that my poor grasp on geography actually stems from my reliance on the most widely used, yet inherently flawed, Mercator world map.

The Mercator map inflates country sizes depending on their distance from the equator, an effect that makes Greenland appear larger than Africa, despite the fact that Africa is actually 14 times larger than its icy nemesis.

The Peters projection, which displays land masses on a flat plane depicting their relative sizes more accurately, gained notoriety in the middle of the last century as analysts observed that the Mercator map appeared to exaggerate the size of prosperous nations and trim the size of less powerful countries. Peters advocates argue that the Mercator map impedes global social equality.

Who knew maps could be so political?

While organizations have stepped up lobbying efforts in recent years to replace the Mercator map, Mercator persists as the preeminent map found in classrooms throughout the United States.



3. Mount Everest Might Not Be the Tallest Mountain in the World

If you were searching for yet another excuse to not add climbing Mount Everest to your bucket list, you’ve come to the right place.

It turns out that you halfhearted adventurers with an aversion to frostbite need not shy away from setting out to summit the world’s tallest peak. In fact, you can drive to the top of it as you soak up the sun in balmy Hawaii.

While Everest climbs higher above sea level (29,029 feet) than any other mountain in the world, the inactive Hawaiian volcano called Mauna Kea is significantly taller, clocking in at a whopping 33,465 feet when measured from its seabed base.

Unfortunately, only 13,799 feet of the mammoth Mauna Kea rises from the surface of the Pacific. Still, the United States is technically home to the world’s tallest peak. How’s that for American exceptionalism?



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This entry was posted on February 28, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .
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