Split image Great wall of China and Lightning bolts

With the proliferation of ‘fake news’ resulting in the term being entered into the Oxford English Dictionary, we’re doing our part to set the record straight, using record-setting examples.

Throughout your life, you’ve probably heard many so-called 'facts' which you’ve taken at face value to be true. 

However, as you may have learned in our previous article, many of them are actually incorrect. 

Here are five more completely false 'facts' you need to unlearn.

Great wall of China

The Great Wall of China is visible from the Moon

The Great Wall of China is the world’s longest wall, estimated to span over 20,000 km (12,400 mi) when taking into consideration the entire network of walls, trenches, towers and gates. 

It’s one of the most impressive architectural feats of all time. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not visible from the Moon. 

The width of the Great Wall when viewed from the Moon is the equivalent to a human hair being viewed from 3 km (2 mi) away. In other words, it wouldn’t be visible to the naked human eye. 

But is the Great Wall visible from somewhere a bit closer, say, the International Space Station? 

The answer is yes, but barely, and only under near-perfect viewing conditions, according to NASA. It’s also no more noticeable than other man-made objects such as the Palm Jumeirah and the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Lightning never strikes the same place twice 

This next fact may strike you as quite shocking… 

Lightning does indeed strike the same place twice, or thrice, or even more times. The Empire State Building, for example, is struck an average of 25 times per year. 

The place with the highest concentration of lightning in the world is in Venezuela, over the mouth of the Catatumbo River as it enters Lake Maracaibo. Known locally as the "river of fire", this area receives almost 250 lightning flashes per square kilometre each year. 

"Catatumbo Lightning" can occur for up to 300 nights per year in displays that can last nine hours. 

Lightning doesn’t just strike the same place multiple times - it can hit the same person too.

The record for the most lightning strikes survived belongs to Roy C. Sullivan (USA), a park ranger who became known as "The Human Lightning Conductor". 

Roy was struck seven times over the course of his life:

  • 1942 (lost big toe nail) 
  • 1969 (lost eyebrows) 
  • 1970 (left shoulder seared) 
  • 1972 (hair set on fire) 
  • 1973 (new hair re-fired and legs seared) 
  • 1976 (ankle injured) 
  • 1977 (chest and stomach burns)

The longest goldfish ever

Goldfish have three-second memories 

The longest goldfish ever, owned by Joris Gijsbers (Netherlands), was measured to be 47.4 cm (18.7 in) long in 2003. 

But how long is a goldfish’s memory? 

If you said "three seconds", guess again. 

It’s a commonly-held belief that goldfish have extremely short memories, however, they’ve been proven to have memory spans of at least three months.

In 1994, University of Plymouth researchers trained goldfish to push a lever to earn food. Over time, the fish learned how to use the lever and used it when hungry. When the lever was set to only work for one hour per day, the goldfish remembered this and returned at the same time each day to get food.

The goldfish with perhaps the most memories of all was Tish, the oldest goldfish ever. Tish lived for 43 years after seven-year-old Peter Hand (UK) won him at a fairground stall in 1956.

The world's heaviest pumpkin

Pumpkins are a vegetable

Unless you’re a veteran veggie farmer like Peter Glazebrook, you probably didn’t know that pumpkins are actually a fruit.

In fact, the Atlantic giant pumpkin is the largest fruit in the world. It is an orange fruit of the squash Cucurbita maxima, native to North America.

The world’s heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,226 kg (2,702 lb 13.9 oz) - heavier than a Nissan Micra car - and was grown by Stefano Cutrupi (Italy) in 2021.

Banana tree

Bananas grow on trees

Speaking of fruit, did you know that bananas don’t grow on trees?

Despite growing to tree-size proportions, banana plants are actually herbs.

Banana plants don’t have “trunks” but rather pseudostems, which are tightly wound clusters of leaf-stalks from which the banana leaves unfurl. Unlike trees or shrubs, banana plants grow anew each year as they have no woody parts that persist through winter, thus they are botanically considered to be herbaceous.

The record of largest herb is shared between the giant highland banana (Musa ingens) of New Guinea, and the Queen of the Andes (Puya raimondii), a rare bromeliad native to Bolivia and Peru. 

The giant highland banana regularly reaches heights of 15 m (49 ft) and even higher with its leaves unfurled. The Queen of the Andes also reaches similar sizes.

Another little-known fact is that bananas are actually berries.

Because bananas develop from a flower with one ovary, have a soft outer skin and a fleshy middle that contains seeds, they are botanically considered to be berries.

Meanwhile, strawberries and raspberries are not. How bananas!