Today we’re fact-checking UberFacts so you don’t have to. Again. We looked at every “fact” tweeted by the incredibly popular Twitter account on Sunday from midnight until midnight PT. The account failed miserably. Again.
We did this same experiment back in March and found that just 59 per cent of UberFact facts in a 24-hour window were conclusively true. Then in June our vetting found roughly 62 per cent were true. How did UberFacts do this time? Just 64 per cent were definitively true.
Honestly, I was expecting the UberFacts report card to improve more than it has. Especially since founder Kris Sanchez claims the account is raking in $US500,000 a year. They have pledged to spend some of that money on quality control, but they’re still spreading far too many lies to their eight million followers.
Of their 67 fun facts from yesterday, 43 were true, four were “true-ish” or inconclusive, and a whopping 20 were just plain lies. Below we have the breakdown with links out for more information. If you spot any errors in our calculations don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments.
1. That indentation above your top lip is known as the philtrum.
TRUE. A flat philtrum can be a sign of foetal alcohol syndrome.
2. The most common toilet paper colour is France is pink.
TRUE. Although that’s just for home use in Paris. Toilet paper in offices and public restrooms tends to be white.
3. Approximately 80% of a child’s intelligence is acquired from the mother.
FALSE. This fun fact is a favourite of those who think that intelligence is mostly genetic, and yet don’t cite any reliable sources. That 80 per cent figure seems to be pulled from thin air, no doubt an incredibly warped version of something that may actually be true.
4. Dim lights allow you to make smarter decisions.
TRUE-ISH. This fun fact is presumably pulled from a recent study that actually said emotions are felt more strongly under bright lights. The “smarter decisions” part was inferred in the resulting media coverage.
The purpose of the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, was actually to influence consumer behaviour and researchers noted that, “If you are selling emotional expressive products such as flowers or engagement rings it would make sense to make the store as bright as possible.”
5. Every 24 hours, about 8,640,000 lightning bolts touch the earth.
TRUE. That’s about 100 lightning strikes per second.
6. “Groaking” is act of watching people eat food hoping they will offer you some.
TRUE. It’s not in the OED yet, but Urban Dictionary is all over this one.
7. Potatoes have more chromosomes than humans.
TRUE. Though it’s not clear what we’re supposed to glean from this tidbit of info without context. Humans have 46 chromosomes, potatoes have 48, and hermit crabs have 254. One kind of fern has 1280 chromosomes. Chimps also have 48, the same as potatoes. So what?
8. Most fast food side salads are dusted with propylene glycol, which can be found in antifreeze and sexual lubricants.
FALSE. The primary ingredient of the antifreeze in your car is ethylene glycol, which is toxic. The food-grade “anti-freeze” agent used in all kinds of foods is propylene glycol. The latter is generally recognised as safe by the FDA, CDC, and WHO. The people pushing this fear around antifreeze in food are, as some sceptic bloggers have deemed them, the Jenny McCarthys of food bloggers.
9. John Lennon hated the sound of his own voice.
TRUE. But that’s probably because John Lennon had a terrible voice. Also, don’t forget the Beatles trivia that’s often glossed over: He physically abused and controlled women, and was emotionally abusive to his son.
10. The chances of dying by laughter are 15 billion to 1.
FALSE. It’s unclear where they’re pulling this number from, but one imagines it can only be from their nether regions. Scientists have indeed studied both the benefits and dangers of laughter. And yes, some people have died while laughing (it’s most dangerous for people with heart and respiratory problems) but 15 billion to 1 is almost certainly a bullshit number.
11. The Harry Potter books all take place in the 1990s. Harry Potter was born in 1980.
TRUE-ISH. The timeline of the Harry Potter books is hotly disputed, but this is one theory that has been floated. The Harry Potter universe contradicts itself too many times to say this with certainty though.
12. Salvador Dali believed he was his dead brother’s reincarnation.
FALSE. Salvador Dali’s older brother died at the age of just 21 months. Dali was born 9 months after his brother’s death and his parents told him that he was his brother’s reincarnation. But Dali himself saw his dead brother as a threat to his own identity and actively rebelled against the idea.
As the Dali Museum explains, “Asserting that his parents wanted him to be a replacement for his dead brother, this specter became a threat to Dali, compelling him to cultivate eccentric behaviour to prove that he was different from the first, perhaps better-loved version of Salvador.”
Countless books on reincarnation say that Dali believed he was the reincarnation of the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross and claimed to have vivid memories of his life. He never claimed memories of his dead brother’s life.
13. Pink Kryptonite gives Superman gay tendencies.
TRUE. A 2003 issue of Supergirl involves a plot wherein Superman is exposed to pink Kryptonite, which subsequently makes him interested in a young man’s “smashing” bowties and “fabulous” window treatments.
14. The US Navy has developed a machine that can make jet fuel out of seaweed.
TRUE. Researchers have been working for decades now on creating algae-based biofuel that can be used to power ships and planes. But despite significant advances of the past few years, the entire process remains tremendously inefficient. Creating something that proves its worth (which is to say a system that creates more energy than it requires to be fed into it) is still as much as 15 years out.
15. 83% of first-time prisoners will never be incarcerated again.
FALSE. This statistic appears to come from a webcomic that doesn’t cite any source. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 67 per cent of US prisoners that are released are arrested again after just three years. Roughly 76 per cent of prisoners are arrested again after five years.
16. Paul Walker died one year ago today.
TRUE. The Fast and the Furious star died in a car accident on November 30, 2013.
17. About 75% of a car can be recycled.
FALSE. This figure is outdated, as about 80 per cent of a given car on American roadways can now be recycled according to the EPA. And it’s even higher in Europe thanks to stricter regulations. But even this figure is a bit misleading without context. Most people would probably assume that this means 80 per cent of a car’s parts are currently recyclable. But this isn’t the case.
As the University of Cambridge explains, a percentage by weight does not mean a percentage by volume: “A large amount of the volume of a car is in the form of plastics and other non-metallic elements such as glass.”
The European Union has set incredibly high standards for the percentage of a car that needs to be recycled. By January 1, 2015, all cars sold in the EU countries are supposed to be 95 per cent recyclable. Manufacturers are reportedly scrambling to meet this goal.
18. Circumcised men have a 50-75% lower chance of getting HIV.
FALSE. This statistic is tremendously misleading. Various studies over the past two decades have shown that circumcision does decrease the chances of men contracting HIV, but there are a number of different variables. As the CDC notes, “After adjustment for confounding factors in the population-based studies, the relative risk for HIV infection was 44% lower in circumcised men.”
19. There is a town in France named Condom.
TRUE. The town of Condom even took a Malaysian condom maker to court in 2012 for falsely claiming that they were based in the French town.
20. Steven Spielberg was an executive producer for all the Transformer movies.
TRUE. If only he’d turn his attention to getting that remake of The Last Starfighter happening.
21. The two highest IQ scores ever recorded belonged to women.
FALSE. The highest confirmed IQ score ever recorded was Kim Ung-yong of South Korea who scored a 210. Unconfirmed scores by Marilyn vos Savant of 228 (among many others) have been criticised by “experts” on IQ as being improperly calculated in the 1950s.
All that aside, IQ is a bullshit method of measuring intelligence. Researchers have criticised the tests repeatedly for all kinds of cultural biases. And the measurements across different tests and different time periods vary wildly. If someone talks about IQ scores in any serious manner here in the 21st century rest assured that they’re an idiot.
22. 5% of the population is indifferent to music, showing no physical or emotional response.
TRUE. At least according to a single study of university students in Barcelona.
23. About 80% of the animals found in Madagascar do not exist anywhere else on Earth.
TRUE. According to the book The Global Guide to Animal Protection, actually 97 per cent of animal species in Madagascar are extant if you exclude birds.
24. Wearing headphones for just an hour will multiply the bacteria in your ear by 700 times.
FALSE. This one is an urban legend that has been making the rounds for years. Research done on the amount of microorganism transferred from the ear to headphones (not the other way around) is actually closer to 11 times. Not 700.
25. In order to keep diamond prices up, companies create a false scarcity by keeping large amounts of diamonds off the market.
TRUE. Despite the loss of the De Beers monopoly in 2000, the price hasn’t come down.
26. In Ancient Greek, the word “idiot” was used to describe any person who was not interested in politics.
TRUE. Though the word and its meaning is certainly open to interpretation. The term’s original meaning can also be interpreted as someone who is only concerned with private affairs or merely self-centered.
27. The average British male drives an extra 276 miles/year because he won’t stop to ask for directions.
FALSE. This is one of those opaque “studies” by a company with an agenda and a strong desire to waste pixels on rubbish facts they concocted for publicity. You can put about as much faith in this study as you do anything you’ve seen scrawled on a bathroom wall recently.
28. Our brains are wired to prefer music we already know.
TRUE. Despite the inelegant wording of this fun fact (your bullshit detectors should go off anytime you see someone talk about how are brains are wired or can be rewired) this one is more or less true. Nostalgia for the music of one’s youth seems to be pretty ingrained.
29. Stasiphobia is the fear of standing or walking.
TRUE. It presents most commonly in elderly people or others who have balance issues.
30. A study conducted by GE Money states that women spend more than 8 years of their life shopping.
TRUE-ISH. The study was of just British women and doesn’t give any context for why gender is specified, which should be a big indicator that this might be bullshit.
31. Male squirrel monkeys sometimes assert dominance by urinating on subordinates.
TRUE. Squirrel monkeys also participate in “urine-washing” by covering themselves in their own urine. But it’s a communicative behaviour that’s not sex-specific and has many other functions, including communicating hormone levels to potential partners.
32. “Almost” is the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.
FALSE. This one isn’t even close. “Almost” is just six letters long. “Aegilops” is eight letters long (it’s a genus of flowering plants) and is considered the longest English word with letters in alphabetical order. But if that’s too Greek/sciencey-sounding to you how about the words “beefily” and “billowy,” each comprising seven letters?
33. The game “Monopoly” was originally created to warn people of the dangers of capitalism.
TRUE. Hasbro claims the game was invented in 1933, but it actually dates back to the 1903 when an actress in Maryland created something called The Landlord’s Game. The board game questioned the very idea of private property ownership.
34. Most of the dust particles in your house are actually dead skin.
FALSE. This is yet another urban legend that gets passed around as fact. But it’s nowhere close to being true. Where did this one originate? No one knows for sure. But the mattress industry would certainly like for it to continue circulating.
35. eBay purchased PayPal in 2002 for $US1.5 billion
TRUE. I wonder what those recluses Elon Musk and Peter Thiel are up to these days?
36. Japan has a network of roads that play music as you drive over them at the correct speed.
TRUE. Japan’s three melody roads were created as a tourist attraction in 2007. If you drive over one such road at 31 miles per hour — with its 559 unevenly spaced ridges — you’ll hear a crude version of “Memories of Summer” rattle through. You can watch video of the roads in action on YouTube.
It’s unclear if any of the roads in Japan are still musical, as the rumble strips are known to degrade rapidly with regular use. There are other musical roads around the world including some in South Korea, New Mexico, California, and Denmark.
37. The U.S. has a greater percentage of its population in jail than any other country in the world.
TRUE. America’s prison population is 716 of 100,000 people. The U.S. only makes up roughly 5 per cent of the world’s population but has 25 per cent of its prisoners. No other nation compares to America’s incarceration rate. Russia incarcerates about 577 of 100,000 and even the highest estimates put China’s incarceration rate at 218 per 100,000 people.
38. There is gravity in space — if there wasn’t, stars and planets wouldn’t be able to form.
TRUE. There’s microgravity in space.
39. Being in love makes you lazy.
FALSE. I couldn’t find any scientific evidence to support this incredibly broad assertion. This almost certainly came from an issue of Cosmo or something.
40. Approximately 49 moons could fit into Earth.
TRUE. About 50 moons would fit inside the Earth. Close enough.
41. Snoop Lion’s guilty pleasure is KPOP.
TRUE. Sure, why not.
42. 35% of people never grow wisdom teeth.
43. The guy who invented Doritos was also buried with Doritos after he died.
TRUE. Arch West, the man credited with inventing Doritos, was buried in 2011. His family and friends reportedly tossed Doritos chips on top of his urn before they filled it in the hole with dirt.
44. Poor people are more generous than rich people.
TRUE. As a percentage of total income, poor Americans give a lot more than rich people. The poorest fifth of Americans give an average of 4.3 per cent of their incomes to charities. The richest fifth give about 2.1 per cent of their income to charitable organisations.
45. Facebook performed psychological tests on their users in 2012, using positive/negative content on users’ newsfeeds without them knowing.
TRUE. And users weren’t too happy about it.
46. If you put two straws in your mouth: one inside a drink and one outside it — you won’t be able to drink through either straw.
TRUE. You’re unable to create the partial vacuum necessary if you have one straw that’s outside of the liquid and one side in.
47. Rubbing a banana peel on a mosquito bite can help stop the itching.
TRUE. A banana peel can help, but it doesn’t get at the root cause.
48. It would take the average person walking nonstop approximately 347 days to walk around the world.
FALSE. If the circumference of the globe is 24,901.55 miles at the equator and the average person walks 3.1 miles per hour that’s 335 days — nearly two weeks faster than UberFacts claims.
49. A bolt of lighting contains enough energy to cook 100,000 slices of toast.
TRUE. But how much butter would you need?
50. According to a study by the British Academy of Sound Therapy, the song ‘Weightless’ by Marconi Union is the most relaxing song ever.
TRUE. But is it really just the most annoying song ever?
51. Someone loses, breaks or sits on a pair of sunglasses every 14 minutes in the U.S.
FALSE. There’s not a single reliable source for this supposed fact, just sunglasses peddlers regurgitating it without any links or context.
52. Jupiter shields Earth from hundreds of asteroids heading towards our planet.
TRUE-ISH. Some scientists now believe that Jupiter is indeed a kind of cosmic shield for Earth. But the claim that it blocks “hundreds of asteroids” is an exaggeration. Since 2009, observers have seen just three impacts on Jupiter. But there’s no certainty that any of them would have hit Earth.
53. Koalas hug trees to cool off.
TRUE. A recent study that discovered this was part of a larger effort to measure how climate change is effecting animals in Australia.
54. The Pentagon has created an emergency plan in case of a zombie attack.
FALSE. An unclassified plan in 2011 called CONOP 8888 does indeed describe an emergency scenario involving zombies, but the intent was to make sure that it wouldn’t be mistaken for a real plan involving a real country. The words “in case of” definitely flips this fact into false territory, rather than a more generous reading of “true-ish.”
The 2011 plan explained that “training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan.”
“Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios […] we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan,” the report states.
Yes, it makes for a great headline or fun fact. But it’s stated quite plainly in the planning document that the intention was to create something so ridiculous that it couldn’t be mistaken for a real plan.
55. You can run for president while in prison.
TRUE. Some states prohibit felons from voting, but federal law doesn’t prevent prisoners from running for elected office, even while they’re in prison. But many states have installed plenty of hurdles to make it difficult for prisoners to run for office on the local level.
[Correction: This originally said that federal law prohibits felons from voting, which is not true. It’s an issue decided by the states, which Attorney General Holder would like to see changed because it disenfranchises many Americans.]
56. Doctors’ sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually.
TRUE. At least according to a 2006 study.
57. Popular TV show “The Big Bang Theory” is banned in China because it violates the Chinese constitution.
TRUE. Despite being massively popular in China, the show was banned earlier this year along with NCIS, The Good Wife, and The Practice. In response to the censorship, some Chinese viewers joked that their country should be renamed West North Korea. That term was of course soon blocked on Chinese social media.
The actual constitutional clause that The Big Bang Theory was violating is incredibly broad and seems to be arbitrarily enforced. It stated that censors can ban anything that “endangers the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, provokes troubles in society, promotes illegal religion and triggers ethnic hatred.” So yeah, anything that the government decides it doesn’t like one day.
58. Marilyn Manson’s real name is Brian Hugh Warner.
TRUE. But he’s not that kid from The Wonder Years, as was the rumour in my middle school.
59. Stressed out? Try cleaning your home — Clean and organised surroundings help promote relaxation.
TRUE. But cleaning your home can also be stressful so really it’s a toss-up.
60. There are between 75 and 100 million AK-47 rifles worldwide — That’s 1 for every 60 people on earth.
TRUE. Historically the AK-47 has been an incredibly popular gun, thanks largely to its reliability.
61. Shazam existed before smartphones.
TRUE. The service was started in the UK in 2002 and was called 2580 — the number that you dialed to shazam a song. The phone would automatically hang up after about 30 seconds and about 3 minutes later the song name and artist was texted to the user. The service launched in the U.S. in 2004 as a partnership with AT&T and users were charged $US0.99 per song. The smartphone app wasn’t launched until 2008.
62. There is enough gold at the core of the earth to cover the surface of the planet 13 feet deep.
FALSE. According to Discover, it’s estimated it would actually cover the earth in just 1.5 feet, and that also includes the platinum and siderophile elements in the inner core.
63. Leonardo DiCaprio’s first onscreen kiss was with a man.
TRUE. Leo kissed actor David Thewlis in the 1995 film Total Eclipse.
64. Your breathing rate increases when you start to type.
FALSE. There’s precisely zero scientific evidence to support this techno-centric fun fact, but if UberFacts keeps repeating it (as they have again and again) maybe we’ll see it show up in a medical journal one day.
65. If you drilled a tunnel through the Earth and jumped in, it would take you about 42-53 minutes to get to the other side.
FALSE. C’mon guys. Aside from the entire being burned alive thing, you’d be travelling at about 29,000km/h. Most importantly, for this hypothetical, air resistance variables cause this one to be a much larger window than 42-53 minutes. You have to ignore way too many things to make this fun fact work out. Some calculations put it as high as two and a half days.
66. At Shooters Grill in the town of Rifle, Colorado, the waitresses carry loaded guns in their holsters as they serve patrons.
TRUE. The restaurant also offers a gun safety package that includes a four-hour class and dinner for $US75.
67. A child in England bit into a piece of KFC chicken, only to realise it was a deep-fried blue paper towel.
TRUE. Who knows why this made international news though.
Pictures: Tara Jacoby, Shutterstock, Getty