A few months ago we did a little fact-checking and found out that UberFacts is full of shit. So we wanted to give it another shot. The results? UberFacts is still spreading way too much misinformation.
Below, we’ve looked at every UberFacts tweet from yesterday — midnight to midnight, Pacific Time. Of the 67 tweets that UberFacts sent out (not including the ad links disguised as more fun facts) 43 were true, 11 were deemed inconclusive or “true-ish,” and 13 were just flat out wrong. That’s about the same performance as our last go-round; clearly they haven’t learned much since then.
[Update: Number 9 has been updated with new information to turn it from “Inconclusive” to True.” Number 62 has also been updated to be deemed True. The totals above have been changed to reflect that.]
The last time we fact-checked UberFacts, they had 6.3 million followers. It’s now up to 6.8 million. Our fact-checking appears below, but feel free to dispute any of the claims and link to reputable research if you think we’ve made any errors.
1. One third of the world population has never made a telephone call.
FALSE. This fact appears to come from a study done in the 1990s. And it may have been true twenty years ago, but today more people have access to mobile phones than have access to toilets.
Of the world’s 7 billion people, about 6 billion have mobile phones. And of those 1 billion without a mobile phone, it’s likely that at least some of them have made a phone call. So even the most conservative estimate could only argue that 15 per cent of people have never made a phone call. But that’s still probably way too high.
2. It took radio broadcasters 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, television 13 years, and the Internet just 4 years.
FALSE. This little fun fact is so wrong and yet so common that at this point I’d like to write an entire book about it. But I won’t. I’ll just encourage you to read my breakdown of our myths about tech adoption.
3. An old Russian secret to keep milk from going sour was to put a frog in it.
TRUE. Apparently, some amphibians secrete substances with certain antimicrobial properties through their skin.
4. It took a supercomputer 40 minutes to model one second of human brain activity.
TRUE. Though the Japanese supercomputer they used is the fourth-fastest in the world right now. And the parameters for what you’re measuring can vary wildly.
5. A man walks about 7% slower when with wives or girlfriends, and speeds up when with other men.
TRUE. The results come from a 2013 study from Seattle Pacific University.
6. Huggies has created a device that sends an alert to your iPhone when your baby pees called the “TweetPee.”
TRUE-ISH. The experimental app was only tested in Brazil last year, and only with a very small number of families.
7. Tsar Bomba was the most powerful weapon ever detonated, the seismic shocks circled the world three times.
TRUE. AN602 (nicknamed Tsar Bomba) was a Soviet hydrogen bomb that was tested on October 30, 1961.
8. There is a dress that becomes transparent when the wearer is sexually aroused.
TRUE. It’s more of an art project than something you’ll find at your local Dress Barn, but yes, it’s true.
9. Human fat from dead criminals was once used to cure toothaches.
INCONCLUSIVE. [Update: probably TRUE] Human fat (much like animal fat) has been rendered and utilized in a number of disturbing ways throughout history, but I couldn’t verify the claim that fat from “dead criminals” had ever been “used to cure toothaches.” I’d love to see a source for this one.
[Update: someone on Twitter has pointed to Wikipedia as a source on this, though the original source isn’t linked and is in German. I can’t read German, nor find a primary source for this, but I’m going to give this one the benefit of the doubt and switch it to TRUE.]
10. Brass doorknobs disinfect themselves after 8 hours.
TRUE. It’s called the oligodynamic effect — an antimicrobial effect seen in several metals.
11. There is a mathematical equation that determines if it is too soon to joke about something.
FALSE. Scientists have indeed studied the idea of how soon is “too soon” for jokes with sensitive subject matter. But the idea that scientists have worked out some kind of magic equation to figure if it’s “too soon” is itself a joke you’ll find told by many comedians.
12. In order for a new wolf cub to urinate, its mother has to massage its belly with her warm tongue.
TRUE. Isn’t nature magic?
13. The Y2K bug caused incorrect Down syndrome test results being sent to pregnant mothers, resulting in two abortions.
TRUE. The tests occurred in the UK and four children with Down’s syndrome were also born to mothers who were told that they were at low risk for having children with the disability.
14. The cell phone camera shutter sound is to discourage groper upskirt shots. It still cannot be turned off on most current phones in Asia.
FALSE. The cell phone camera shutter sound dates back to the days of the dumbphone and was simply an anachronistic audio cue to the user that a photo had been taken. South Korea and other countries (including the United States) have considered legislation that would make it illegal to disable the shutter sound when taking a picture, but in a very practical sense it’s unenforceable since there are so many different camera apps available for different smartphones.
15. A hungry wolf can eat 20 pounds of meat in a single meal, which is the same as a human eating one hundred hamburgers.
TRUE. Though, it can also go two weeks without eating.
16. In 2011 a 75-year old woman sliced through a fibre optic cable, cutting 2 entire countries off the internet.
17. Today, 69 per cent of children aged two to five can use a computer mouse, but only 11 per cent can tie their own shoelaces.
FALSE. These numbers come from a 2011 poll by the internet security company AVG. They polled 2,200 mothers with internet access in the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The poll doesn’t take into account the rest of the world, nor families without internet access in those countries, which would presumably skew the results dramatically. Also, the panic du jour isn’t about computer mice, it’s touchscreens, so get with the times guys! You’re spreading techno-panic about the wrong gadgets!
18. Too much grape soda will make your poop turn blue.
TRUE-ISH. It’s possible that the colouring used in certain foods can turn your feces different colours. But if your poop is changing colours, it’s more likely a sign of a possibly serious medical condition and you should go see a doctor.
19. Apple makes their employees work on fake projects until they can be trusted.
FALSE. Ars Technica looked into the claim and found that it almost certainly wasn’t true. Apple is notoriously secretive, and has gone to extreme lengths to keep secrets from leaking — including putting entire floors of their offices on lockdown while Apple security searches employees and their devices. But designing fake projects as a kind of loyalty test really doesn’t make much sense. Monitoring of employee communications and air-tight non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) make a lot more sense than wasting precious time with shenanigans.
20. It’s not possible to delete a Skype account.
FALSE. Skype makes it incredibly difficult to delete your account, but it is possible.
21. Michael J. Fox’s middle name is Andrew.
TRUE. When Fox was registering with the Screen Actor’s Guild there was already a Michael Fox. The SGA doesn’t allow for two actors to be registered under the same name so he had to change some part of it. According to a 2010 biography, Fox didn’t like the name Andrew or Andy, so he went with adding the middle initial J, inspired by Michael J. Pollard, the actor best known for his role in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde.
22. People with red hair are better at detecting changes in temperature.
TRUE. Apparently the “ginger gene” makes redheads more sensitive to temperature fluctuations.
23. 71 per cent of men have fantasized about their partner’s friend.
INCONCLUSIVE. The source for this appears to be an online lad magazine survey, so we can probably put as much faith in its veracity as any Penthouse Letter.
24. There is a virtual pop star named Hatsune Miku in Japan that performs as a hologram in live concerts.
TRUE-ISH. Hatsune Miku is a virtual pop star, but she’s not technically a hologram. The avatar projection that fans see on stage is more akin to an updated Pepper’s Ghost illusion — something that’s been around for over a century.
25. The word “fast” has an opposite meaning. It can mean “to move quickly” or “to not move at all.”
TRUE. The origin of “fast” comes from an Old English word meaning “firmly fixed,” which you can see show up most commonly in the word “fasten,” as in seatbelts.
26. You get about 70 per cent more food in Chipotle if you order a burrito bowl with a tortilla on the side.
TRUE. Well, at least if you believe Business Insider’s experiment is representative of the average Chipotle consumer’s experience.
27. The United States Army has successfully developed the technology to transmit voices right into another person’s head.
TRUE-ISH. DARPA started work on this technology in 2007, and certain primitive forms of it already existed prior to that. But aside from conspiracy websites, I can’t find confirmation that they succeeded in making this a practical technology.
28. The world’s first alarm clock could only ring at 4 a.m.
FALSE. The first alarm clock invented by an American (Levi Hutchins in 1787) could only ring at 4AM, simply because that’s when Hutchins wanted to wake up. But mechanical alarm clocks in the Turkish Empire circa 1555 predate Hutchins, and could be set at different times.
29. Scientists are developing “Gecko Gloves” that will allow you to climb up any wall.
30. McDonald’s Drive-Thru staff aren’t allowed to serve people on horseback.
TRUE. When a woman in the UK was denied service while trying to go through the McDonald’s drive-thru on horseback, she decided to take the horse inside the restaurant with her. The horse promptly relieved itself and the police were called. The woman was fined for “causing alarm and distress” to the other customers.
Anecdotally, I can attest to the fact that White Castle will not serve half-drunk customers on bicycle through the drive-through either.
31. Everything you’re experiencing right now actually happened 80 milliseconds ago.
TRUE. As Dr. David Eagleman at the Baylor College of Medicine explains in Scientific American, our consciousness lags 80 milliseconds behind actual events.
32. Chipotle decided not to sponsor a Boy Scouts of America event because BSA doesn’t allow openly gay scout leaders.
TRUE. In 2013 Chipotle pledged $US4,200 worth of coupons to a Boy Scouts of America event in Utah, but the company revoked the offer after Chipotle realised that its financial contribution to the anti-gay organisation would violate its own non-discrimination policies.
33. Kanye West created a sexual Mario video game in the 7th grade. The ghosts were replaced by floating vaginas.
TRUE. As he explained to Cadaver Trial, strange even by medieval church standards.
35. A group of prairie dogs is called a “town.”
TRUE. There are also subgroups of a town called “wards.”
36. Having red hair and blue eyes is the rarest combination in the world.
TRUE. Both red hair and blue eyes are recessive traits, making the combo quite rare.
37. A majority of men say even if their partner gained a significant amount of weight, they would still stay with them.
FALSE. About half of heterosexual American men say that they’d leave their partner if she gained a lot of weight. I couldn’t find statistics for homosexual partners.
38. Today is National Gingerbread Day!
TRUE. At the time, anyway. June 5th is National Gingerbread Day. Though every day is national something day, usually self-declared holidays by any given industry to give media folk something to fill the air with until we one day eventually die (probably from eating too much gingerbread).
39. The space between your eyebrows is called the “glabella.”
TRUE. Isn’t anatomy fun?
40. The actress who plays Yoga Jones on “Orange Is The New Black” was the voice of Patty Mayonnaise on “Doug.”
TRUE. That actress is Constance Shulman and TV viewers of a certain age apparently freak out about it when they meet her in person because they’re so excited to hear her former character come to life in the flesh.
41. There are special bins in Mexico City where when you put your dog poo in it, you get free Wi-Fi. The more poo, the longer the free WiFi.
FALSE. There was a indeed a brief stunt concocted by an ad agency to “convert” dog poo into Wi-Fi, but the bins no longer exist. It was just a marketing stunt for the Mexican internet provider Terra. [Full disclosure: before I was lucky enough to make writing online my full time gig, coordinating stunts like these was my job.]
42. One of Shakira’s favourite hobbies is painting portraits of fried eggs.
TRUE. Strangely enough.
43. Rihanna refuses to enter certain buildings due to her fear of ghosts. She has also witnessed two exorcisms.
44. Night-running is a traditional activity in Kenya where people run naked at night.
TRUE. It’s estimated that 2.6 million Kenyans practice the sport of naked night-running and it has close ties to witchcraft. Fans of the activity would like it to be recognised as a sport so that proper competitions can be held in the country.
45. Pope Francis has lived more than 50 years with just one functioning lung. He had the other removed as a young man.
TRUE. One of his lungs was removed due to an infection.
46. Women look their oldest at 3:30pm on Wednesdays.
FALSE. This is one of those bullshit “a study has found” pieces of garbage produced by a brand with an agenda. It means nothing and there’s no indication that their methodology was in any way sound.
47. The average amount of time a woman can keep a secret is 47 hours and 15 minutes.
48. In one year, a vampire bat colony of 100 can drink the blood of 25 cows.
TRUE. That’s a lot of blood.
49. Hedgehog parents will eat their young if the nest is disturbed.
TRUE. And the strange part? The nest doesn’t even need to be disturbed for hedgehogs to eat their young.
50. When confronted, a Tasmanian devil will often yawn at its tormentor as if pretending to be unbothered by the threat.
TRUE. But one has to wonder if some strange kind of anthropomorphizing going on with the presumed intent of the Tasmanian devil here. I’m no tasma-deviltologist, so this one might require further investigation.
51. Eating a lot of onions will make you sleepy. They act as sedatives.
FALSE. There’s no scientific evidence that onions have any particular quality of sedation. Eating a lot of anything will make you sleepy.
52. A study found that people who use torrents increase concert and video game sales.
TRUE-ISH. This fun fact is a mangled mess and could be referring to any number of studies that show the benefits of file-sharing. But as it’s worded, it doesn’t make any sense. I’m going to randomly guess they’re referring to studies that have shown that people who download illegally also buy more music legally. Maybe? I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here.
53. Apple seeds, pear seeds and cherry pits are poisonous.
TRUE-ISH. This tweet is technically true, but it’s yet another example of how giving people information without context can be just as harmful as outright lies. There’s no need to call the Poison Control Center if you swallow a cherry pit or three. These seeds and pits are only “poisonous” (read: you’ll see adverse health effects) at very high doses. Yes, apple seeds contain cyanide, but you’d have to be eating a crate of them to get sick. And you shouldn’t be eating a crate of anything in one sitting.
54. Older BMWs (in South Africa) featured “blasters.” These were flamethrowers on either side of the car to prevent hijacking.
TRUE-ISH. This tweet makes it sound like these flamethrowers came as an option at BMW dealerships in Johannesburg. It wasn’t. These were built and retrofitted to some cars in the late 1990s by a guy named Charl Fourie.
“The Blaster squirts liquefied gas from a bottle in the automobile’s trunk through two nozzles, located under the front doors,” CNN explained in a 1998 story. “The gas is then ignited by an electric spark, with fiery consequences.”
It’s unclear if the devices were officially banned, but by 2001 it appears Fourie stopped installing them on cars.
55. Dogs have three eyelids.
TRUE. Yes, dogs have an inner eyelid. So do cats, and many other birds and mammals. In fact, it’s humans who are weird for only having two eyelids.
56. German Shepherds bite humans more than any other breed of dog.
INCONCLUSIVE. There are mountains of serious studies looking at dog attacks based on breed and I couldn’t find one that singled out German Shepherds as the lone breed that bit humans more often. They ranked high in some studies, right up there with pitbulls, rottweilers and “not specified breeds.” In fact, most of the research argued against breed-based categorization when considering legislation around what dogs people were allowed to own in a given community — which is usually the ultimate concern whenever these studies are undertaken.
57. The Pokémon Omanyte is based on a real-life prehistoric creature called an Ammonite.
TRUE. Poor extinct ammonites. They were so cute.
58. The science of kissing is called “philematology.”
TRUE. It started being taken seriously as a thing to study at some point in the 19th century.
59. Newborn babies can only see in black and white.
TRUE. For the first few months babies can only see in black, white and shades of grey. They also can’t focus on anything beyond about a foot in front of them.
60. Dolphins can develop diabetes.
TRUE-ISH. More accurately, dolphins can flip in and out of diabetes-like states. It’s for this reason that places like the National Marine Mammal Foundation are studying dolphins to better understand how to treat humans with diabetes. Basically, they’re trying to figure out if humans have some version of the diabetes off-switch like dolphins that could be activated.
61. You can pay to go with National Geographic on its expeditions to exotic places, like Antarctica.
TRUE. But they’re not cheap. The most basic packages for trips through Antarctica start at around $US20,000.
62. Every drop of blood inside of you is filtered by your body over 300 times a day.
TRUE. According to Smithsonian’s Knowledge Encyclopedia.
[Update: This was initially deemed false based on a source that claimed 20-25 times per day.]
63. You can make books from Wikipedia pages. They will compile, print, and bind them for you.
TRUE. One group in Germany even tried to crowdfund a project that would print out Wikipedia in its entirety — over a million pages. But that effort failed for the obvious reason that it was a really dumb, masturbatory idea some people mistook for an art project, but would have really just been a waste of $US50,000.
64. The word “muffin” was originally spelled “moofin.”
TRUE. Back in 1703, there were all kinds of different spellings for shit that we wouldn’t recognise today. History is fascinating.
65. Blood is six times thicker than water.
TRUE. But interestingly enough, the original meaning of the phrase “blood is thicker than water” is actually the opposite of the way we use it today.
66. Bob Marley’s children have collectively won 12 Grammys.
TRUE-ISH. Stephen and Ziggy have each won five, while Damian has three Grammys. This fact is just a little outdated, since it doesn’t include Ziggy Marley’s 2014 Grammy win. They have actually won 13 Grammys. Bob Marley himself never won a Grammy aside from a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.
67. Sweden exports the most music per capita in the world.
TRUE. This one is true as of 2010, though what’s probably more impressive is that it’s the third largest exporter (behind the US and the UK) regardless of population. And Sweden only has 9.5 million people — fewer people than New Jersey.
Pictures: Print ad for TV in 1954 scanned from the book Window to the Future; Wolf via Getty Images; Kid playing with an iPad in 2011 file photo via AP; Hatsune Miku concert in Paris in November 2013 via AP; Mitt Romney with Rob Portman who’s putting his hand over the safety glass that’s supposed to be keeping his filthy hands out of the Chipotle food via AP; Rihanna in 2014 via the AP; Tasmanian Devil via Getty Images; Baby and mother in 1955 via Getty Images; Bob Marley in 1975 via Getty Images