20 Facts You Learned in School That Are No Longer True

20 Facts You Learned in School That Are No Longer True

Women suspected of being witches were not burned at the stake

Still life with magic objects, books, candles and the tarot cards. Halloween and magic still life, fortune telling seance or black magic ritual with mysterious occult and esoteric symbols Vera Petruk/Shutterstock

First, no one was burned during the Massachusetts Bay Colony witch scare in 1692. In Europe, convicted witches were sometimes burned, but in England, they were hanged, and that’s the tradition the colonists followed after a group of young girls started having “fits” that the doctor blamed on supernatural afflictions. In all, almost 200 people were accused of being witches; 19 were convicted and hanged. One person was crushed to death under stones. Another myth about the Salem witch trials is that all the accused were women. Five of those executed (including the elderly farmer who was pressed to death) were men; plus, the accusations affected people from all circumstances and social positions.

There are actually four states of matter

Platelet-Rich plasma preparation. Plasma in syringe. Centrifuge. BackgroundRomaset/Shutterstock

You may have learned about three—liquid, solid, and gas. Those are the most common states of matter that we find here on Earth, but beyond our atmosphere, there’s a fourth state—plasma—and it might be the most common in the universe. When you add enough energy to an atom, its electrons can get away from its nucleus and react with a different nearby nucleus, creating plasma, which consists of highly charged particles with very high kinetic energy. Gases like neon are goaded into a plasma state by electricity to make glowing signs; stars are basically huge balls of plasma. But that’s not the only extra state of matter: In 1995, scientists created one called the Bose-Einstein condensate, where matter is super-cooled to almost absolute zero, causing molecular motion to practically stop. Nobody knows whether Bose-Einstein condensates exist in nature, but they can be made in a lab. Researchers are also investigating other states of matter, so the number could keep growing, according to Gizmodo.

We either have eight or 13 planets in our solar system

Night Earth. City lights on planet. Civilization. Elements of this image furnished by NASADima Zel/Shutterstock

My sixth grade science teacher taught us “Mary’s violet eyes make John stay up nights plenty” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)—but then, in the 1990s, scientists found a doughnut-shaped region of the solar system out beyond Neptune that’s filled with asteroids, comets, and icy objects. They called it the Kuiper Belt and redefined poor little Pluto as a Kuiper Belt Object instead of a planet. While many ex-schoolchildren felt betrayed at the time, Pluto wasn’t the first planet to get demoted—it had already happened to a body called Ceres that orbits between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres was called a planet too when it was first identified in 1801, but over time astronomers realized it was part of an asteroid belt and revoked its planethood. But the story doesn’t end there—both Ceres and Pluto got bumped back up into a new category in 2006 when the International Astronomical Union declared them dwarf planets.

We don’t really know all the planets in our solar system

The core of our Milky Way galaxy in the dark skies of Atacama Desert. Planets Mars and Saturn form a bright triangle with Antares, the scorpion's heart. Comet 252P/LINEAR is left of and below Saturn.mmtsales/Shutterstock

According to NASA, there are three other officially recognized dwarf planets circling our sun (all in the Kuiper Belt, with Pluto) and possibly hundreds more that haven’t been identified yet. And then there’s the mystery of Planet X—so far, it’s only hypothetical, but researchers at Caltech think it could be the size of Neptune and follow an orbit that’s circling the sun way out beyond Pluto. The final tally as of now, according to, is eight planets and five dwarf planets. Don’t miss these 18 science facts you never learned in school.

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20 Facts You Learned in School That Are No Longer True

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