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The treachery of those tales

Published: 
Monday, May 19, 2014

What fools we have been. All these years we have been misled, deceived and dismantled by our parents and teachers who pumped into our trusting little brains tales and rhymes from Roald Dahl, Mother Goose and the Grimm Brothers.

 

Now the truth is leaking out. And it took no less than a team of fourth-year physics students from the University of Leicester in England to rescue us from our ignorance. The university topped BBC News Magazine’s list of 100 things we didn’t know last year, with the revelation of mathematical inaccuracies in a popular Roald Dahl novel.

 

In James and the Magic Peach, the boy hero takes a magical journey across the Atlantic Ocean atop an enlarged peach which was lifted by 501 seagulls. 

 

Lies, lies—the lot of it. Using the basic laws of physics, the students revealed that 501 seagulls would not nearly have been enough to lift the peach, which was described in the novel as being the size of a small house. In truth, 2,425,907 birds would have been needed to perform the flight. 

 

The students’ findings were published in the Journal of Physics Special Topics. They have yet to explain, though, whether the tether of a giant silkworm, as the story goes, could have successfully held the peach aloft.

 

The scales having been so cruelly torn from mine eyes, I began investigating the other tales I had been fed since toddlerhood.