If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.

TALLULAH BANKHEAD (1902-68)

Mistakes

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Coin Tossers


If you toss two coins (or one coin twice), the chance that you’ll get two heads is 1⁄4 (because this is one of the four equally-likely outcomes: H-H, H-T, T-H and T-T). You might think that’s as simple as a maths problem gets but, in 2012, 60% of MPs got it wrong. 45% of them put the chance at 1⁄2, ie twice as likely as it really is. There was a split on party lines: 47% of the Tories got it wrong, as did an extraordinary 77% of Labour MPS. The same survey asked if they felt confident dealing with numbers; 76% of the Tories and 72% of the Labour MPs said they did.

Discovering that MPs are a bunch of useless tossers shouldn’t lead to general smugness, however. In 2013 the same question was put to 1,034 other British adults, and 74% got it wrong – beating the Labour MPs by 3%. Once again, the most common wrong answer was 1⁄2. 

If you toss two coins (or one coin twice), the chance that you’ll get two heads is 1⁄4 (because this is one of the four equally-likely outcomes: H-H, H-T, T-H and T-T).

You might think that’s as simple as a maths problem gets but, in 2012, 60% of MPs got it wrong. 45% of them put the chance at 1⁄2, ie twice as likely as it really is. There was a split on party lines: 47% of the Tories got it wrong, as did an extraordinary 77% of Labour MPS. The same survey asked if they felt confident dealing with numbers; 76% of the Tories and 72% of the Labour MPs said they did.

Discovering that MPs are a bunch of useless tossers shouldn’t lead to general smugness, however. In 2013 the same question was put to 1,034 other British adults, and 74% got it wrong – beating the Labour MPs by 3%. Once again, the most common wrong answer was 1⁄2.

Bungled Burgers


Poor maths did for the 1/3-pounder burger, which McDonald’s’ rivals A&W All American Restaurants launched in the 1980s. In taste tests, people preferred it. It was cheaper and there was a big marketing campaign to promote it. But people didn't buy it.

Focus groups revealed that customers thought they were being ripped off by being asked to pay the same amount for a third-pound of meat as a quarter-pound - because the 4 in a 1⁄4 is ‘bigger’ than the 3 in a 1/3. 

LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN (1889-1951)

To convince someone of the truth, it is not enough to state it, but rather one must find the path from error to truth.

JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745)

It is the folly of too many, to mistake the echo of a London coffee house for the voice of a kingdom.

Salad Dressing to the Rescue


In the 1960s, conservators decided it would be a good idea to cover frescos in an acrylic co-polymer called paraloid, however this was a disasterous move; it led to colours being skewed and a fake-looking shiny finish to appear.
 
All attempts to remove the paraloid failed, but scientists have come up with a solution using a mixture between nano-technology and cookery. A salad-dressing style mixture with tiny molecules of oil is having unprecedented success.

Robert Browning used the word ‘twats’ in his 1841 poem Pippa Passes. He thought it was an article of clothing for nuns.

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Neanderthals are often depicted as slouching because the first one reconstructed in 1911 from skeletal remains, happened to have arthritis.

Octopuses often mistake each other's genders and accid-entally have homo-sexual sex; they can copulate for days before realising.

Campbell's Fetish


In January 2008, Ronnie Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley, Northumberland, accidentally gave his support to National Fetish Day. He promised to wear purple to support a day of awareness, but withdrew his backing after the Sunday Sun explained what 'fetish' meant.

"Mr Campbell revealed he thought 'fetish' was just another word for 'worry'".

All in the Translation


The word Dord, meaning density appeared in the second edition of Webster's New International Dictionary. The entry was supposed to read ‘D or d – Density’.

The name Imogen appears for the first time in Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline. It was a printer’s error and should have been the established name Innogen, which means girl or maiden. 

Modern Olympic officials, citing an ancient inscription from Delphi that had been translated ‘Wine cannot be taken into the stadium’, have assumed that ancient athletes abstained from strong drink, setting an example for today's competitors. It now seems the correct translation is ‘Wine cannot be taken out of the stadium’.

The 'Scunthorpe problem' occurs when email spam-filtering software or Internet searches mistake an innocuous word for a sex-related one. Penistone has a similar problem.

DOUGLAS ADAMS (1952-2001)

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.  

Conservation Disasters


Weasels and stoats were introduced into New Zealand in the 1870s to help rid it of rabbits. It was one of the worst mistakes ever. Their impact on local animals was devastating; and they are now a serious conservation threat to kiwis, parakeets, black stilts, takahe, fairy tern, yellowhead, yellow-eyed penguins and New Zealand dotterel.
 
The Namibian government was a world pioneer in saving white rhinos from poachers intent on killing them to steal their horns, by dehorning them first while still alive. Unfortunately this meant that the hornless mothers could not protect their young from attack, and they were all eaten by hyenas.

The dinosaurs models at Crystal Palace are all anatomically incorrect but can't be changed because they're officially grade II listed buildings.

In 2007, 170 Swiss troops accidentally invaded Liechtenstein after getting lost during a training exercise

A doryphore is someone who derives intense satisfaction from pointing out the errors of others.

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Not the Last Supper


Da Vinci's Last Supper shows a meal of fish and ordinary bread, but a Passover meal would have consisted of unleavened bread, roast lamb and bitter herbs. It also shows daylight outside the window, but the actual Last Supper took place at night.