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Two things struck me while watching Andy Murray’s press conference from the Australian Open, in which he announced his intention to retire. He spoke about the pain he had lived with “over the past 20 months or so”, and how he had planned to continue until Wimbledon this summer but was no longer sure he could. Then there was a long pause, that lump in the throat, before he was able to utter the words “stop playing”.

As the new Congress begins, it will soon discuss the comprehensive reports to the U.S. Senate on the disinformation campaign of half-truths, outright fabrications and misleading posts made by agents of the Russian government on social media in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Gol-e-Zard Cave lies in the shadow of Mount Damavand, which at more than 5,000 metres dominates the landscape of northern Iran. In this cave, stalagmites and stalactites are growing slowly over millennia and preserve in them clues about past climate events. Changes in stalagmite chemistry from this cave have now linked the collapse of the Akkadian Empire to climate changes more than 4,000 years ago.

Every year most of us make New Year’s resolutions. Eat healthier. Exercise regularly. Invest more in valued relationships. Learn a language. And so on. Often they are the same resolutions as last year.

Why do our resolutions often so swiftly wither away?

A prime culprit in this annual roller coaster of optimism and disappointment is overconfidence in the power of our intentions.

The excitement of a new year (and perhaps the fruit of celebrating a little too hard) cloud remembering a hard fact of life: good intentions readily evaporate without a trace in the face of everyday experiences such as exhaustion, temptation and long-standing habits.

Our job at The Conversation is to work with scholars to publish analysis that helps readers make sense of the world. And if we demolish a few popularly held – but erroneous or misplaced – ideas and assumptions in the process, that makes me especially happy.

Hence my list, here, of stories from 2018 that use facts to interrogate popular wisdom – and the ideas they proved wrong: