After religious explanations went out of fashion and no longer satisfied our questions about the Universe, our human race began to look towards science as a more reliable resource. More often than not, this science has stood proudly upon its arrogant pedestal whilst highlighting fancy diagrams and historical evidence in order to convince us of why its answers were the only logical conclusions. What’s more, you’d usually have to agree that it argued a strong case.
However, every now and again, these scientific methodologies have aimlessly lead us in circles drawn on a chalkboard consisting of squiggly theories and illegible guesswork, ultimately punctuated with a big fat question mark and a pile of hair which some scientist has ripped from their distressed scalp. In these testing times, we must grant these great minds the respect they deserve, for at least they are trying their best to unravel the mysteries of life for us. That said, we should also laugh mockingly at their inability to do their jobs properly, because what better way to motivate someone than to make them feel inadequate and stupid?
With that thought, let us swiftly move on to our uniquely compiled list of troublesome puzzles that even scientists can’t seem to adequately piece together. From the curious case of magnetic cows to the unidentifiable ancestry of left handed people, these are the important discussions which work to remind us that science does not know everything and is probably just making it all up as it goes along.
15. How Do Cats Purr?
Lazy scientists have suggested that cats create their signature vibrational sound by using their vocal chords, which may seem like the most obvious answer, but is also a completely unproven statement. In fact, we are yet to locate which precise part of their anatomy is making this noise, which is why I’m calling demonic possession right now.
To add another layer of density to this unsolved mystery, is to ask ourselves: why do cats purr in the first place? To express their undying contentment to our loving presence, correct? Incorrect. Cats are known to purr when they are stressed out, in pain, or even giving birth, so it’s really a riddle of mixed cat signals here. However, what we do know is that the alien frequency of this therapeutic sound does help reduce pain and speeds up their recovery time from an injury, so let’s rather imagine it’s like a Buddhist mantra and try to forget about that demonic possession thing I said earlier.
14. How Does General Anaesthesia Work?
Anaesthesia is a magical phenomenon of modern medicine. With a little bit of this chemical (maybe sevoflurane) and a little bit of that chemical (maybe xenon gas), anaesthesiologists yield the power to flip the off-switch in your brain just lightly enough not to kill you, but still strong enough to ensure you have no clue that they are busy cutting your body open. You may think this is all carefully orchestrated with an exact science behind it, but nope, nobody knows why it does what it does.
Medical professionals have observed that these drugs induce a coma (read: you are not just falling to sleep), and it is the patient’s consciousness which shuts down, rendering them unresponsive while their awareness and brain activity continues to function as normal. Fascinating stuff to be fooling around with.
Even more terrifying are the accounts of those who have woken up during the surgery (about one in every 10,000), listening to the tools drilling and the doctors casually chatting away, unable to move, all motor functions disconnected, quietly screaming in their minds.
13. Why Do Whales Kill Themselves?
The mysterious case of suicidal whales has been documented for thousands of years, as it’s difficult to overlook the phenomenon when your casual beach stroll has been interrupted by a line of these marine mammals dehydrating in the Sun.
Science does not have the answer, but it does have theories, of course. Whales are natural masters of navigation, which is why some researchers suggest that it is our underwater sonar pulses that are freaking these creatures out, and they foolishly seek salvation in shallow waters, which evidently is a terrible idea. Others blame environmental issues (such as our nasty habit of dumping toxic pollution in the ocean) for provoking this desperate move of survival. But the most heartbreaking hypothesis of all, is that a singular whale may accidentally get washed up on the coast, and send out a desperate signal of distress. And then, one by one, his fellow whale buddies dive to the rescue, only to find themselves in the exact same trouble. Sad emoji.
Whether this is an intentional ploy of self-destructive behavior or not, let’s all hope that we can solve it really soon, as it’s reportedly getting much worse, with more and more whales jumping ship every year.
12. Why Do Tomatoes Have More Genes Than Humans?
Human beings may have developed complex languages and invented Instagram and blasted our own species to the moon, but no matter how hard we try to impress the Universe, we cannot escape the simple fact that we only have between 20,000 and 30,000 genes. This may sound like a lot when you try to count them out loud, but upon inspecting tomatoes, scientists were surprised to find that they have around 31,760 genes, which out-genes us by over 1,700 if you do the maths. How dare they, those smug little fruits or vegetables or whatever they are.
Scientists have since skirted around the issue, labeling it “the C-value paradox”, downgrading the mystery to an “enigma” status, and eventually admitting that while they do enjoy counting genes, they don’t necessarily even know what genes do, and have no idea what they are counting in the first place.
11. Why Do Cows Always Face The Magnetic Poles While Eating?
One of the more recent entries on this list would be when researchers noticed on Google Earth that cows always faced either the North or South Pole whilst eating and resting. This strange occurrence seems to have nothing to do with terrain, the weather, or the breed of cow, as these clear patterns were noted on every single continent.
The most obvious theory is one of an internal compass, suggesting that cows are naturally equipped with an acute navigational system, perhaps planning their rendezvous point before the big escape. Another could be some defense measure to ward off predators, which blatantly isn’t working because people are eating cows all the time. Regardless, we simply don’t know because nobody bothered to ask the cows themselves.
Saving my favorite theory for last, however, is that cows don’t like their eyes to be directly facing the Sun, and as this happens from an East to West direction, they are simply looking away from the light. I get that. I have done that before.
10. Why Are So Few People Left Handed?
You’ve got to feel a little sorry for the lefties of society. Not only is the whole world designed for right-handed people (like writing on paper without smudging ink and using tin openers) but we also have terms such as a “left-handed compliment” whilst making other similar jokes that simply aren’t right.
What’s even worse, is that no one can explain why this has happened. There is some vague connection to a genetic influence, but as of yet, no specific left-handed gene has been discovered. What’s more, the 10 percent statistic of the human race who are born lefties hasn’t really changed throughout history, meaning it can’t be written off as some evolutionary blip either. Many scientists have tried their best to work it out, but they eventually concluded that they aren’t even sure why any of us have a dominant hand in the first place, daring to argue theories about the development of reaction time or the different hemispheres of our brains, when their own brains can’t even work it out.
For many, this confusion was unacceptable, and even today many left-handed kids are forced to write with their right hand, which not only produces mixed results, but can also cause dyslexia and speech disorders.
9. Why Is The Sun’s Atmosphere Hotter Than Its Surface?
You might know this already, but the Sun is hot. Its surface is around 6,000 degrees celsius, which is already enough to destroy everything you know and love instantaneously, and yet this doesn’t hold a candle to the Sun’s atmosphere. Known as the corona, this surrounding area extends more than a million kilometers outward, and comes raging with temperatures of up to two million degrees celsius. See what I’m saying? Hot!
But if you really think about it, that doesn’t make sense. Surely the Sun itself is where all this warmth is coming from, so why would the environment around it surpass those numbers so drastically? Science threw a dart at the buzzword chart, and they put forward terms like “greenhouse gas levels” or “carbon dioxide pressure”, but all of these are complete stabs in the darkness of the night. That was another Sun joke, in case you missed it.
8. How Does The Placebo Effect Work?
You get a headache, you pop a pill, you expect your pain to go away, and it usually does. Because that’s what you paid for. However, studies have shown that 50 – 60 percent of the time, a capsule of sugar would have achieved the exact same result, and nobody really knows why.
One theory is that your brain figures the problem is about to get sorted and stops focusing on the issue, leaving the body to work its natural magic in peace. This sounds logical, except that the placebo effect has been successful in removing warts, improving heart disease as well as asthma related troubles, and even knee injuries after doctors performed a fictitious surgery. Unethical, but effective.
In truth, it’s probably that our minds are not only extremely powerful lumps of meat, but also embarrassing gullible. One study gave people phoney pain cream, and watched as the pain-sensing regions of the brain lit up. Another study explicitly informed its patients that they were receiving the placebo pill, and yet it worked in much the same way. These are the reasons why I spend every day concentrating on growing an extra arm, because you never know.
7. What Is Dark Matter?
You might find some scientists pretending to be clever when they tell us that 27 percent of the whole universe may consist of dark matter. But do not be fooled! Simply ask them what dark matter really is, and watch as they tend to go very quiet and then change the topic.
As you may have guessed due to its name, dark matter is very dark, as it doesn’t emit any light. What this means, is that no one has actually discover it yet, because it’s completely undetectable. However, despite any lack of evidence towards its very existence, scientists theorize that this space stuff is made up from what’s called “weakly interacting massive particles,” (or WIMP, funny enough) which could be up to 100 times the size of a proton. However, we don’t actually know that either because we haven’t invented the equipment to measure this yet, which leads us back to where we started. Nowhere.
The fact of the matter (geddit?) is that scientists have basically named something because they decided it could be a real thing, even though it is potentially nothing at all, except for a fantastic way to act smart whilst wasting everyone’s time. In theory.
6. Why Do We Have Different Blood Types?
Believe it or not, the categorization of our blood was not just a fun exercise to further highlight our differences, but each of these varied types of body fluids come with their own special advantages and disadvantages, related to diseases and immunity. People with type B, for example, are at higher risk for E. Coli infection, while type O have a better chance at surviving malaria, like a superpower or something.
Your specific blood type is bestowed upon you by your parent’s genetic code, that much we know, but science is yet to explain why these separate blood groups even exist in the first place. The official statement from some of these men in white coats is that it seems like an evolutionary accident to them, and then I imagine they shrug and look through a microscope at something completely different.
5. Why Do We Yawn?
If you find yourself yawning whilst you read this entry, it may not necessarily be a sign of boredom, because this article is extremely interesting, perhaps even the best article you’ve ever read. Rather, there is evidence that yawning has contagious properties, researchers observing that we can entice certain animals to yawn simply by yawning in front of them. If that’s not strange enough, scientists also have no idea why this happens or why we even yawn in the first place.
For many centuries it was generally accepted that this was the body’s way of increasing oxygen in our blood, but recently it was discovered that yawning can, in actual fact, lower our oxygen count, and so that theory got thrown out of court. Another attempt at explaining it, is that yawning works like a quick blast of air conditioning, cooling the brain down by removing heat from any blood delivered to the head region. Which makes sense, except that the action is noted to occur less in hot weather, so once again, the logic doesn’t add up.
Probably the only persistent explanation yet to be disputed is that a yawn works as a mild slap in the face to keep our heads alert and remind us that we have work to do. For additional benefits, why not try literally slapping yourself in the face too? As this is a proven technique for waking up as fast as possible.
4. How Do Magnets Work?
As once said by two of the most intellectual philosophers of our time, “f**king magnets, how do they work?”. That’s right. I’m talking about Insane Clown Posse.
Ok, so truth be told, scientists do have some idea about how magnets work, but there is one troubling point that they can’t get to the bottom of. You see, each magnet has a North Pole (the part of a compass which helpfully points out the North for you) and a South pole (the other bit), which nobody even pretends to understand. It doesn’t even end there either, as the mystery behind this magnetic awareness gets double as weird if you cut the magnet in half. Instead of now having one North Pole piece of magnet and one South Pole piece of magnet, these two separate bits suddenly change once again to each have their own independent North and South. You can cut them in half as many times as you like, they don’t care, they just keep doing that.
Respect where respect is due, and we must mention that scientists have managed to play God and create freak magnets in the lab which don’t behave this way, which is a great method of showing-off, but still doesn’t explain anything. It was pretty cool when they used that massive magnet to destroy a hard drive in Breaking Bad though.
3. What Is Déjà Vu Anyway?
Most of us are already well familiar with déjà vu. It’s when something happens, and you get the strange sensation that you’ve already lived this moment before. But did you know that most of us are already well familiar with déjà vu? It’s when something happens, and you get the strange sensation that you’ve already lived this moment before.
French for “already seen,” there is no definite scientific explanation as to why our brain treats us like this. Some studies have demonstrated how the phenomenon occurs when a person registers something that they recognize as a familiar thought, but can’t quite place it, like a contrasting mess of newness and oldness misfiring and bouncing all around your skull. Other studies have blamed the memory itself for saving a file wrong, and now the corrupted recollection is only somewhat readable, and throws back this error.
The final hypothesis to touch on, is the one shared by many that we are getting glimpses into our past lives. This concept is far too spooky for the men and women of science to stomach, but until they give us a final answer, this is my chosen belief because it’s way less boring than the others.
2. What Was That Gelatinous Rain All About?
1994 was interesting year. Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa after decades of Apartheid. Kurt Cobain killed himself. And, of course, jelly rained from the sky in Oakville, Washington.
Due to theories that this substance only falls to Earth during meteor showers, the English gave it the magical nickname of “star jelly” whilst the German gave it the more apt nickname of “star snot”. But what was this anomaly made out of exactly? Reaching any satisfying conclusion proved difficult, as the goo was known to disintegrate as soon it was touched, but some scientists did get their hands on a bit of the globby matter before it dissolved, and quickly located two types of bacteria within it, one of which we normally find in the human digestive system.
Regardless, whether the goo was the result of a lost spaceman exploding or a giant alien sneezing on us or the remains of dead frogs (which is what the more levelheaded of people claimed it to be), the strangest effect came the day following. 24 hours after the star snot shower, a mass flu broke out, infecting many residents of the town, some of which were even more convinced that the plagues of the apocalypse had arrived. The link between these two events has never been proven, but neither has my giant alien theory, so what’s up, scientists?
1. Why Do We Dream?
The nightly films we watch whilst sleeping may provide us with a weird story to talk about in the morning, but why this process takes place is still a complete mystery to the world of science. However, there are plenty of theories drifting about to confuse the issue even further.
Some (like Sigmund Freud) believe that dreams are our subconscious desires finally coming to surface. Others believe that dreams are essentially a mental defragging process which tackles unsolved problems and emotional complexities. Moving on, there are those scientists who claim dreams expose some deep symbolism hidden with the human psyche, and there are our friendly hippies who swear that we are astral traveling into other dimensions every night because drugs maybe. Finally, there is the more simplistic theory that our dreams mean nothing at all, just random brainwaves spewing out images they found in our file system, like a glitch within our genetic make up.
Many studies have tried to find the root cause of these strange visions we all experience, and the closest they got was to admit that they weren’t even sure about the function of sleep itself anyway. Ok, goodnight!
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