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.
10. 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.
9. 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, 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.
8. 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.
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.
7. 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.
Ultimately, the jokes on the tomatoes though. Because we eat them.
6. 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.
5. 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.
4. 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.
3. 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,” 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 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.
2. 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!
1. 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?