Climate Change For Dummies – WIF Mad Science

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Bizarre “Solutions”

to Climate Change

Fighting climate change – a widely-used euphemism for the ongoing climate catastrophe – is humanity’s biggest priority at this point. Or at least it should be, as most governments of the world are simply not bothered with something that may as well be the end of our species. It’s not even like we have to do impossible things to stop it; many scientists are of the opinion that if we just come together and take certain measures (like stick to treaties like the Paris agreement), we could avert the worst effects of it.

Though in usual human style, we’re busy thinking up other creative (and often outlandish) ways of trying to prevent this calamity, rather than actually joining hands and fixing what we’ve collectively broken. Here are some of the most bizarre potential solutions we’ve come up with to the biggest question facing humanity right now: how do we tackle climate change?

10. Blot Out the Sun

There are some definite reasons as to why things have gotten as bad as they are when it comes to ever-rising global temperatures. One of the biggest is greenhouse emissions. Nearly all industries around the world are responsible for it, and if countries like China look like major contributors to it right now, it’s only because the polluting stages of most developed countries are already in the distant past.

There are other culprits, too, though something that’s definitely not responsible is the existence of the sun. In some weird leap of reason, however, some scientists have concluded that it’s the sun that’s the whole problem, and are now looking for feasible ways to block it in order to cool the Earth down. They’re already planning experiments to inject chemicals into the atmosphere to dim the intensity of its rays, and while many other experts have warned against the adverse effects of literally dimming our primary source of energy, it looks like they’re going ahead with trying it out anyway.

9. Smaller Children

Even if the majority of the pollution and global warming is caused by industries, we all contribute to it in tiny ways. Every one of us has a carbon footprint, no matter how many plastic bottles we give up or online petitions against climate change we sign. Of course, our individual footprints aren’t nearly as large as, say, the oil industry, so as long as we do our part in living sustainable, things should be fine.

For some scientists though, the best way we can reduce our carbon footprint is by reducing the size of people themselves. In a research paper, some scientists argue that genetically engineering our babies to be smaller will go a long way in helping the environment. It seems that they came up with this by solving the incredibly complex ‘big people = big pollution’ equation. It may even work, though we think that there might be better ways of doing this without the whole eugenics vibe.

8. Cow Farts as Fuel

Vegans may be annoying, though they aren’t entirely wrong. The meat industry is actually quite a huge producer of greenhouse emissions, and cutting down on our meat consumption may really help with global warming. Some of the animals bred for consumption produce particularly harmful gases like methane, which is much deadlier than your usual carbon dioxide and such. Take cows, who account for 25 percent of all methane emissions in the world. Instead of cutting down on meat consumption, though, some scientists have come up with what they think is a better way: collecting their farts and using it as fuel.

Despite how ridiculous it sounds, it may just be one of the more sensible options on this list, even if we’re yet able to fully figure out the logistics of how it would work. Argentina has come up with a way to equip its cows with backpacks that collect the farts and convert the methane into fuel powder, which can then be used to power various things on the farm. It may be some time before this plan may actually start yielding results, but it may just be crazy enough to actually work.

7. Build Massive Underwater Walls

The oceans are the focal point in our fight against global warming, as they’re consistently growing warmer due to the rising temperature on the surface. What happens underwater affects us in more ways than we realize, or even yet understand. If we had to find a solution to restore the health of our oceans, we’d probably find ways to dump less plastic and oil into it, and limit our greenhouse emissions to cool the Earth down and stop the now-consistent rise in sea level. Though for the scientists who have given up on those solutions entirely, there’s another possible solution: build enormous walls of concrete underground.

We aren’t just talking about walls you build to keep water out of your farm; these would be gigantic underwater structures – starting from the ocean floor – to stop warm water from going near glaciers to halt their melting, and generally isolate the effects of warming to certain sections of the ocean. Who would build those walls? Robots, of course, as humans still aren’t the best at building structures at the depths we’re talking about.

6. Artificially brighten clouds

One of the most alarming parts of the whole climate change debate is how little time we have to be sitting around and having debates about it in the first place. Scientists have given us till 2050 to cut down our carbon emissions to zero if we’re going to even have a chance at reversing its worst effects. And we have the solutions, suggested by those same scientists, if only we could stick to them.

As we can’t really come together to do that, some scientists have more drastic solutions for the problem, one of them being artificially brightening clouds to reflect more sunlight back into the sky (as dark surfaces absorb the heat). There are many proposed ways to do it, like injecting salt into the clouds, or making whole new clouds of our own.

Yes, we’re talking about the same huge floating things found in the sky around the world, and yes, they realize the enormity of the task. It’s a part of a new type of potential solutions to global warming known as sunlight reflection methods (SRM). This is actually one of the more sensible plans, as others include painting the mountains white – instead of, you know, doing something to maintain the natural white of the ice currently melting off of them – or launching massive mirrors into orbit.

5. Cover Buildings with Slime

Even though industries – like oil and mining – are hugely responsible for climate change, they’re only a part of the problem. Modern civilization is inherently built to take from the Earth to thrive rather than coexisting with it, even though there have been many civilizations in the past that knew how to combine sustainability with economic development. Of course, we can take notes from them and start rearranging how we plan our cities and architecture, or we can find ways to keep them as is, with some modifications.

According to researchers from U.K.’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers, one of those ways is covering our buildings with algae. It’s not a bad idea per se, as it’s not like they’d just throw algae on the side of buildings and hope it sticks. It would be contained in huge tubes running throughout the length of the buildings, and could help by reducing CO2 levels in the air with photosynthesis. It’s obviously too expensive to do right now, and they’re looking into ways they could make it cheaper.

4. Sin Tax on Meat

As we said above, the meat industry is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse emissions in the world, and if something could be done about it, it’d go a long way in our fight against climate change. We’re not exactly asking everyone to go vegan overnight, but rather collectively coming up with more sustainable practices that could help reduce that.

Some of those solutions are more radical than the others, though — one of them being a sort of a sin tax on the consumption of meat, similar to what we have on products like tobacco and alcohol. An investor group called Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) thinks that governments would start considering this sooner than we expect, and has already started taking measures to invest in more sustainable meat-producing ventures.

Other studies have also suggested a similar tax on meat due to its overwhelming contribution to global warming, and we can’t argue with their reasoning: they tried asking us nicely first.

3. Kill the Camels

Different countries have come up with their own solutions to global warming, each according to how rich they are and how they’re contributing to it. Where countries like India and China are drastically reconsidering the way their industries work, other countries at a higher risk of drowning due to rising sea levels – like Malaysia – have taken to being nicer to other nations, in the hopes that we’d do something about the problem a bit faster.

Australia’s assessment of the situation, on the other hand, is rather focused – they think it’s all because of those pesky camels. In case you didn’t know, yes, Australia has camels. It actually has so many that it sends some to Saudi Arabia whenever they’re a bit short. According to an increasingly-popular opinion in Australia, eradicating camels should solve climate change for the foreseeable future, as they’re one of the biggest producers of methane, and are generally looked down on as pests. While that may be true, if we go by that, we should just kill all the animals in the world, as most of them produce methane. The camels need protection from changing climate as much as we do.

2. Turn CO2 into Rocks

Iceland – and Scandinavia in general – has been particularly worried about climate change, as it’s one of the few countries that will feel its worst effects before most other nations due to its proximity to the Arctic. It’s also one of the more technologically advanced countries in the western world, and has been trying to come up with creative solutions to tackle the problem with the tech that it has.

It may sound a bit weird, though from all the items on this list, it may just end up having the most impact. The University of Iceland – along with a bunch of other researchers – has come up with a way to turn CO2 emissions into rocks, and store them underground so it’s never released back into the air. If you’re asking ‘well why don’t we just do that then’, you should know that it’s not easy to do. It takes CO2 emissions from an industrial facility, mixes it with water and sends it to another facility, which in turn dumps it deep into the Earth. The fizzy liquid mixes with the basalt in the ground, and turns into rocks within a few months, and the technology that can do it is expensive and only proven to be effective at one facility.

1. Resurrecting Animals

If a lot of our efforts to stop climate change are focused on saving the Arctic, it’s because of a more pressing reason beyond maintaining the natural ice cover. It’s believed that a lot of greenhouse gases – worse than what we already have in the atmosphere – are buried deep beneath the Arctic permafrost, and its thawing could release them in the atmosphere, further accelerating global warming.

According to a group of scientists at Harvard, the best way to do that would be by resurrecting the woolly mammoth. The ongoing theory is that the mammoths will do regular mammoth things – like running around, trampling trees and shrubs and generally having a good time – which would help increase the grass cover. Grass, as we know, absorbs less heat than other plants, and could theoretically stop the thawing of the permafrost over a long enough period of time. Though to be honest, we really don’t think we have that long, as mammoth resurrection is still quite a bit in the distant future.


Climate Change For Dummies

WIF Mad Science

The Grand Canyon of the Pacific – WIF Oceanography

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 Mysteries of

the Mariana Trench

Space may be the “final frontier,” but it’s far from the most alien one. The oceans are still full of mysteries and strange lifeforms, and nowhere in the wet part of the world is more mysterious than the Mariana Trench. This vast ocean pit in the Western Pacific reveals new secrets whenever a brave explorer ventures in its lethal depths, and continues to amaze even the most jaded ocean researcher. Today, we’ll take a look at some of its strangest aspects and most enduring mysteries.

10. The size of the Mariana Trench

To even comprehend all the weird stuff that’s going on in the Mariana Trench, we must first understand its sheer size. Picture an underwater Grand Canyon. It’s easy to think that the place is just some deep, watery hole where a few creepy bioluminating critters hang about. In reality, however, the Mariana Trench is absolutely massive. It’s no less than 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide, which understandably makes its exploration an incredibly daunting task even if you ignore the water pressure and the terrifying-looking lifeforms that lurk within its depths, which extend all the way down to roughly 36,000 feet below the surface at the trench’s deepest point, the Challenger Deep.

The Trench is technically U.S. territory, but since a giant, super-deep ocean hole that contains all sorts of strange ecosystems is obviously fairly vulnerable to human tampering, President George W. Bush declared it a “marine national monument” in 2009. This means that the majority of the Mariana Trench, along with a whole bunch of surrounding seafloor and several underwater volcanoes, are a protected marine reserve.

9. The Mariana Trench mystery sound

One of the strangest things that have emanated from the Mariana Trench hasn’t been a frightening sea monster, though we’d be surprised if the option isn’t on the table whenever the mysterious “bio-metallic” sound that sometimes emanates from the trench is heard. Marine researchers have dubbed this almost mechanical, “twangy” noise “Western Pacific Biotwang,” and it first turned up in 2014 when scientists recorded ocean sounds near the Mariana Trench with diving robots called “passive acoustic ocean gliders.”

The complex, 3.5-second sound turned up several times during the research period, and while it seemed mysterious, the scientists eventually decided that the most likely culprit is a minke whale, a peculiar small whale that can sound like a Star Wars sound effect. However, the minke whales themselves remain largely a mystery to science, and they still have no idea what the call is about, and why it has been recorded year-round.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time the elusive minke whales have puzzled scientists. For 50 years, researchers were puzzled by a strange, duck-like underwater sound that seemed too repetitive and rhythmical to be anything but man-made, and far too loud to be a fish. We didn’t figure out that this “bio-duck” sound was minke whales until 2014.

8. Strange undersea volcanoes

When listing deep-sea dangers, one imagines things like giant sharks and maybe huge octopus creatures. What you wouldn’t expect, though, are massive mud volcanoes, spewing hot mud and rock fragments from the depths of the earth to the, uh, depths of the sea. Still, such natural structures exist within the Mariana Trench, which exists in a spot where the Pacific tectonic plate is pushed downwards by the Philippine Sea Plate. This makes the area a hotspot of volcanic activity, and the mud volcanoes are part of the deal.

Incidentally, these massive geological structures bring warmth to the kinds of depths where very little would otherwise exist. Thanks to the heat and minerals of the mud volcanoes, researchers have found evidence of microbial life as deep as six miles under the Mariana Trench. This is a hint that life may survive in the kinds of extreme environs we’re yet to truly comprehend. As project leader Oliver Plumper puts it: ““This is another hint at a great, deep biosphere on our planet. It could be huge or very small, but there is definitely something going on that we don’t understand yet.”

If that quote wasn’t ominous enough, the Mariana Trench can up its volcano game to an even weirder level: It’s also home to a submarine volcano that spews molten sulphur, and another one where the eruptions are liquid carbon dioxide. Life under the sea may not always be fun, but it’s certainly eventful.

7. The Mariana Trench Megalodon

In 2018, the Jason Statham movie The Meg introduced the world to the novel concept of giant Megalodon sharks lurking in the Mariana Trench. The movie depicts the Mariana Trench having a “fake” bottom, behind which these super-sharks have lurked all along, but apart from that novel feature, the conspiracy theories about Megalodons secretly haunting the seas have been around for quite a while — and what better location for them to hide their existence from puny humanity than the deepest pit in the sea?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your views on massive sharks), this is very unlikely to be true. The Mariana Trench could not even theoretically support a creature as large as the Megalodon, and anyway, the creature used to hang around in fairly shallow, warm waters. But hey, one can always dream, right?

6. The Hadal Deep

The Hadal Deep is technically a joint moniker for the deepest parts of the ocean all around the world, but the Mariana Trench is where it is at its absolute most unforgiving. The zone is named after the Greek mythology’s underworld Hades, and fittingly enough, it’s so intensely hostile to human life that more people have been to the Moon than ventured there. This is a big part of why it holds so many mysteries: To keep people alive (and equipment intact) in the pressures of the Hadal Deep is intensely difficult.

Oh, and here’s where things get really nasty: When it comes to the Mariana Trench, the beginning of the hellish Hadal Deep is pretty much just the halfway point. The Hadal Deep starts at 20,000 feet below the surface, while the deepest (as far as we know) parts of the Mariana Trench are well over 35,000 feet deep. So, before you venture there, maybe do a practice run in one of the other 45 Hadal areas in the world.

Yes, you read that right. There are no less than 46 of these underwater hells scattered around the world, and we’ve barely scratched their surface.

5. Sounds from the Deep

Weird whale noises are one thing, but when scientists managed to capture audio from the deepest ocean pit on the planet in 2016, things got all sorts of creepy. You’d expect that the Challenger Deep would be a serenely quiet place at 6.7 miles beneath the surface, but recordings show that the area is actually chock-full of sounds that seem like something out of a horror movie.

Yes, the deep is full of screeches, moans and rumbles, and while the occasional sound can be traced back to a whale or an earthquake, a whole bunch of them remain a mystery. Perhaps the strangest thing about the recordings is the fact that you can often hear the surface sounds shockingly clearly, and boat propellers and typhoons are clearly audible on some of the tapes. In fact, marine scientists are kind of worried that man-made sounds will only increase in the ocean, even in the pits of the Hadal Deep. So, you know. When the creatures of the deep inevitably rise against us surface dwellers, there’s a fair chance it will be because they’re just coming to complain about their noisy upstairs neighbors.

4. The crazy marine life of the Mariana Trench

Imagine a science fiction monster and there’s a decent chance that a variation of it exists somewhere in the depths of the Mariana Trench. There are relatively huge amoebas that surround and consume their prey like a gelatinous cube monster in Dungeons & Dragons. There are various translucent and bio-luminescent creatures. There are, of course, many-toothed monsters like the freaky anglerfish and the huge goblin shark, not to mention creatures with telling names like “deep sea hatchetfish” and “fanfin sea devil.” What else is lurking down there? Who knows!

To be fair, the marine life of the Mariana Trench is not just pure nightmare fodder. The most fearsome predator of the area is a perfectly unassuming little pink guy called the Mariana snailfish, which gets along simply because it can live a lot deeper than some of its toothier neighbors. As it’s able to exist at a depth of an impressive 26,200 feet, it’s free to feast on smaller marine life without risk of getting eaten itself.

3. The secrets of the ocean floor

In 2012, James Cameron — yes, the Titanic director — climbed into a small specially-made submarine and spent two hours and 36 minutes descending to the lowest point of the Mariana Trench. This was the deepest solo dive in human history, and though Cameron didn’t exactly discover the Kraken, his adventure yielded some mightily interesting scientific results. Apart from various larger and weirder than expected (though not large enough to star in a disaster movie) bottom-dwellers, areas of the trench’s bottom were covered by an “astonishingly bizarre” ecosystem of a thick layer of bacteria that seemed to subsist solely on chemical reactions between the water and the rock.

It’s almost certain that Cameron’s dive was just scratching the surface, too — researchers have estimated that the bottom of the trench might house 50-100 species of xenophyophores (basically giant amoebas) alone, let alone all the other species Cameron saw… and, no doubt, many that we’ve yet to discover.

2. The whole Mariana Trench is a giant mystery

What do we know about the Mariana Trench? At the moment, next to nothing. The researchers keep constantly finding mysterious new species and freely admit that “much of the trench and surrounding areas remain unexplored.”

When you really think about what you’ve read on this list, is it any wonder? It’s almost like our planet custom designed the Mariana Trench to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and made it as difficult as possible for a fragile human being to observe. It’s a place of total darkness, cold, and crushing pressures, populated by alien-looking creatures and constantly bombarded by constant noise from both man-made and natural sources. All in all, there are belief systems out there that have less scary hells.

1. The most horrifying beast in the Mariana Trench

Yes, of course it’s humans. It’s always humans, even in the least people-friendly crevasse on the planet.

In 2019, a diver reportedly discovered several candy wrappers and a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench, a good 35,849 feet under the sea. This means we’ve already managed to contaminate the place that we have barely begun to explore, and it’s getting pretty bad. In fact, a group of experts estimated in 2017 that certain areas of the Mariana Trench are more contaminated than some of the most polluted rivers in China.

Interestingly, many deep sea amphipods hanging around at the bottom of the trench (and the oceans in general) are now stuffing themselves with plastics and microfibers that litter the sea floor. It remains to be seen how this affects them, and what effect their new diet will have on the ocean’s ecosystem in the long run. Experts’ predictions, unfortunately, aren’t too great.


The Grand Canyon of the Pacific –

WIF Oceanography

Diving Deep Into Oceans – Sea-ing WIF Mysteries

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Bizarre Mysteries

of the Sea

Oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface, and if you think what horrors and marvels the rest of the 30% host, it should come as no surprise that the watery parts of our planet have more than their share of strange stuff as well.

What may surprise you, however, is just how unbelievably weird and mysterious the oceans can get. Here are 10 of our favorite creepy secrets of the sea.

10. Something is eating great white sharks

In 2014, scientists discovered that some strange and no doubt terrifying aquatic creature was snacking on great white sharks, which was worrying because great whites are pretty much the apex predator of the oceans. The phenomenon was discovered off the coast of Southwest Australia where a great white wearing a research tag suddenly dove to 1,903 feet, while the tag (which was later discovered on a beach 2.5 miles from the incident) recorded a temperature spike from 46°F to 78°F. The abrupt plunge and the rising temperature strongly suggested that something had attacked the large shark — but what?

Initially, experts thought that the shark may have been eaten by an even bigger shark, which is pretty creepy already. However, an even more terrifying potential reason eventually emerged: The shark may have been the victim of an orca. Apparently, the killer whales occasionally like to attack great whites. There’s even a documented incident of two orcas attacking a great white and eating its liver, possibly with fava beans and a nice chianti. There’s no consensus on just how common these supposedly rare attacks are, but great whites are certainly aware of them. They appear to be so terrified of orcas that when a pod of killer whales visits a great white’s hunting grounds for just a few hours, the sharks may flee in abject terror and avoid the area for up to a year. Yeah, the ocean is so scary that even great white sharks refuse to go to the rougher neighborhoods.

9. The milky sea effect

It’s one thing to encounter terrifying creatures at sea, and completely another when the sea itself starts acting strange. We’re not talking about huge waves or other weather phenomena, either — we’re talking about a phenomenon where a giant part of the ocean suddenly lights up in an eerie glow. It’s called the milky sea effect, and the areas it affects are so vast that you can sometimes even see them from space In 2005, the phenomenon was captured in photos by the Naval Research Laboratory, and that particular instance spanned a whopping 5,780 square miles — roughly the size of Connecticut.

Oh, and here’s the creepy thing: We have absolutely no idea what’s causing the milky sea effect, how its instances form and what’s the source of the illumination. Right now, the best scientists can do is hazard a guess about huge colonies of bioluminescent bacteria.

8. Devil’s Sea

The Bermuda Triangle may be the go-to area when it comes to strange maritime disappearances and legends of all sorts of paranormal shenanigans. However, the Devil’s Sea in Japan’s corner of the Pacific Ocean can certainly put up a fight. Reportedly, many ships have vanished there, including multiple large vessels in the 1950s. In fact, between 1950 and 1954 alone, no less than nine large freighters reportedly disappeared in the area, and none of them managed to send out a distress call. When the Japanese government got fed up with the situation, they sent a ship called Kaiyo-Maru to research the situation. Reportedly, it disappeared too.

Of course, it must be noted that not everyone attributes these disappearances to sea monsters and aliens, or even believes that there are disproportionate amounts of vanished ships at all. According to Skeptoid, the whole thing is a brainchild of paranormal researcher Ivan T. Sanderson, who invented the Devil’s Sea as part of his theory of “vile vortices,” a set of 10 Bermuda Triangle -like areas with otherworldly attributes. This would cast a number of legends around the area in a rather dubious light — although Skeptoid admits that the disappearance of the Kaiyo-Maru seems to be a legitimate event, so who knows?

7. The Yonaguni “monument”

What would you do if you unexpectedly found a sunken ruin from an ancient civilization? Such a thing happened to marine geologist Masaaki Kimura in 1986, at least if you ask Masaaki Kimura. He was diving off the coast of Japan’s Ryukyu islands when he came across a vast, mysterious rock formation that was so angular and complex that it looked a lot like a man-made structure. Kimura set out to research what became known as the Yonaguni monument, and says that it’s clearly man-made. He also says that there are carvings on some of the structures, and that the “monument” is actually a vast complex that features roads, castles, pyramids and even a stadium. This has led him to conclude that the Yonaguni monument is actually the remains of the Atlantis-like Lost Continent of Mu.

Other scientists disagree, and point out that the rock’s formations are actually perfectly normal for large masses of sandstone in tectonically active underwater areas. However, even if the majority of the structure may not have been built by human hands, pottery from 2500 BCE has been found in the area, so there’s a chance that humans lived in the area before it went underwater, and perhaps even altered the rock formations.

6. The Baltic Sea anomaly

In 2011, the Ocean X shipwreck hunting team led by Peter Lindberg captured a strange sonar image at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The vaguely Millennium Falcon-shaped object in the picture became known as the Baltic Sea Anomaly, and it soon started attracting all sorts of UFO-themed attention.

Unfortunately for the X-Files-minded, the Anomaly wasn’t a submerged portion of Area 51, or a sign of an ancient civilization. While many experts were initially puzzled by its true nature, even Lindberg himself didn’t truly think it was an alien spacecraft (since they could tell it wasn’t metallic). As such, the reason it caused a big stir was not a “Whoa, aliens” situation, but rather interest over the fact that the Anomaly was so difficult to identify. Well, difficult to people who aren’t geologists — after all, they’re quite certain that the Anomaly is merely a glacial deposit.

5. All sorts of unexplained sounds

The ocean can be a noisy place, and every so often, humanity encounters an underwater sound that’s unlike anything we’ve ever heard. Although the famous “Bloop” sound eventually turned out to be a natural phenomenon known as icequake, there are still plenty of aural underwater oddities to entice and creep out the enquiring mind.

The “Upsweep” is an odd, ongoing constellation of shortish, upsweeping sounds that originate from somewhere in Pacific, and seem to get louder during spring and autumn. No one knows what’s going on, but the prevailing theory is that it has something to do with volcanic activity. “Slow down” is a periodical, gradually slowing seven-minute sound that some people attribute to giant squids, and others insist is just the noise of an iceberg running aground. Then there are individual, unexplained noises such as “Julia” and “The Whistle” — and, of course, the most tragic sound of them all, “52 Hertz.”

52 Hertz is not as mysterious as it is sad, as the sound belongs to a lonesome whale that has a peculiar 52-hertz call that’s much higher than other whale calls, and due to this it’s likely that the animal has never found a mate. Scientists have dubbed it “the loneliest whale in the world,” and have tried to track its location for over two decades, presumably to give it a bro hug and tell it that there are other fish in the sea.

4. The submarine disappearances of 1968

Submarines are dangerous things, so it’s no surprise that every so often, there’s an accident. However, what if four submarines from different countries disappeared in mysterious circumstances within months of each other, and there’s not even a World War raging? This exact thing happened between January and May 1968. The first ship to go was the Israeli INS Dakar, which disappeared in January in the Mediterranean Sea, along with its 69-man crew. Two days after that, the French Minerve and its crew of 52 disappeared on the same region on a routine patrol mission under an experienced captain. After that, things took a turn towards the Cold War: The Soviet nuclear sub K-129 and its 98-man crew went permanently down in Pacific in March, and in May, the equally nuclear USS Scorpion went to the bottom of the North Atlantic sea.

While the sinkings (probably) weren’t the work of a frustrated sea monster who wanted the annoying humans from gentrifying the neighborhood, it doesn’t make the stories behind these four disasters any less interesting. INS Dakar’s wreckage was found in 1999, and while it purportedly just dove deeper than its hull could handle, the denials from the Israeli military and a 2005 interview of an Egyptian naval officer who claims to have sunk the Dakar make its final fate pretty good conspiracy theory material. The reason for Minerve’s loss remains a mystery, but its remains were found in 2019 after an extensive operation.

In 1974, the CIA managed to lift parts of the K-129 in the huge, secretive Project Azorian, which nevertheless leaked to the press within a year, giving birth to the phrase “we can neither confirm and deny” as the Agency was flailing to keep things secret as long as they could. USS Scorpion, on the other hand, remains at the bottom of the sea, its nuclear wreckage no doubt carefully monitored by all parties. We still don’t know whether it was destroyed by a hull breach, an explosion within the submarine, or a Soviet torpedo.

3. The sea serpent sighting of HMS Daedalus

In the “here there be dragons” age of maritime travel when monsters were very much considered an occupational hazard of sailing, one of the more interesting sightings of supposed giant sea serpents came from an account by Captain Peter M’Quhae of HMS Daedalus, a British vessel that purportedly encountered such a monster on August 6, 1848. In an official report to the Admiralty, the captain described a huge, serpentine creature with a large head and “at the very least” 60 feet of unseen body that it used to propel itself forward.

To this day, the story remains one of the more enticing accounts of monstrous sea creatures thanks to the general perceived trustworthiness of Royal Navy officers, and their unlikeliness to fabricate such sightings. Still, even at the time, some biologists pointed out that the good captain and his officers had probably just seen an elephant seal and gotten confused.

2. The vanishing island of Bermeja

Off the Yucatan peninsula, there used to be a tiny, uninhabited island called Bermeja. We say “used to,” because at some point, the island disappeared. For centuries, it used to feature on the area’s maps, but by the time the 18th Century rolled in, it slowly started to fade away from cartography, and its last confirmed appearance in a map was in 1921. Mexico has been quite keen to know what happened to their tiny island, and in 2009 alone there were three attempts to locate it with cutting edge technology, all to no avail.

There seems to be two main theories regarding Bermeja’s relatively sudden disappearance. One is that the low-lying island sank because of rising sea levels or an island-sinking natural disaster. The other is that, uh, the CIA blew up the island because the area contained oil and they wanted to improve the U.S. claim on it. However, there’s a third, arguably even stranger possibility: That Bermeja never existed. Early explorers sometimes drew maps with inaccuracies that only they knew about, so their competitors could not rely on them. Bermeja might be such an inaccuracy that at some point went viral among the cartographers, only to eventually fall into obscurity when everyone started making accurate maps. Mexico, however, claims to have information that Bermeja existed, though not in the location the maps show… so it appears the jury is still out on the “phantom island” and its true nature.

1. The immortal jellyfish

What’s the most mysterious creature of the sea? Most people would probably say it’s the giant squid, or one of the many cryptozoological monsters that supposedly roam the oceans. However, a tiny jellyfish known as Turritopsis dohrnii leaves all them in shame, for reasons best described by its nickname: The immortal jellyfish.

The immortal jellyfish is exactly what it says on the tin: It can live forever. T. dohrnii can alternate between polyp and medusa states, and whenever it is injured or comes to the apparent end of its natural life, it just turns its old and damaged cells back to young, virile ones and goes right on. It basically has the healing powers of Wolverine and can reverse-age like Benjamin Button, only at will.

This ability to basically reset itself and start with a full health bar whenever death comes knocking makes Turritopsis dohrnii one of the most incredible instances of marine life, and if science can ever learn to harness its powers… well, let’s just say we’d all save a lot on hospital bills.


Diving Deep Into Oceans –

Sea-ing WIF Mysteries

Tape, Teflon, Velcro, Virility and Mastercard – WIF Simple

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Simple Technologies

That Changed

the World

There are numerous examples of breakthroughs that humans have used or discovered in their existence that have catapulted us to the top of the food chain. The wheel, the steam engine, the printing press, etc. These advances are known to most people, and we realize that without those things existing, we’re still in the dark ages.

But there are also lots of little blips on the timeline throughout human history of simpler things between the lines. These technologies may not have the same lustre as the heavy hitters, but if you tried to imagine your daily life without these things being developed and perfected, you would quickly see that they’re every bit as important. Here are some simple technologies that changed the world in profound ways.

10. Duct Tape

That sticky grey tape that seems to hold most of the world together these days draws its history back to the Second World War. The military used the tape to keep their ammunition boxes sealed, but quickly found that there were tons of other uses for it. What began as medical tape was found to have incredibly adhesive qualities as well as inherent waterproofing, which led to soldiers calling it “duck tape,” referring to a duck’s wicking feathers.

Once the war ended, soldiers returned home and began buying houses en masse. They also took lots of jobs with construction companies, and told their bosses about this incredibly sticky tape they used during the war. The tape was used for all sorts of HVAC applications, but mostly for holding ductwork together. So “duck tape” became “duct tape,” but in 1998, a test of common HVAC sealing materials was conducted. Duct tape came in dead last. Quack.

9. Teflon Pans

When scientists in the 1930s developed a new kind of polymer that was superbly heat resistant and uber-slippery. They used it in war, because that’s just what was going on at the time. But it took until the ‘60s when they decided that it would be great for keeping food from sticking to pans.

And it wasn’t just pans–the non-stick coating known as Teflon changed the home kitchen for good by also being applied to muffin and cake tins as well as cookie sheets. Clean up was a breeze. The coating could handle high heat. The only thing they were kind of bad at was not killing people. The workers that produced Teflon were basically poisoned by the material, and that sickness was passed on to lord knows how many consumers. One of the components in Teflon that was responsible wasn’t banned until 2014.

8. Smoke Detectors

Think of all the things you probably take for granted in our homes in the present day, and smoke detectors are likely near the top of the list. Those little gadgets have saved countless lives, yet you hardly notice them until their batteries run low. They’ve become standard and required in homes these days, so it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t around. And they happened by accident.

In the 1930s, a scientist in Switzerland was trying to make a device that detected poison gas in the air. While it failed to pick up the presence of the tested poison, when he lit a cigarette, the smoke did trip the alarm. It took until the late 1960s before they found their way into homes, and have now cut fire-related deaths by half.

7. Viagra

A little blue pill that’s only been around for twenty years shouldn’t have such an impact on the world that it’s had, especially since it’s not cured any major disease, instead letting men experience the wonder of full erections. But Viagra has basically changed sex around the world.

In 1991, testing began on what would become Viagra, but it was developed with the intention of lowering blood pressure. But during the studies, there was a certain side effect that the men involved could not ignore. The development of the drug headed in the direction of restoring sexual health to men, and within ten years, 200,000 prescriptions a week were being filled. It changed the way men confronted diminishing sex drives. It also helped unknown diseases related to erectile dysfunction become treated when men came to the doctor seeking Viagra.

6. Credit Cards

A fixture of every wallet known to man, the credit card is simultaneously boosting the economy and bankrupting countless people with no financial acumen. The concept of “pay us later, we’re sure you’re good for it,” and then tacking on insane interest amounts is a fairly new concept. At least in card form. But they’re ubiquitous now, with around 18 billion in use.

In 1949, businessman Frank McNamarawas at a restaurant and realized he had forgotten his wallet. This made him envision a kind of card that could be used at multiple businesses. He started Diners Club the next year, and within the next decade, more and more banks started making their own credit cards. Fast forward to present day, and Americans alone possess over a trillion dollars in credit card debt. So in less than a hundred years, we’ve done some damage, haven’t we?

5. UPC Codes

You’ve seen that little box of black lines on the side of every product you buy, even more so when you’re struggling to find them in the self-checkout line. The UPC code (Bar Code) gets scanned, the price shows up, and it’s a pretty expedient process. But how did that get to become the norm?

In 1948, Joseph Woodland (who had actually worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear bomb) was responding to a query from a local store owner about how to speed up the process of buying products in his store. Woodland thought about Morse Code and its simple way of giving lots of information with dots and lines, so he made that his inspiration. His innovation could describe an item and its price all at once, instead of the snail’s pace of non-automated operations that most stores suffered through. The only thing that held back progress was the lack of computers readily available to read the code, so it took until 1974 when the technology began to roll out to stores nationwide.

4. Barbed Wire

Two problems faced the American West as it grew and expanded: cattle were getting loose and trampling precious crops, and there wasn’t enough wood in those regions to build fences. The Homestead Act of 1862 made it so many people could get vast tracts of land for next to nothing, so it was important that they be able to work that land and have secure properties.

Enter Joseph Glidden of Illinois, who patented barbed wire in 1874. It wasn’t without its growing pains, as the wire trapped dumb cows by the thousands, and cowboys hated their herds being restricted by the artificial borders. And those very borders that marked a person’s property also screwed over Native Americans, as these practices left them with even fewer claims to their ancestral lands. The Homestead Act required that a person build a home and work the land for five years before it would become theirs to own. The barbed wire was a metaphorical and physical realization that their way of life was over.

3. Velcro

Zippers were still very much the rage in 1941, when Swiss engineer George de Mestral came upon an idea while walking his dog in the woods one day. He noticed how his clothing and his dog were covered in sticky burrs, the pointy little things that always prick your fingers are you’re removing them. Under a microscope, he saw how the curved hooks of the burrs met with his clothing in an almost perfect marriage. Zippers were no longer the only game in town.

Zippers tended to jam all the time. Velcro, as it would come to be in 1955 (from the French words “velour” and “crochet”) didn’t have that problem. Though originally implemented in clothing, it’s now used in everything from sporting equipment to NASA craft. And whoever began using it in little kids’ clothing should eventually get their own medal.

2. Daylight saving time

Ok, so maybe not exactly a technology, but the advent of daylight saving (it’s not “savings”, by the way) time has changed a lot about our modern world. First started in Germany in 1916 as a way to enjoy the sunshine and to conserve electricity, it began to catch on in other countries around the world soon after.

In the United States, it was started in 1918 as a wartime practice. It was repealed the next year after farmers protested; the next few decades saw back and forth fighting and different start times for daylight saving across the country. Finally in 1966, the Uniform Time Act made time, uh, uniform across the country. The central concept, energy conservation, doesn’t really seem to be a benefit though. The stuff that uses the most electricity in our homes are things that get used the more we are home, if that makes sense. It seems that the money that gets boosted into the economy by people enjoying more leisure “daytime” in the evening is enough to keep the practice in use.

1. Transistors

Think of the devices that power your everyday life: smartphones, computers, tablets, etc. They all have one thing in common at their very core, and that’s the very simple transistor. The development of the transistor signaled the developmental shift from hardware to software, and it’s why technology has surged light years ahead since its inception.

A transistor is merely a type of semiconductor that either amplifies signals or switches them. Invented in 1947, it was a device far ahead of its time, and as computing devices grew and became more efficient, so too did the transistor. Computers got smaller and became household items, while transistors shrunk down to the size of a few nanometers. Those tiny transistors are one of the only unchanged (aside from size) building blocks of the entire digital age.


Tape, Teflon, Velcro, Virility and Mastercard –

WIF Simple

Contemplate ~ Deliberate ~ Meditate ~ Ruminate – WIF Reflection on the Human Brain

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Your Brain

is Crazier

Than You Think

The human brain is, so far as we know, the most complicated thing in the universe. It exists in the lonely darkness of the skull, but by interpreting electrical signals from the senses it’s able to build up a detailed picture of the world around it.

Quite how accurate this picture is, and how closely one person’s version of reality matches with that of another, is not known for sure. It is nonetheless an impressive trick.

There’s still a great deal we don’t understand about the human brain, and it may well be that we’re never going to be smart enough to figure it out completely.

We do know that a lot of strange and extraordinary things are going on inside our heads. These are ten reasons why your brain might be crazier than you think.

10. Your Brain’s too Complex for a Supercomputer

Japan’s K computer is one of the fastest and most powerful supercomputers in the world. Its 88,000 processors are capable of an astonishing 10.51 quadrillion computations per second, and it chews its way through roughly the same amount of electricity as a medium-sized town.

Since becoming operational in 2011, at which point it was ranked as the fastest computer in the world, the machine’s capabilities have been harnessed for medical research, disaster prevention, and modelling climate change. In 2014 it was used to create the most accurate simulation of a human brain’s activity ever attempted.

Only a mere 1% of the brain’s entire neural network was simulated, anything more would have been too much even for a machine as powerful and sophisticated as the K Computer. Even then it required some heavy lifting, and it took the Japanese machine some 40 minutes to replicate just one second of brain activity.

The K Computer is due for retirement in August 2019, having been surpassed by ever faster and more powerful machines. Even these are not yet capable of replicating the complexity of the human brain.

9. Memory Capacity

In 2007 a Canadian named Dave Farrow broke a world record when he successfully memorized a sequence of 3,068 playing cards.

While this is an extraordinary achievement, particularly for those of us who struggle to remember where we left our keys, it only scratches the surface of the human brain’s memory storage capacity.

Until recently this was believed to come in at somewhere around one and ten terabytes, but recent studies suggest the true total is several orders of magnitude greater.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies believe the average human brain can store over a petabyte of data. That’s the equivalent of 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text, or around 2% of the total number of written words in every language in all recorded history.

Much of this capacity is devoted to such things as ensuring you don’t wake up having forgotten how to read a book or drive. By necessity, only a fraction of the remainder is available to you at any one time. It would be enormously inconvenient if you had to trawl through your memories of everywhere you’d ever been to work out where you lived.

8. Half a Brain can be Enough

Human brains are by no means the largest brains in the world. That particular distinction belongs to the sperm whale, whose brains are around six times as heavy as our own. However, comparing brain size with body mass is a far better indication of intelligence. By this measure the humble tree shrew comes out on top, with humans placing in second.

Surprisingly, it’s possible to remove an entire hemisphere of a human brain with no negative impact on the individual’s intelligence or memory.

In rare cases surgeons have no option other than to perform a hemispherectomy in order to prevent a patient’s seizures. In an adult this would be catastrophic, but the outcomes for children who undergo the procedure at a very young age are surprisingly positive. Their brains are able to adapt in a way that an older brain could not.

A recent study found that not only are most of the children who underwent the procedure seizure free, many were thriving. One had even gone on to become a state chess champion.

7. You Might Not Have Free Will

It seems obvious that humans have free will. We make thousands of decisions every day, and every time we act on these decisions we experience free will first hand. There is, however, a strong case to be made that free will is nothing more than an illusion conjured by our brains.

While it used to be believed that mind and matter were two separate entities, we can now say with a good deal of confidence that mind does not exist independently. The brain seems to be entirely material, which suggests that it must obey the law of causality – that every effect must have a specific cause.

This leaves little or no room for free will. Any decision we make or action we take is an inevitable result of the brain state which immediately preceded it, going back to even before the moment we were born.

This sounds odd, but it’s an established fact that humans are terrible judges of their own behaviour. They can be manipulated into acting in a certain way; when asked why they have done so they will subconsciously post-rationalize the action and insist they had made a decision based on their own free will.

The question of whether free will really is an illusion is far from settled, and a new $7 million study has just been launched in an attempt to come to a definitive answer.

6. Brain Plasticity

In 2014 a Chinese man visited his doctor’s surgery in Great Britain complaining of headaches and strange smells. Scans revealed a parasitic worm burrowing its way through the unfortunate man’s brain, and doctors believed it had most likely been in there for as long as five years.

That he had been able to function for so long with such relatively manageable symptoms is testament to the brain’s remarkable ability to reorganize and rewire itself.

Whenever we learn a new skill, or even form new memories, the brains physical architecture remodels itself. The hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with spatial navigation, is significantly larger in London taxi drivers than in the average person. Differences in brain structure have also been found between musicians and non-musicians.

The brain’s 90-billion or so neurons are linked by trillions of connections. Learning a new skill forms new links, while recalling a memory strengthens existing links. Our brains are constantly changing, adapting, and forming new connections. It’s this brain plasticity that means stroke victims are often able to make a full recovery despite suffering permanent damage to parts of their brain.

5. Your Brain Might be a Secret Genius

For 31 years Jason Padgett’s existence was relatively unremarkable. He worked as a futon salesman, and his free time revolved around drinking and picking up women.

That all changed in 2002 when he became the victim of a vicious, unprovoked assault outside a nightclub. Padgett managed to stagger to a hospital across the street, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a severe concussion.

Padgett’s life would never be the same again. The violent attack had somehow unlocked a previously untapped ability in his brain.

Whereas previously he had shown no particular interest or aptitude for mathematics, the attack had transformed him into a mathematical genius. Even the way he saw the world had been profoundly changed. It looked as though it was pixelated, and everywhere he looked he saw complex mathematical shapes known as fractals.

While Padgett’s experience was extremely unusual, it wasn’t entirely unique. There are other instances of people suffering a brain injury, only to come into possession of extraordinary new abilities.

Acquired savant syndrome is rare, with only a few known cases across the world. But some scientists believe almost any human brain could potentially be rewired to unlock the genius within.

4. You Remember the Past all Wrong

Our memories are fundamental in determining our sense of self. Without them we would be both literally and figuratively lost in the world. Considering their profound importance to us, it’s surprising just how unreliable our memories are, and how little we know about how they are formed.

Conventional wisdom has it that memories are recalled through connected neurons across the brain all firing at the same moment. Other research suggests that memories physically reside within brain cells.

However it’s done, the results aren’t terribly reliable. Memories aren’t recorded perfectly ready to be retrieved with total clarity at some future date.

According to research conducted by neuroscientists such as Daniela Schiller, each time we recall an event our memory of it is brought into an unstable state within the brain. When it is stored back into memory again our recollection of that event is slightly altered.

We use our memories to tell ourselves a story of who we are, but our source material is deeply unreliable.

3. When You Go on a Diet, Your Brain Eats Itself

The human brain is made up of something in the region of 90 billion neurons. Until recently it was believed that all of these are present from birth. We now know that through a process called neurogenesis it is possible for even adult brains to create brand new neurons. This is good news as we’ll lose plenty of neurons as we navigate our way through life.

Obesity, smoking, alcohol, and cocaine have all been linked with killing off brain cells and even physically shrinking the size of the brain, and a recent study suggests that even dieting can cause the brain to cannibalize itself.

Despite only weighing about 3 pounds, the brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy, and when there’s fewer calories than expected coming in it doesn’t seem to much like it.  The neurons start cannibalizing each other, which sends out an urgent message to the body that it needs to eat something in the very near future. This explains why losing weight can be so difficult.

2. Your Brain Doesn’t Have Pain Receptors

When our bodies suffer physical injury, pain receptors fire warning signals up the spinal column to the thalamus, which serves as the brain’s sorting house for sensory signals. The message is then passed on to the regions of the brain that deal with physical sensation, thinking, and emotion. This results in the deeply unpleasant sensation of pain.

If the brain itself is injured, this doesn’t happen. It doesn’t have any pain receptors of its own. This means it’s quite possible for surgeons or neuroscientists to poke around in somebody’s brain with them fully conscious and in no discomfort. The patient is then able to assist doctors in mapping out the brain, helping to ensure no damage is done during the operation.

One Brazilian man named Anthony Kulkamp Dias even kept himself entertained by playing guitar whilst undergoing brain surgery.

1. Synesthesia can be Learned

Synesthesia is a condition that causes two or more of a person’s senses to become mixed up. One of the most common types is to perceive numbers as having a particular color. However, it comes in a wide variety of flavors, such as tasting words or perceiving the days of the week as having specific personalities or appearances.

The condition is often associated with particularly creative people. The famous physicist Richard Feynman saw equations in colors, and this may have helped him win a Nobel Prize in physics in 1965.

Around 1-in-300 people are born with synesthesia, but it’s possible to train your brain to experience it. A study at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom had subjects read books where certain words appeared in a certain color.

After several weeks of training most of the group reported seeing those colors even when reading standard black text. However, it seems the effects were not permanent, and within a few weeks the synesthesia had worn off.


Contemplate ~ Deliberate ~ Meditate ~ Ruminate –

WIF Reflection on the Human Brain

Getting to Know Our Neighbors – WIF Solar System Perspective

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Fascinating Mysteries

of the Planet Mars

For being one of the closest objects to us celestially, we still know about as much about the planet Mars as we do the depths of the ocean. Which is to say, not a lot. The things we’ve seen in pop culture about Mars makes us conjure a red, dusty planet where Matt Damon grows poop potatoes. But there’s more to Mars than that.

Mars is the second smallest planet in the solar system (with only about 10 percent of Earth’s mass), yet Earth and Mars have about the same amount of actual land. Mars also has the tallest mountain in the entire known solar system. Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, will be torn from the planet’s orbit one day, creating a ring that will last hundreds of millions of years. Those are some really cool things that we know about the planet. But there still remain many Martian mysteries that we haven’t quite figured out yet.

10. Mars has two drastically different hemispheres

The northern and southern hemispheres of Earth may have different kinds of topography, but they’re relatively similar. Mars, on the other hand, has a much lower and flatter northern hemisphere, while the southern hemisphere has an average elevation that’s about 3 miles higher. That’s a pretty drastic difference, geologically speaking, and no other planet we know of exhibits such a trait.

Scientists once thought that a huge asteroid could have crashed into the top half of Mars early in its life, making a much flatter northern hemisphere. Later computer simulations rendered that theory less than ideal, unless the asteroid only glanced against the planet. Like a big, rocky kiss that flattened part of Mars. Newer theories suggest that the resulting magma flow from such a cosmic punch would have inundated the southern hemisphere, creating the resulting terrain elevation difference.

9. Mars has a lot of methane (usually produced by living things)

We humans normally come across a slight knowledge of methane amounts from jokes about cow farts. And that’s part of it. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to the rising warmth of Earth. It’s trapped in our atmosphere and causes the temperature of our planet to rise even more than carbon dioxide does.

Mars, curiously, has a lot of methane too. But here’s the kicker: methane is usually released by living things. At least for the most part. So why is a planet that we’ve never discovered life on releasing a bio-signature? Well, we don’t know yet. It could have been trapped under ice for ages, or caused by a release from ancient microbes on the planet, or even from a freak chemical reaction. We do know that a plume of methane was detected by spacecraft in Mars’ orbit more than once, which is notable because the gas is finicky to pick up, especially in such a thin atmosphere that the planet possesses.

8. Mars has signs of water, but it can’t be from the surface

The discovery of ice near the poles of Mars sent ripples throughout the scientific community in 2008. If there’s ice, that means there’s water, and if there’s water, that means there could be life, right? Well slow down there, Andretti, because there’s a lot more going on here.

Yes, there have been more and more spottings of icy polar caps and frost-filled craters. And that’s really cool. But what if we told you there was a subterranean lake of standing water on Mars? It shouldn’t be possible. Liquids at that depth from the surface should have a temperature of -68 degrees Celsius. Orbiting satellites have yet to get a visual on this “lake,” but that could be hard since, you know, it’s underground. And of course a portion of the science community is using this to prove that life on Mars is an indisputable truth. It is pretty tempting, especially if you think back to how and where we humans began.

7. Can we live on Mars?

This one seems pretty straightforward. It would be a hard no, correct? At least with the technological capabilities we have currently? And the atmosphere is way different than Earth’s, so we couldn’t just walk around like we do in everyday life.

Yet in direct defiance of all things holy and sane, NASA is determined to get the ball rolling on human colonization of Mars. By 2030, they think they’ll get feet on the red planet. Radiation is an obvious concern if we were to ever set up shop there, so underground shelters would be a requisite. We can’t grow food in the soil. Like, at all. But, humans had to start from scratch here on Earth, so we would likely at some point find a way to use Mars’ alien resources to develop new methods of survival. There really isn’t a way to know how we could fare on Mars, long-term, until the first people reach the planet.

6. Why did Mars totally change its climate?

One billion years, in the grand scheme of the universe, isn’t much at all. Four billion years ago, judging from the vast veins of old waterbeds on Mars’ surface, water flowed all over the planet. Since we know that Mars is about four and a half billion years old, science can say with some certainty that the red, dusty planet we think of now actually used to be quite moist.

Then somewhere along the way in the next few billion years, something happened. The atmosphere of Mars starting disappearing. The sun reached the next stages in the life cycle of a star and became hotter. So how did the red planet continue to have water in a place in the universe where the sun should have evaporated it all? Scientists have a pretty cool-sounding theory that maybe Mars was in orbit much closer to the sun, closer to Venus, and then began trailing behind like a C student, eventually ending up where it presently resides. It’s also about the best answer we currently have, because we don’t even really know why Earth has water.

5. We don’t know much about Mars’ two moons

For being as close as it is to Earth, we know very little about Mars, and even less about Mars’ two weird moons, Phobos and Deimos. Some think they may have possibly been asteroids that were snagged into orbit by Mars, but the problem with that theory is that the shapes and angles of the moons don’t necessarily fit that scenario. More likely, something struck Marshard, and flung the eventual moons out into orbit.

While we’re in the realm of the weird, there are some formations on Phobos that would give conspiracy theorists night sweats. There’s what seems to be a large rectangular monolith on Phobos, standing over 90 meters tall. While it’s likely just an abnormal chunk of Martian rock, it’s still pretty notable.

4. What caused the bright white light in a 2019 photo?

When you are in charge of receiving photos of Mars from a rover light years away, you might be taken aback when you see a picture with a bright white spot where there shouldn’t be one. An image taken in June 2019 by the Curiosity rover showed a weird white glow emanating in the distance behind some hills.

Aliens were the immediate explanation by non-scientists, as you would expect. But it was most likely a lens flare or a cosmic ray, and NASA admittedly has captured tons of these things. The white anomaly doesn’t show up in pictures taken immediately before or after the event, and the team that created the Curiosity’s camera system says that they come across oodles of pictures with bright spots every week. Still, can they prove it was a lens flare? That seems exactly like something aliens would say to throw us off.

3. What lines the dry ice pits at Mars’ poles?

We mentioned before that the poles of Mars contain some known deposits of ice, which means liquid, which means potential for life. We also know that near the southern pole is a sub-glacial lake, the first known stable body of water we’ve found on the planet. What’s really interesting about those polar caps is that nearby there are some pits of dry ice that are lined with … well, we don’t really know.

There is some kind of dust that lines these gorgeous pits. They’re huge, some of them two hundred feet across. There is a possibility that the dust they’re lined with what could be gold, but we still don’t know for sure.

2. How do Mars’ giant dust storms happen?

Dust-Storm-On-Mars

The thin, brittle atmosphere on Mars is absolutely perfect for some truly epic dust storms that can shoot particles at speeds of over 60 MPH and, in some cases, cover the entire planet for weeks at a time.

Thing is, those planetary-scale dust storms still hold a lot of mystery in them. We think that they may be the largest dust storms in the solar system, and since the planet is essentially a desert, it doesn’t take much to get them rolling. And while science is pretty sure that sunshine is the catalyst, they aren’t too sure how they get to become so massive. One theory thinks that the dust particles are warmed by the sunlight, which then warm the thin atmosphere, causing more wind, and thus capturing more particles in a repeating cycle. We, of course, still say aliens.

1. Did Earth life come from Mars?

Bear with us here, because we’re about to get weird. So, perhaps you’re already passingly familiar with the basic theories of how life began: Big Bang, primordial ooze, etc. Well, early on in Earth’s history, the building blocks of life were pretty much non-existent. Remember how we mentioned that early Mars could have been a quintessential Goldilocks planet? What if the essentials for life came from outer space, survived the trip on a meteorite, for example, and arrived on Earth and evolved there? It’s something science is highly considering.

It’s called panspermia, and it suggests life arrived on our home planet in the form of spores. So basically, life may have arrived on Earth, not started on Earth. The primordial soup version of life-building holds some water, sure, but it’s that exact water that almost kills RNA (a fundamental part of genetics) in its tracks. Minerals like boron and molybdenum give life to RNA, and those were plentiful on Mars four billion years ago. So when we talk about aliens on Mars, we’re probably just referring to our last universal common ancestor.


Getting to Know Our Closest Neighbor –

WIF Solar System Perspective

SETI, Bicycles, Gravity, Placebos and Baghdad – WIF Scientific Mysteries

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Science Still

Hasn’t Solved

These Mysteries

The science community has granted us a wealth of knowledge that can never be overstated. Things that used to mystify our ancestors can now be understood and more appreciated. It’s shaped our view of the world, the universe, the animal kingdom, human psychology — literally everything you know has been helped along by science and the men and women who dedicate their lives to finding out the whos, whats, whens, whys, and hows of stuff. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

But with science having that intrinsic aspect of being ever-evolving, it’s never foolproof or absolute. Built right into the scientific method are allowances for screw-ups or just plain not knowing something. And you might be surprised that some very basic parts of life here on our planet totally baffle some of our best and brightest smarties. Here are some examples of mysteries that science has yet to crack.

10. Why do we sleep?

Now here is one you think we’d have nailed down by now. Almost every single person in the world sleeps daily (unless you’re a Rolling Stones guitarist). And the answer probably seems obvious to most of us: we sleep to rest our bodies after the day. We can hold off on food, water, even sex for days on end, but when it’s sleepytime, nature takes over and our bodies ask for the check.

Except it’s not as simple as just needing rest. Science has educated guesses which include all sorts of reasons for sleep, like making time for our brains to get things in order after a long day, to reinforce memories, or to replenish fuel lost while awake. But then you throw in examples of plants and other organisms that don’t have any brains at all like we do, yet still have “sleep” patterns similar to ours, and people who have gene mutations which let them function without much sleep at all, and we begin to see our very limited understanding of why we sleep.

9. How does gravity work?

Gravity, as we learn in school, is very simple… right? There are forces within our planet that pull things toward the center. So if you throw something in the air, it comes back down. Gravity keeps you on the ground. It’s also what keeps the planets orbiting around the sun. This is all very simple, and we’ve known it since we were able to learn information. So why does science have so much difficulty explaining it?

Basically, gravity is one of four forces in our universe, which also include electromagnetism, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Gravity is the weakest of the four, and while we seem to grasp the concept of gravity with earthly examples, when things get too small or too big, like black holes and atoms, that’s when science and Newton’s principles don’t really make sense. And a simple science experiment you’ve seen before, where a balloon rubbed on your shirt creates enough electromagnetism to negate gravity and lift your hair or a piece of paper, shows just how easily gravity can sometimes, well, disappear.

8. Why are most people right handed?

People seem to take notice when someone uses their left hand for something, as if it’s some kind of freak mutation that’s just manifested itself. And while it’s rare for someone to be a natural southpaw (about 10 percent of the world’s population), it’s not quite the same as running across someone who, say, has horns growing out of their head.

So why do people deviate from the norm, in terms of handedness? Is it a genetic mutation? The environment they’re brought up in? Is it hereditary? Science doesn’t really know, and it doesn’t even really have an empirically-established way to measure handedness. Science does lean toward genetics, but there are even problems with that, as some teachers in school force children to become right handed when learning to write, and there is some data as to cultural and societal factors influencing which hand becomes dominant. Weirdly enough, we’ve learned why people become right-handed, but not why right is the “right” way. If that makes sense.

7. Why does anesthesia work?

It’s the divine gas that makes people not have to be acutely aware of their leg being amputated, among other things. The introduction of anesthesia granted patients the ability to snooze through all sorts of medical procedures, and it’s been a godsend since the mid-1800s — not only for the patients, but for doctors who had to deal with squirrely, wide-awake amputee victims. What started as an inhaled ether on its inception has become a more refined chemical blend that renders the recipient unconscious.

But we don’t really know how it does that. Think about it. When you’re asleep, you’re unconscious, right? But you would sure feel a scalpel opening you up, wouldn’t you? So why is the anesthesia unconsciousness different? And it’s an even bigger mystery as to how the diverse chemicals in the anesthetic, ranging from steroids to inert gases, can work together to achieve such a deep unconscious level that takes you about as close to death’s door as is possible. It seems that under anesthesia, different parts of the brain are affected much like a coma patient’s brain would be. All in all, it’s a wonderful tool in medicine and we don’t really know why.

6. Why do cats purr?

“Awwww, it’s because he/she LOVES ME!,” you likely think to yourself, ignoring the fact that if that cat was a little bigger, it would probably try to rip your face off. But it’s not a stupid assumption — most people probably associate the low rumbly purr of the kitty-cat to a feeling of happiness or contentedness. Science as a whole shrugs and meekly mumbles, “I dunno.”

See, cats also have a tendency to purr when they’re scared or hungry. Purring probably isn’t a form of communication, as it’s too low and local to be really effective. Also, in the realm of just pure weirdness, science has discovered that purring has been linked to bone regeneration. So there are many theories we have for why kittens just sit there and gently hum their bodies, but most likely it’s just a way for them to soothe themselves. Kind of like how we laugh for several different reasons.

5. Why was there a mysterious hum in New Mexico?

New Mexico has had a weird history of everything from nuclear bomb testings to Walter White standing on a dirt road in his tighty-whities. But the residents of the northern town of Taos have their own strange tale to tell, and it’s in reference to a local phenomenon called the “Taos Hum.”

Since the early ’90s, people in the town have described some kind of tangible audio event. Some call it a whirring kind of noise, or a buzz, or a humming in the air around Taos. A professor of engineering at the University of New Mexico studied the sounds around Taos, and noticed that around 2 percent of the population was susceptible to the strange hum. That doesn’t mean that they picked up any unusual sounds while conducting their research. Quite the opposite. Their very sensitive audio recording equipment and vibration sensors picked up nothing out of the ordinary. The fact that the townsfolk heard differing kinds of sounds is also of less scientific value than if they had all heard one low, persistent hum. And that’s why science is more keen to dismiss the Taos Hum as being part of the onslaught of background noise humans live in these days, mixed with subjective hearing experiences from the people themselves. The residents of Taos, however, stand firm in their belief of a weirder explanation. It is New Mexico, after all.

4. The ancient Baghdad batteries

Now, hear us out here. What if we told you that researchers working in Iraq in the 1930s found what totally appeared to be some kind of crude battery that may have been used to produce electrical charges, and that it likely dated from around 200 BC? Of course, that would predate that kind of technology by a couple thousand years.

What archaeologists originally thought were some kind of clay storage pots turned out upon closer inspection to contain copper rods within them. This led the scientists to strongly believe the pots would have held some kind of substance that would react to the copper rods and produce electricity. But why? Theories range from using the charge to shock people as punishment (those were stricter days), to using that electricity to electroplate things with gold. Another school of thought is that they found a way to make electricity long before knowing what the heck it was good for, kind of like the Chinese with gunpowder. Our turbulent history with Iraq doesn’t help us figure much of anything out, either.

3. Why does the placebo effect work?

You’ve all heard the basics of the placebo effect: it’s a treatment that isn’t “real,” but the very act of a patient believing in its effectiveness creates its own beneficial properties. If you expect a pill or drug to do something, it’s likely to work in some way. It seems mean, but science uses placebos especially when testing a new medication’s effectiveness. Which, maddeningly, is skewed because sometimes these placebos work. But why?

Beats us! The point of a placebo is you don’t know you’re taking it. But that opens up a whole host of problems because placebos can often work even when you know you’re taking one. That clearly goes against its entire purpose. In 2009, researchers testing treatments for irritable bowel syndrome found many subjects who knowingly took placebos got better at higher rates than those who received no treatment at all. That’s absolutely insane. And it seems that a person’s personality is tied to whether the placebo effect will work or not. But that’s just a guess so far. If that’s not enough stuff that science doesn’t get, there’s also potentially an inverse nocebo effect, where if you don’t believe a treatment will work, your symptoms will get worse. Our brains are weird, man.

2. Why are we getting repeating radio bursts from space?

Cue the History Channel “alien guy,” because this is clearly some extraterrestrial stuff, right? Slow down there, Captain SETI. Let’s lay out the basics first. A fast repeating signal burst from space, called FRB 121102, was first discovered in 2012. While we’ve come across some of these before, this one has repeated itself, though sporadically.

The bursts usually last about a millisecond, and we don’t yet know where they originate from. We know it’s from a galaxy 3 billion light-years away that was recently discovered, but that’s about all. The radio bursts, though short, are massive, containing as much energy as the sun produces in a day. The fact that it’s persistent and repeating makes scientists think the location could be near a black hole or a nebula. And the source itself has earned science’s best guess of a pulsar or neutron star. But that doesn’t mean the fantastical minds of scientists are ruling out extraterrestrial origins. What fun would it be to ruin those hopes?

1. How bicycles really work

What?? If science is really going to tell us they can’t figure out how a two-wheeled vehicle works, are we supposed to trust them about anything? And yet, the humble bicycle contains so much scientific mystery within.

Much of the mystery concerns the bicycle without a rider perched on it. If a bike is going fast enough, it’s going to want to balance itself so it doesn’t fall over. It even does with when someone is riding it, to a degree. That self-stability and why it occurs has eluded scientists since the 19th century. The commonly-held idea that the gyroscopic effect of the rotating front wheel keeps the bike stable has fallen apart under recent analysis. An alternate theory likens the wheel on a bicycle to the wheels on a shopping cart, in that they align themselves automatically in the direction being traveled. That also fell apart. It seems science does have a point where they just give up and break for lunch.


SETI, Bicycles, Gravity, Placebos and Baghdad –

WIF Scientific Mysteries