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Fantasy stories are set in worlds vastly different from our own, worlds where dragons exist, 100-year-old dudes look like sparkly teenagers, and going to magic school isn't unbearably sad. If you asked most people how these things are possible, they'd tell you, "Because fuck it; it's a story" -- but that's never stopped us from looking for actual, science-based explanations before. And sometimes those explanations make a frightening amount of sense ...

6
Hermione Granger Might Be The Product Of Illicit Wizard Sex (And Voldemort's An Idiot)

Warner Bros.

In the Harry Potter series, magic literally runs in your blood, but occasionally a muggle (regular people) family will have a wizard kid, or a wizard family will give birth to a non-magic child (or squib). Why does this happen? Because that's what J.K. Rowling wrote, shut up.

Obviously, some fans didn't accept this "explanation" and went looking for their own, midi-chlorians-style. The Harry Potter Lexicon prepared an entire essay on wizard genetics -- and based on their impressively complete models, magical ability is a genetic trait that follows the same rules as more benign things, like eye color or whether or not you got your dad's gross double-jointed thumbs.

The Harry Potter Lexicon
The "aa" baby here would be a squib, doomed to a life of mediocrity
and magical correspondence courses.

If magic is a dominant gene, then in theory squibs should never appear in pure-blood wizard families under normal circumstances. This means that when they do, it's because of a mutation ... or a parent having an affair with a muggle (who was probably coming back from a costume party or something). Same goes for muggle-born kids who can use magic, like Harry's friend Hermione: They're the product of illicit wizard-fucking, or they're mutants. Or both. Wizard-fuck-mutants, if you will.

Warner Bros.
This would explain her preference for other freaks of nature.

But if the gene is recessive, the game changes a lot -- it would mean that two magical parents would always have magical children, no matter what their background may be. All squibs would have to be mutants, and many generations of ordinary muggles could carry a recessive magical gene that might eventually pop up and make a muggle-born wizard-baby. This includes Harry's mom, meaning that Harry himself could have easily been a normal, boring English kid for whom the closest thing to a magical adventure was huffing glue.

The Harry Potter Lexicon
Harry may have gotten screwed when it comes to eyesight, but he was lucky otherwise.

Regardless of which theory is correct, though, Lord Voldemort looks like an idiot. He doesn't want to mix pure-bloods (aa) with muggle-borns (also aa), but a pairing of that type would inevitably produce a magical child (aa again) if the gene is recessive, so it makes no damn sense. And if the gene is dominant, then there's still an excellent chance that the child will turn out to be a wizard even if the wizard parent marries an actual muggle (to say nothing of a muggle-born). So, like most racists, Voldemort is a moron -- probably something to do with that filthy muggle blood in his veins.

5
Hulk's Skin Could Be Green Because He's Always Covered In A Giant, Full-Body Bruise

Marvel Comics

You all know the real reason why Hulk is green, or at least you do if you're smart and read a lot of Cracked: He was gray, but 1960s printers sucked so they changed it to green. However, Stanford biologist Sebastian Alvarado has the most fun (yet plausible) theory we've been able to find about why Bruce Banner's body landed on "giant green monster" during mutation roulette: He's covered in bruises, basically.

Marvel Comics
This makes it even more embarrassing that Stan Lee couldn't remember the name "Bruce."

See, when a human being is blasted with gamma radiation, (s)he comes a lot closer to Hulking out than you might think. Through a process called chromothripsis, the radiation attacks your DNA, ripping its double helix apart like a cat toy. Fortunately, our bodies can repair the damage -- to a certain point. The more severe the radiation, the more breaks in your DNA chains, which means many more repairs on your body's to-do list. And overwork leads to sloppiness, as anyone who has ever held a salaried position knows. This leaves openings for changes in your genetic code -- changes like, say, the ability to become a giant green monster every time someone pisses you off.

Alvarado says that when Banner was caught in the gamma explosion, he went through chromothripsis and his body repaired its DNA ... and added a little something called epigenetic switches. These switches are activated by the hormones Bruce produces when he gets angry, reconfiguring his DNA and forcing him to Hulk out. And that's why he tends to overreact and start throwing tanks around whenever he runs out of toilet paper.

Marvel Comics
"HULK WANT BIDET!"

But why is he green? Well, next time you bark the absolute shit out of your shin on the edge of that stupid coffee table, check out the bruise. Your red blood cells will have died at the site of the injury, breaking up the oxygen-bearing hemoglobin they were carrying around the never-ending luge that is your circulatory system. Hemoglobin contains a molecule called biliverdin, which causes the green hue you so often see in bruises. Bruce's ability to explode into a pants-ripping giant would, as you might imagine, cause an insane amount of trauma to his body. Alvarado suggests that Hulkster might be green because his entire body is just one big bruise. No wonder he's always so pissed.

Universal Pictures, Marvel Studios
But none of this explains why he keeps turning into a new guy after each hulk-out.

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4
Middle-earth's Atmosphere May Be Responsible For All Those Heroic Feats

New Line Cinema

Among the many fantastical races featured in the Lord Of The Rings books, there's one called "Men" -- beings who may seem like us at first glance but are impossibly cooler. Boromir is able to keep fighting for way too long as a human pin cushion, for example, while Aragorn spends all night fighting orcs at Helm's Deep without getting too tired to toss out the occasional line of banter with Legolas "watch me surf down these motherfucking stairs" Greenleaf.

New Line Cinema
Or to toss Gimli. Wait, that came out wrong.

But what if they were more or less like us, and the real difference was in the atmosphere? Richard Walker and Alice Cooper-Dunn published a study in the Journal Of Interdisciplinary Science Topics suggesting that the oxygen content of Middle-earth might enable people to perform more acts of heroism and strength than the crummy atmosphere we got stuck with.

Their work consists of a lot of math about arterial pressure and the always-funny term "gas exchange." Their calculations show that an atmosphere with more oxygen than ours -- 10 percent higher, to be specific -- almost certainly could explain the super-human feats we see so often in this franchise. The researchers began by using Aragorn as their primary test subject, calculating his "Earth age" to 35 and his arterial partial pressure of oxygen to ... uh, this:

Richard Walker/Alice Cooper-Dunn
Go apologize to your algebra teacher for saying none of it was applicable to real life.

According to their findings, the lowest estimated arterial partial pressure in Middle-earth's heroes' bodies is still 54 percent higher than you'll find in any of ours. That's why Aragorn can run for days and then fight in the rain all night. Interestingly, a 10 percent increase in the oxygen content of our atmosphere would also account for the big magical creatures -- like the big-ass eagles and dragons -- we see running around Middle-earth.

Not so shockingly, there's more than one study of Middle-earth's many gases. The second was conducted by a researcher at the University of Bristol who calls himself Radagast the Brown, because "Tom Bombadil" was taken, presumably. He drafted detailed charts of three different variations of the Earth in order to find out which parts of Boring-Earth match the famous places of Middle-earth with regard to climate.

Radagast the Brown

Radagast the Brown
This man has mastered MS Paint.

According to his extensive calculations, the Shire is most like Lincolnshire, U.K., and Dunedin, New Zealand, while Mordor is most like Los Angeles, West Texas, and Australia. Radagast arrived at this conclusion after examining the flow of air currents, measuring pollution, and analyzing other climate model simulations; though we at Cracked didn't need any of that to confirm that Los Angeles is, in fact, exactly like Mordor. And while we're on the topic ...

3
Lord Of The Rings' Orcs And Goblins Always Lose Because They Don't Get Enough Vitamin D

New Line Cinema

Quick, what do most fantasy series villains have in common? That's right: None of them are fans of going to the beach, as you can tell by looking at their faces for five seconds.

New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
They make Michael Jackson look like Michael Jackson.

Well, that might not be a coincidence -- The Medical Journal Of Australia published a study about the impact of sunlight and vitamin D exposure on the battle of good versus evil. Thanks to their heroic efforts, we can safely say that in the fantasy realm (especially Middle-earth, but also the Harry Potter universe, etc.), the secret to winning is working up a good tan.

The study's abstract begins by examining a solid trend in fantasy stories: Good nearly always triumphs over evil. Why is that? If we take out (boring) possibilities like simple storytelling or lessons in morality, we're left with a few interesting facts to chase. One of these is that all the bad guys seem to hate the sun almost as much as they hate eating anything that wasn't either alive five minutes ago or dead five years ago. Since the body gets vitamin D -- which we won't even try to abbreviate here, since both "VD" and "the D" sound wildly inappropriate -- only by eating the few foods that have it and by being exposed to sunlight, it's safe to assume that the baddies are running a little light.

Yukon
This guy is about to get impaled by a dwarf.

The study's research was compiled by reading The Hobbit and analyzing each major character or faction's alignment, victory-to-defeat ratio, day-to-day activities, diet, average exposure to light, and living space using binary scales to give them a vitamin D score (0-4). That's ... impressively nerdy, even for Tolkien fans. Anyway, the results were extreme: Characters falling under the category "good and victorious" had a mean score of 3.4, while "evil and defeated" characters scored a pitiful 0.2 out of 4.

mja.com.au
Something tells us lack of vitamin D isn't Gollum's only nutritional problem, though.

While we're like 90 percent sure this isn't what Tolkien intended, it actually makes perfect sense. When we don't get enough of the D (OK, we said it), we increase our risk for broken bones, mess up our metabolism, and get osteoporosis or rickets, depending on our age. Lack of vitamin D can also contribute to other horrifying diseases like tuberculosis and multiple sclerosis. Any one of those things can lower the life expectancy of your average person. If you happen to be a goblin soldier or an Uruk-hai pikeman, though, it's downright catastrophic.

New Line Cinema
This wouldn't have happened if he hadn't stayed in playing World Of Warcraft all those nights.

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2
Deadpool Probably Owes His Healing Factor To The Genetic Predisposition For Cancer

Marvel Comics

For those of you who are on the internet but are somehow not familiar with Marvel's Deadpool, his biggest power isn't that he's aware he's a comic book character (big deal, so is Garfield) -- it's that he can heal from literally any injury. Lost a finger high-fiving Wolverine? Just grow another one.

Marvel Comics
In this panel, for instance, he has a tiny scar on his forehead that will disappear two issues later.

That seems pretty fucking fantastic, but this kind of phenomenon actually exists in nature. The axolotl, while sounding like the name of an angry Aztec god, is the proper name of the humble Mexican salamander, an amphibious fish-lizard with the power to regenerate lost body parts. And we don't mean boring things like tails or toes or whatever: Axolotls can replace parts of their brains, regrow their spinal cords, and even accept transplanted eyes from other axolotls (which sounds like the start of the most adorable foreign horror movie ever).

Argument/iStock/Getty Images
They even look like they were designed in Japan.

Here's the best part -- we have those genes too. There are two kinds of genes that help us heal: oncogenes (the dickish ones with the potential for cancer) and tumor suppressor genes (the MVPs of cell division). Cancer, not coincidentally, is also part of Deadpool's backstory. In the comics, it's explained that Deadpool's cancer keeps his overachieving healing factor from producing too many cells and filling his body with tumors. This is demonstrated when some aliens try to create a Deadpool clone army in one storyline, and it somewhat backfires:

Marvel Comics
Just a reminder that no matter what you look like, you could always be uglier.

However, based on real-world science, what might actually be happening here is the opposite: Deadpool's oncogenes are speeding up the creation of new cells, but (like the axolotl) he's able to bring out the tumor suppressors to keep his body from going splorch. In fact, researchers are already working on ways to borrow this ability from those cute Mexican bastards and "turn off cancer." Which means that, yes, perhaps one day science might find a way to make a real Ryan Reynolds.

1
Game Of Thrones Could Take Place On Mars

HBO

In Game Of Thrones, most of the plot revolves around the insane, unpredictable weather patterns of whatever the hell the name of their planet is.

HBO
The Starks dropped "We're boned" from their motto a long time ago.

But what if we've been wrong? What if it was Mars all along? That's very possible, actually. The strongest argument for Jon Carter Snow Of Mars is the unstable orbit both worlds have. When it gets close to the sun, Mars can experience years-long summers, which are less "go to the beach" and more "everyone gets buried in a dust storm."

As for the fact that the seasons are about as reliable as George R.R. Martin's publishing schedule? That could be chalked up to the Milankovitch cycles. Every planet has its own Milankovitch cycle, which affects its planet's weather in its own unique way. Milankovitch cycles work over vast amounts of time -- thousands of years -- which means that not even a grand maester would have the tools to observe the effects of theirs well enough to learn to read the coming weather. We understand ours only because we have the tech and the mathematical know-how to analyze it. Westeros doesn't even have muskets yet.

HBO
They're still getting the hang of this whole "clothing" thing.

Furthermore, NASA says Mars' ancient oceans likely spanned half of its northern hemisphere and reached depths of more than a mile in some places. Look familiar?

HBO, NASA
Mars: GOT-world if everything in GOT-world got smushed together.

The time table we would be looking at for our story is over 4 billion years in the past. Or, hey, maybe even the future, after humans have settled the place like Elon Musk told us to. It could be that one of Mars' two moons was destroyed in some celestial disaster in our distant (very distant) future, satisfying the legend about how dragons were made and explaining (again) the seasonal upheaval. Series finale spoilers: They find the Curiosity Rover's carcass, or maybe Matt Damon's.

But don't just take our word for any of this nonsense. Lots of actual scientists who know what they're talking about have weighed in on this subject and come up with very similar ideas. Climate scientist Kaitlin Alexander supports the short-Milankovitch theory. Others have talked about the role of the moon(s) and the possible axial wobble of the planet. There is a wealth of delightful nerdiness to wade through, none of which involve the thermodynamic influence of Westeros' untold billions of exposed boobs and peens, sadly.

Deep inside us all -- behind our political leanings, our moral codes, and our private biases -- there is a cause so colossally stupid that we surprise ourselves with how much we care. Whether it's toilet paper position, fedoras on men, or Oxford commas, we each harbor a preference so powerful we can't help but proselytize to the world. In this episode of the Cracked podcast, guest host Soren Bowie is joined by Cody Johnston, Michael Swaim, and comedian Annie Lederman to discuss the most trivial things we will argue about until the day we die. Get your tickets here!

For way more knowledge about pop culture franchises that you didn't know you wanted, check out 6 Hilarious (But Accurate) Statistics About Pop Culture and 6 Horrifying Implications Of Awesome Fantasy Movie Universes.

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