10 Famous Unsolved Mysteries Easily Explained by Science
The world is full of mysteries, and the human race loves nothing better than to find answers to them. Frequently, though, the answers aren't as popular as the mysteries themselves, and people will just continue right on believing, even when the evidence is right there, why don't you just look?! Just look, you bastard!
There have been numerous reports of cattle mutilation -- that is, unexplainably dead cows turning up with odd wounds that look to be surgically precise. Their bodies have been split open, and the soft organs inside have been removed. Their eyes, tongues, genitals and anuses may also have been removed. But the most unusual element of all, and the thing that really sets off the Crazy Alarms in people's heads, is that the bodies are always mysteriously drained of blood.
Although the phrase "missing genitals" would drain our blood, too.
Clearly, it's vampires. Or else aliens are doing it to study the cows. Maybe satanic cults are committing ritualistic sacrifices. No, wait: It's unseen monsters like El Chupacabra that are feasting on the livestock!
Well, something is happening, goddamn it.
In the 1970s, the ATF and even the FBI investigated the cattle-mutilation phenomenon. Their results? They found no evidence of anything other than natural causes and the occasional psychopath. No cult activity, no aliens, no monsters.
No missing sisters, no cigarette-smoking men, no hot redheads. Working in the FBI is surprisingly dull.
Natural causes that appear as surgical wounds? What about the removed organs? How is that possible? In most cases, scavengers such as foxes, buzzards and other critters that like beef au natural saunter by the decomposing corpse and have a bite or two -- thus the organ removal.
The surgical look comes later, when insects chew at the edges of the wounds. See, flies like soft foods, because flies don't have teeth. Same reason we go to Taco Bell: no standards and less work. And also much like Taco Bell, they prefer the softer parts of the animal: eyes, tongues, genitals, anuses and the rough edges of those aforementioned scavenger wounds. Also, if the animal's been lying around for long enough (or even short periods in the hot sun), it'll bloat and burst open, often with very clean, surgical-looking tears. And then come the maggots, which eat anything they can get their little teeth on.
We just knew you needed to see this again.
They'll chew up whatever's left of those organs and drink the animal's blood, which typically pools to the bottom of the corpse, giving it that nice, cleanly drained look. Look, don't believe us (we certainly don't make a habit out of it), but what better way to demonstrate than a little field experiment? In 1979, an Arkansas sheriff named Herb Marshall got a bunch of complaints about cattle mutilation in his jurisdiction. So he got the idea to take a dead cow, plop it down in a field and film it for 48 hours in what was undoubtedly the worst two-day stakeout since Another 48 Hrs. After the elements and various creatures were done with it, the stakeout cow was indistinguishable from any other animal that had been "mutilated."
Or Nick Nolte's career.
The Nazca Lines of Peru
The Nazca Lines of Peru were discovered in the 1930s, which, coincidentally enough, was right around the time people started flying planes high enough to see them. Much like the time we tried to confess our love to Cindy Lansmoore in 10-foot-high flaming letters on her lawn, ancient man, too, had a thing for crazy imagery that could only be seen from above. The Nazca Lines are large geoglyphs made of shallow lines dug into the earth, revealing the white ground beneath the red rocks that normally cover the area. Some are as large as 900 feet across, and the entire canvas area is about 190 square miles total, or slightly larger than the city of New Orleans.
Why, yes, that is a 100-foot-man waving at you.
So how did ancient, technologically deprived people build these things accurately, when we could spot them only after we successfully harnessed the power of flight? Some people believe they were either built by or were landing strips intended for visitors from another world. Author Jim Woodman thinks they might have been created by way of rudimentary hot air balloons that could give their passengers a larger view of the landscape. The pilot would direct the artists down below -- presumably by yelling really loudly (unless they also built rudimentary walkie-talkies).
"I SAID LEFT, YOU BASTARDS! LE- OH, VERY FUNNY -- I HOPE THAT'S A SECOND TAIL OR YOU'RE FIRED."
Woodman actually went out of his way to make a functioning balloon from the materials the Nazca people would have had, and while that's incredibly awesome, there's no evidence that the Nazca had even the vaguest concept of balloons.
Still, if they did, this would make an awesome ancient South American birthday party.
But there were wooden stakes in the ground that have been carbon-dated to the time of the Nazca, and some researchers speculate that the Nazca may have simply drawn long ropes between the stakes to create the Nazca Lines. Dr. Joe Nickell of the University of Kentucky decided to make some Nazca Lines of his very own, using only methods and equipment the Nazca would have had handy. So three men and an 11-year-old kid set out to make a giant bird in a landfill, and in only a few hours, they did just that.
No aliens -- just a bunch of sweaty dudes who dig birds.
Klerksdorp spheres, winners of the fiercely competitive "least sexy name in geology" award, are small, rounded, disc-shaped rocks found in a single mine in South Africa. They're described as being perfectly concentric, hard as steel and balanced to a degree that not even NASA can calculate. In fact, NASA has allegedly said that they could only have been constructed in a zero-gravity environment. Also, they've been carbon-dated as being nearly 3 billion years old. Speculation about their creators ranges from an ancient but unspeakably advanced ancestor of humanity to aliens to the followers of the Mighty Klerksdorp, He Who Devours.
Made from the remains of his victims, presumably.
We should start by saying that they're not perfectly round: Many are disc-shaped, and they're often intergrown with other stones. They're not as hard as steel, either. Steel's hardness varies depending on alloy, and Klerksdorp spheres are by no means unnaturally hard (tee hee!). They rate about 4 or 5 on the Mohs scale, which is only about halfway up the chart, far below steel's 6 or 7. Also, NASA has never examined them: That's Internet bullshit tacked onto the original information. That's what the Internet does -- you get a free bonus prize of Stupid Lies with every box of Delicious Facts.
"Can be eaten as part of a healthy lifestyle. Massively unsuitable for children."
However, the fact that they're 3 billion years old is true. Klerksdorp spheres are actually the product of a completely natural process known as concretion. Basically, they're just plain old sedimentary rocks that happen to look cool. Don't thank aliens -- thank good old Mother Nature.
For the love of God, do it, or she'll sic Australia on you.
Ball lightning is kind of like regular lightning, only in convenient travel-ready ball shape. People have been seeing the stuff since the 17th century. There's even some speculation that UFOs are actually misidentified ball lightning. The phenomenon is frequently described as traveling through solid matter, like walls, and has actually killed people. But what is it? Is it just regular lightning with a childlike sense of play? Did God lose his bouncy ball? Is it the disembodied, roving testicle of Thor? It's totally that last one, isn't it?
Photos that show the phenomenon in action certainly have the same picture quality as ancient porn anyway.
In 2007, Brazilian scientists discovered that passing large amounts of electricity through a silicon wafer creates a vapor that, once cool, condenses into an aerosol that glows when recombining with oxygen. The result is tiny balls of electricity that "move erratically about the lab, rolling around on the floor, bouncing off objects, and burning whatever they touch."
The only scenario imaginable where it's kind of badass to wear sandals.
You can watch a video of it right here. Those scientists now think that ball lightning occurs when regular lightning strikes ground rich in quartz, or silica (like you find in sand). Other scientists have agreed with the Brazilian group's findings, including John Abrahamson of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, who said, "Their balls are of sufficient duration and size to enter the mainstream ... seen in nature." Immediately followed by "What? What did I say? What's so funny? Guys?"
Mystery spots are little roadside joints you'll find dotting all of America's interstate system. The most famous is the creatively named The Mystery Spot near Santa Cruz, Calif. For a modest entrance fee, you can personally experience a variety of odd phenomena: Water runs up an incline, people stand on the walls, balls roll uphill, and to put it technically, your shit just goes all bananas everywhere.
Water running up, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria!
The owners of The Mystery Spot describe it as a "gravitational anomaly." They speculate that this is probably the result of "cones of metal that were secretly brought here and buried in our earth as guidance systems for spacecraft." And your bananas-going shit is probably too busy with its own problems to argue with them.
If you hadn't noticed from the pictures, everything looks a bit tilted in these places. That's because it is. In fact, it's even more tilted than it looks.
Scene from Inception 2: Lil' Inceptioneers
Once you're inside, you're unable to establish any kind of horizon or to orient yourself properly, so you have no real way of telling that mystery spot buildings can be tilted by as much as 20 degrees. Berkeley scientists wanted to know just how much the tilt and lack of proper perspective messes with your perception, and they discovered that just looking into a tilted room can dramatically distort your vision. If you're in the room and your body is also tilted, the effect is doubled or even tripled. Things that look like level fields are not, and you even have trouble distinguishing uphill from downhill. So when you're watching a spout of water appear to flow up an inclined pipe, you think you're seeing this:
But you're really seeing this:
And when you think you're seeing this:
You're really seeing this:
There's nothing inherently mysterious about the spot; somebody just built an exceptionally shitty house and charged you to look at it.
We have more interesting DIY accidents every weekend.
Ghosts (and Other Things)
Ghosts have been spotted all over the world since time immemorial, typically in dark, spooky places, where anyone or anything could jump out at you. Something like one-third of people believe in ghosts. Could all those people really be wrong? Yes. But are they?
We've talked a bit about ghostly origins before, specifically how infrasound can cause hallucinations and feelings of dread. That doesn't necessarily cover all ghost experiences, but some Swiss researchers think they've found something that might account for the rest: During a routine study on a 22-year-old epileptic patient, scientists found that a small electric shock to the left temporo-parietal junction, the part of the brain responsible for self/other distinction, caused the patient to see someone else in the room with her. When the shock stopped, the person disappeared.
Really, she was torturing her imaginary childhood friend. Think about that for a minute.
As they attempted further experiments, the patient complained of feeling the other person behind her even while she was lying down. When the researchers attempted to have her read from a card, she reported that "the shadow tried to interfere, saying, 'he wants to take the card' and 'he doesn't want me to read.'"
Thanks, Switzerland. We hated sleeping peacefully anyway.
The scientists now suspect that some sort of overstimulation of the left temporo-parietal junction could account for several forms of schizophrenia as well as a litany of paranormal experiences like ghosts, shadow people, out-of-body-experiences, doppelgangers, guardian angels and a thing called the Third Man Phenomenon, which is when people in extremely stressful situations report seeing another person following them around.
Usually their boss.
Well, either that, or scientists have just concretely proved that ghosts hate literacy.
What do Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Giza and Ayers Rock have in common?
Apart from hippie flash mobs?
All have a reputation as mystical, even magical places with strange histories and events surrounding them. But there's another thing: They're all interconnected by a giant mystical network. One that, in fact, may connect every single magical site everywhere: Ley lines are ancient, powerful linear alignments of mystical places that may allow us to tune in with -- or even tap into -- the power of Mother Earth. While they're powerful in themselves, the true power of ley lines lies in the fact that they form a grid of raw natural magic, allowing magicians to pull power from distant sites. It's like an Internet made of sorcery.
Pictured: The Internet.
The powerful, mysterious and unspeakably ancient linear alignments we know as ley lines were actually born in 1921 from the mind of an amateur archaeologist named Alfred Watkins. One day, old Al noticed that some ancient features of the British landscape sort of followed the same line, kind of, if you tilted your head a little maybe. He then promptly devoted his life to researching these lines he just made up, and after literally months of research, he unleashed his ley line theory to the unsuspecting public, who are always suckers for a good mystical one-dimensional figure.
For example, 75 percent of British people cannot tell you exactly what the Queen does.
There was only one little problem: Ley lines did not really exist. Alfred Watkins made them up.
Now, we're not saying he did it on purpose -- Watkins was a serious man and a respected authority in many fields, so it is possible he genuinely believed he had stumbled upon something profoundly curious. And he never tried to attribute any mystical properties to the lines himself; all he ever claimed was that ley lines were probably pathways for trade or ceremonial purposes within the British Isles -- everything else was invented by later, less archeologically inclined crazy people, who had no problems bringing magic and even aliens into the equation. Although, to be fair, we'd wager that those people have never had a problem bringing magic and aliens into any equation.
"Dragons plus aliens equals a trip to the medicine cabinet again."
So you're wandering the marshes alone at night, for reasons we generously assume are not crime-related, when you suddenly see a flickering light appear out of nowhere. It startles you, but after the initial shock, you find yourself intrigued. You need to get to the bottom of this. Striding confidently (drunkenly?) toward the light, you find to your extreme annoyance that it flees from you. When you turn to move, the mushy soil suddenly starts to suck you in, and the candle vanishes. You realize, too late, that you have been tricked. You will never see your family again. Your bones will never be found: You have become just another victim of corpse candles, also known as will-o'-the-wisps, spooklights and ignis fatuus.
They're eerie, elusive lights that resemble flickering candles or luminous fog. Throughout history, they've haunted marshes, bogs and swamps, and they've been attributed to everything from fairies to ghosts to aliens. They often disappear when approached, and the few brave souls who have managed to venture close have reported they're cool to the touch, despite clearly being composed of flame.
Corpse candles tend to appear at night and invariably in spooky places such as marshes, shallow lakes and old graveyards. Therefore, people have been mostly too busy moving toward the general direction of "away" to pay very close attention. Some of the more inquisitive minds of the 19th century, however, did attempt to study the phenomenon. When owls, bioluminescent fungi and other natural causes had been ruled out, the remaining erratic behavior was chalked up to that oldest and least believable of UFO explanations: marsh gas.
John Dalton, fishing for marsh gas. But he did end up developing atomic theory from this, so that's not too crazy, we guess.
And despite the protesting screams of literally dozens of fat men with ill-fitting T-shirts and anal-probe flaps sewn into their trousers, marsh gas can and does totally produce an eerie-looking, low-temperature "flame" through a chemical reaction called chemiluminescence. But hell, those alien enthusiasts may be onto something: "UFO Probe Drones" does sound way cooler than "bright fart-gas balls."
Water Turning to "Blood"
So you're heading out for a swim and notice that the lake has turned to blood.
Well, not letting yourself be intimidated by a minor matter like that, you hit the beach, only to see the incoming tide ...
Well, you've still got the river, and it's ...
A waterfall of goddamn blood.
OK, that's got to be a bit of a bad thing. You may or may not be a religious person, but some dark, suppressed lizard part of your brain, the one solely dedicated to panic and end-times prophecy, brings up a quote from Revelation:
The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
Yea, the End has truly come, and you know it's too late to repent for that one thing you did. You know the one. How could you?
He knows what you did.
It's pretty hard not to freak out a little when your local body of water suddenly turns blood red, but stop for a minute and think about chemistry class: namely, the really easy trick that enables you to turn water to "blood" within a minute. That's not exactly what's going on here, but the principle is the same: It's a variety of crap in your water. That river with its waterfall just happened to carry a large amount of red sediment washed into it by unusually hard rain. The primary source of this discoloration in ocean water is a phenomenon called red tide. It's caused by explosive blooms of tiny creatures known as phytoplankton or dinoflagellates. (Which, as luck would have it, have also been linked to UFOs by some. Hey, it almost seems like some people will link aliens to everything, doesn't it?) Their photoluminescence is responsible for the red color of the water, while their abundance is responsible for sucking the oxygen right out of water and murdering everything. Oh, and they're also riddled with neurotoxins.
So in a way, it is the apocalypse, just not for human beings. It's for the cast of The Little Mermaid.
"We got no troubles, Life is the bubbles, Under the- OH GOD, is that my spleen?"
The sailing stones of Death Valley are large, rough blocks of rock that apparently move about when no one is looking, leaving deep grooves and scores of puzzled scientists in their wake. Some of the stones weigh as much as 700 pounds, and they all move in entirely different directions; two similar stones that start out side by side can end up taking completely divergent paths. But before you go running to your "The Earth Itself Has Finally Turned Against Us" bunker, you should know that they only move once every two or three years. You've at least got enough time to finish the article.
There are a plethora of supernatural theories as to what causes this phenomenon, ranging from vague, mysterious "unseen hands" to the stones being sentient remnants of a UFO crash site. Also of interest is the fact that the infamous Area 51 is not too far from the site where the stones roam.
So, it's obviously thinking rocks from beyond space, right?
Remember when we mentioned "the site where the stones roam" just now? Said site is called Racetrack Playa, and it's not a Li'l Wayne album; it's a dry lake bottom.
Well, at least it's dry for most of the year.
Occasionally, as in every two or three years (remember that number?), the lake is partly flooded by water and melting chunks of ice as they rush in from the higher surrounding areas. Combine that with the surprisingly hard winds and the exceptionally slick mud the cracked Playa ground forms when wet, and you've got the geology world's very own Indy 500.
Maybe in a few million years ... we'll be dead and not have to think about geology any more.
They're, uh ... they're not a very exciting people, those geologists.
To read more of Ashe's work, check out Weird Shit Blog and Bad Metaphors.
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