5 Insane Things Hiding Just Outside Of Human Perception
The human body is an incredible machine, able to turn all sorts of chaotic sensory data into the reality we see around us, just as a Taco Bell can turn the same four ingredients into 74 different menu items. It's so amazing that it's easy to lose track of the fact that we're still missing 99.99 percent of what's going on in the universe.
That's why under the right circumstances -- or with the right tweaks to your senses -- shit starts to get weird:
You Can Hear Creepy Noises From Space (With The Right Gear)
The first thing you need to understand about your senses is that they can't pick up shit. For instance, your ears need air to pick up sound, which is the only reason you can't hear outer space. But if you could, you'd find that the dying screams of a poor astronaut in the teeth of a hostile alien life form would be outright soothing in comparison. For instance, here's the bizarre, alien chorus being sung by the Earth's magnetic field into the uncaring void of space:
Wait sorry, that link is actually the newest single from Animal Collective.
In 2012, NASA launched a probe that captured those recordings of the audible-range radio waves emitted by plasma waves in the Earth's magnetosphere. It recorded five separate occurrences of the sound, which is called "Chorus." In fact, it's something you can fairly easily listen in on yourself -- all you need is insomnia, an amateur radio receiver, and a willingness to have the social life of a person who spends his time radio-spying the planet at 4:30 a.m.
But even Earth's freaky space song isn't nearly as creepy as the eerie tune blasting from the rings of Saturn:
And now you are all space pregnant.
Holy shit, that's not a planet, that's a Stanley Kubrick soundtrack. That eerie composition of heavily modified screaming voices with just the right amount of cheesy, 1950's sci-fi sound effects was recorded by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft. Cassini is a joint project between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency that started detecting Saturn's radio emissions back in 2002, when it was 234 million miles away from the planet. The noises are actually radio emissions called Saturn kilometric radiation, generated along with the planet's Northern and Southern auroras. Or, you could just say that the ringed planet is actively screaming its face off into the mindless abyss.
But you don't want to be listening to the song of a mere planet. You, sir/madam, are a go-getter, and set out to listen to the most prestigious sound of them all: the actual goddamned Big Bang. It turns out that 13.8 billion years after it did its thing, the Big Bang's echoes are still cascading across the universe, and in 1964, two dudes doing a completely unrelated experiment stumbled Nobel-worthily ass-backwards into it. Want to hear it yourself? Turn on a radio and find a station airing static. About 1 percent of that white noise is the sound of creation itself, which sounds a little like ...
...vyour grandpa's old CRT television stuck between channels. Hey, we never said the Beginning of Everything made a cool sound, did we?
There Are Inaudible Sounds That Can Affect Your Mood
As most every cat and dog you encounter will gleefully and constantly demonstrate, human hearing is bullshit even compared to other, far stupider animals. We were too busy elbowing our way through the line for opposable thumbs to even remember the whole "ears" thing, which is how we were stuck with hearing organs incapable of registering even things like infrasound -- low-frequency sounds that are just out of our audible range. Meanwhile, go-getters like whales happily skipped the entire arms line in favor of the ability to use goddamned infrasonic blasts to stun giant squids and eat them.
But just because you can't hear infrasound, don't think that it has forgotten about you. We've already discussed the way the tricks these low-frequency sounds play with our senses might be the real reason behind ghost sightings. But infrasound isn't content with occasionally tricking you to glimpse that creepy woman with the wide grin constantly hovering right behind you. It can -- and possibly does right now -- impact you in a multitude of ways by straight up messing with your emotions.
Which explains why every EDM show ends in crying.
All sound boils down to vibrations, which can have some pretty weird effects on the human brain and body. Depending on which particular way it swings its dick at you, infrasound can induce different moods ranging from nausea and dizziness to lethargy and euphoria.
One of the simplest ways of experiencing the effects of the more pleasant infrasound effects is taking a drive in a closed-top car, at speeds over 62 mph. The vehicle begins to emit sound that will lull you into that peculiar road trip zone-out we've all experienced at one point or another.
"Honey, wake up. I think I spaced out somewhere near Cleveland."
And even weirder than that ...
Some People Can See Ultraviolet Light And "Forbidden" Colors
Human eyesight is such a joke that we might as well not even have it. Yet we rely on it as our main source of sensory input, which is a shame when you consider how much of the world we can't see. For example, your body is being blasted by invisible waves that make your cell phone and Wi-Fi connection work, and you'd never know just because those waves are outside the visible spectrum.
But under the right circumstances, a selected percentage of us can catch a glimpse of things the naked eye of man was never meant to see.
Most useless mutant power ever.
For instance, to see ultraviolet light, all you need is a bad case of cataracts. Just ask Alex Komar, who underwent surgery to get rid of his. The Crystalens implant he was given allowed him to see UV light, giving everything a blue glow (and presumably gave him an awful hyper-awareness of traces of semen in everything). Similarly, people with aphakia, the absence of the lens on the eye, have reported the ability to see UV light. This includes the famous painter Claude Monet, who underwent cataract surgery late in his life and gained the ability to see UV light, causing him to paint everything an unnatural blue color. Like his world was being lit up by a "black light" just all the time.
"Welp, guess it's time for a new mattress."
And then there are the so-called "forbidden colors" called red-green and blue-yellow, because scientists suck at naming things. We know they exist, but our retinas piss all over the very idea by crudely approximating them to their base colors when sending the signal to the brain. In an experiment conducted in 1983, researchers figured out they could make volunteers actually see these colors using specifically constructed striped images where one half of an eye's retinal cells could only see one color while the other saw the other, basically overloading the eye until it went "screw it" and unleashed the forbidden hues.
The volunteers saw colors they had not seen before, but had no words for what they were looking at. It sort of broke their brains for a minute.
Are you trying to imagine what they look like? Don't bother, it's physically impossible.
Your brain will probably melt and run out of your ears like oatmeal.
You Can Hear Sand Moan And Trees Click (If You're Standing In The Right Place)
In the 1960s, when the tree-hugging movement was really gathering strength, Scottish researcher John Milburn managed to record the sound of trees crying out in distress. What sounds like hippy bullshit turned out to be actual perceptible clicks from deep within their trunks:
After hearing this John Milburn immediately tried to smoke it.
Holy shit! Was J.R.R. Tolkien right? Is a tree army about to rise and go to war against a dark wizard? Are we the dark wizard?
Luckily, no. Those clicks are actually collapsing water columns transporting water from the roots to the rest of the tree, and they're not a battle cry but an ultrasonic cry for help that we can detect with sophisticated enough microphones. When a tree is struggling to get water -- particularly during a drought -- those clicks are the sound of it getting thirsty. There are actually other ultrasonic sounds trees make, in particular, a seemingly ever-present hum that peaks just before dawn. Science is still figuring out its exact origin, so for the time being, we'll just assume the forest is about to go full M. Night Shyamalan on us and flee for the desert.
If we do, we'll find that sand dunes are even more talkative. Legendary explorer Marco Polo believed it was evil spirits, and you can see why -- sand dunes across the planet make all kinds of noise; namely, a symphony of haunting moans, groans, and whistles:
If that's not an evil mummy curse we don't know what is.
Just how do millions of tiny little grains of sand make noises that sounds suspiciously like a prankster nomad playing a didgeridoo? There's still no definitive answer, but the working theory is that the constant stream of collisions of falling grains somehow creates that larger-than-life moan.
Three Parisian scientists set out to crack the case by tracking down a couple of singing dunes in Morocco and Oman. Sliding on their ass down the sandy hills (science!), they triggered a sand-avalanche that registered a low G-sharp (or 105 Hz) on one hill and a nine-note cacophony (ranging from 90 to 150 Hz) on the other. They took their findings and a shit-ton of sand back to the lab, and managed to determine that the grains of Moroccan sand, which were almost all the same size, made one distinct sound. But the sand grains from the Oman ranged in size and, therefore, made different sounds. So, yeah, we admit Marco Polo's theory was way cooler.
You Can (Almost) See People Glow in the Dark
Bioluminescence is a fairly rare trait in animals. Lightning bugs and other animals can use it to attract mates, while those shit-ugly deep sea fish use it to light up their path and to make sure the last thing their prey sees is their hellish maw.
Seriously, fuck this thing.
But glowing is mainly a fish and bug kind of thing. You don't see any sort of mammals running around glowing -- that would be just insane. Except that's just it -- you just don't see them. The human eye is so lame that we can only see animals that produce a shit-ton of bioluminescence, like lightning bugs, when in reality, every living thing on Earth glows to at least some degree.
Humans are no exception, and science has unsurprisingly been all over that shit. In 2009, Japanese scientists were able to capture the first images of humans giving off bioluminescent light:
Before you start foaming at the mouth over auras, rest assured those are still bullshit.
This light is actually a byproduct of your body's metabolic processes. Cell respiration in your body creates free radicals, which then react with lipids and proteins. The molecules that result then react with chemicals in your body called fluorophores and emit a tiny amount of photons. To put that into layman's terms: When you eat a corn dog, your body turns it into glorious glow.
Still, don't start unscrewing all your light bulbs just yet. Although the glow is there, to register it you still need special equipment to aid the useless jelly-balls in your head-- human bioluminescence comes in amounts 1,000 times too faint for the human eye to pick up. Still, it's weird to think that if aliens visit the planet and have just slightly different eyes, we'll look to them like glowing angels descended from heaven. Or maybe they'll have ultraviolet eyes that just pick up all of our semen stains.
We sincerely hope that's the plot of the new Independence Day.
Tim Parent teaches people how to be media savvy. You can follow him on the Twitter machine.
For more ways reality is not what it seems, check out 5 Mind-Blowing Ways Your Memory Plays Tricks On You and 5 Mind-Blowing Ways Your Senses Lie to You Every Day.