5 Famous Unsolved Mysteries (Solved With Basic Science)
Here at Cracked, nothing makes us happier than making you unhappy. Whether that means telling you depressing, personal stories about man's inhumanity to man, or just ruining some cool, possibly supernatural phenomena that adds magic to your otherwise mundane existence with the silly and obvious truth -- as long as you're down, we're up. So let's get started with destroying some mystery, already!
In 1997, the internet went nuts over an underwater sound recording heard by two separate microphones, placed 3000 miles apart, over the Pacific Ocean. Scientists had no idea what caused the mystery sound they referred to as "The Bloop," but they ominously reported that it sounded like it came from an animal. A really freaking big animal. Obviously, Cthulhu awakes, and much to everybody's disappointment, the Old Gods go "bloop."
Personally, we were hoping for a full-on smooch.
But Really ...
The Bloop was just the sound of Antarctic ice cracking and falling into the water. Basically, the same sound you hear when you drop an ice cube into a drink, but magnified to a continental scale. And scientists had actually figured it out quite a while ago, and in fact, sort of suspected it all along. You know, since it sounded pretty much exactly the same as all the other times they've heard that happening.
This is what it sounds like when the penguins cry.
As usual, the preternatural explanation was the result of idle speculation run through the kind of telephone game that is science journalism. The phrase "mysterious noise sounds almost organic" went in one end, and "science discovers unimaginably massive underwater leviathan that will undoubtedly rise to destroy us all" came out the other.
The Disappearance Of The Bees
Hey, remember when they said that all of the bees on Earth were mysteriously dying? Remember when all the schlocky apocalypse-themed movies and shows from The Happening, to Knowing, to Doctor Who used it as a plot point? Remember when everyone inaccurately quoted Einstein in saying that the death of the bees would quickly lead to the death of humankind? Remember when Cracked speculated that the bees were probably dying because of pesticides?
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm remembers.
But Really ...
They figured it out back in 2014. The reduction in bee populations, formally known as "colony collapse disorder," has conclusively been found to be a direct result of the increased result of a class of pesticides called "neonicotinoids" in recent years.
We still don't know entirely why this happens, because exposure to neonicotinoids doesn't kill bees directly (they suspect that it actually makes bees more susceptible to disease, so it's more of a bee AIDS thing) but the research is nevertheless pretty clear. It's not global warming, or aliens, or the collective hive-intelligence of the bees who have decided to relocate to Mars due to pollution. It's just the poisons we've been spraying on our plants behaving like poisons.
This killed the very class of invertebrates we designed it to kill. How ironic.
And that's ... actually okay: The bees are recovering just fine. Really, guys, they're cool. Partly because we already put restrictions on those pesticides long ago, and partly because there are just, like, so many bees out there. When scientists say that bees are declining, you can't take it the same way as like, pandas or rhinos declining. They just mean that there are only 20 billion new bees born every day now, instead of the 25 billion you could expect 10 years ago. That's right: Billion. With a 'B.' With so, so many bees.
Alien Lights On Ceres
In 2015, NASA's Dawn probe visited Ceres, a dwarf planet that sits between Mars and Jupiter, and sent back some snapshots where one of the craters appears to be lit up like Mardi Gras.
Let's face it, you can't think of too many explanations that aren't aliens. The only real question is whether it's some kind of space laser powering up, or an alien version of Burning Man. You might have even seen these more detailed shots, which you could easily confuse for screencaps from the new Star Wars.
Episode IX: The Glowing Planetary Butthole
But Really ...
That's no space station. That's just a moon. Well okay, a dwarf planet. Scientists were puzzled by the phenomenon, at least for a couple of months, until they looked at it up close and found that it was just a big pile of salt.
Which was voted Most Boring Substance by Pop Science 2016.
Yep, just ordinary salt. It looks like it's glowing because it reflects the sun's light much better than the dark ground around it. And while scientists are still super excited, it's only because this implies that Ceres had oceans in the past, which isn't the kind of excitement that makes it to the tabloids.
But what about those amazing pictures of the crater, lighting up the whole side of the planet like a giant LED? Most tabloids just kind of glossed over the fact that these much more impressive photos are actually "false color enhancements." In other words, they're Photoshopped.
Bleeding Religious Statues
Since time immemorial, people have been in awe of religious statues that appear to bleed as if from nowhere. It's a peculiarity of the human mindset that, when blood starts pouring from the eyes of the Virgin Mary, people react with praise and worship, but when it starts weeping out of a Ronald McDonald statue, they get disemboweled soon after.
When it starts bleeding at Madame Tussauds, that might not be a statue.
But Really ...
That's not blood, it's just bacteria. We're not sure if that makes it any less gross, but it does make it less miraculous.
Serratia marcescens is a common bacteria that likes to grow in damp areas and squeeze out a red pigment that, in the right context, can be mistaken for blood. You've actually seen it plenty of times before -- in your bathroom.
You've also probably seen your blood in the bathroom, but let's not get into that right now.
Except that, instead of worshipping it, you more likely took to it with a scrubbing brush. For the same reason it winds up in your grout, it also likes the creases in the eye sockets of damp church statues, giving the appearance that they're crying blood, when what they're actually crying is the same stuff that came down from under the rim of your toilet in college.
The Marfa Lights
For around half a century, the town of Marfa, Texas has been host to a mysterious stretch of desert where locals frequently reported weird lights dancing on the horizon. The Marfa Lights have since become a tourist attraction, with observation points set up for any tourist who cares to chance an errant probe or six ...
Probing has been legal in Texas since 2003.
But Really ...
They're headlights. Not from spaceships, but from, you know, cars.
Physics students from the University Of Texas went out to Marfa over a four-night period to observe, and concluded that the lights can be reliably attributed to the headlights of vehicles traveling along nearby Route 67.
"Let's use our intergalactic space technology to travel to this." - No Alien
But wait, how can lights on the ground be mistaken for lights in the sky? That's actually kind of fascinating on its own -- atmospheric conditions in the desert can bend light in such a way as to make it look like headlights are fading in and out or dancing around above the horizon. It's a well-known phenomenon called a "mirage."
Of course, that hasn't swayed anyone who was already invested in the aliens theory, but then, literally nothing ever could.
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