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Weird Science By Monica Gray -

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Those Pesky Hiccups Are More Than Annoying, They’re An Enigma

You’re probably one of the billions of people on this planet who dislike hiccuping. It’s likely you dislike listening to other people’s hiccups, especially if they last for more than a few minutes. It’s an unpleasant sensation that can also feel painful. How often have you tried to hold your breath or ask your friend to scare your hiccups away? While they usually go away by themselves, they can also stick around for some time. Charles Osborne hiccuped for 68 years straight. He managed to live with his hiccups and even lived to be a father and husband. He hiccuped a total of 430 million times during those six decades. Doctors could never find a cure, and couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for his hiccups. Despite how common they are throughout the world, scientists still have no idea what causes them or their point. Scientists haven’t truly systematically studied hiccups or the mechanisms behind them, or how to get rid of them. They’re something we have to deal with until they pass (Smithsonian Mag).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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The Placebo Effect For Pills, Surgery, And Beyond

Sometimes, the placebo effect is just as effective as the real deal. Previous studies conducted at Harvard have tested the placebo theory, often discovering that the placebo pill in an experiment is nearly as effective as the pill for treating migraines. If you’ve ever had a nonalcoholic beer or a mocktail, chances are, you felt tipsy even though your drink lacked alcohol. That’s the placebo effect. Our brains are incredible, and scientists are only beginning to understand the depths of our brain power. Furthermore, if you believe you’re exercising, even if you’re lying down, your brain starts to respond as if it is exercising. When researchers told athletes they received a caffeine pill, those athletes ran faster, even though they only received a placebo pill. These fascinating facts about the placebo effect stun scientists, and it’s something they still can’t explain (NPR).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Why Bicycles Don’t Topple Over

You might read this and think, “but I always fall off of my bicycle!” It might make you feel better to learn that we’re not talking about your inability to ride a bike. We’re talking about the strange structure and mechanisms behind the bicycle that keep a bicycle upright. As perplexing as they are, we continue to use bicycles every single day. They’re one of the most common modes of transportation, even if scientists haven’t figured out how they stay upright while moving. The pedal turns the gear, and the gear turns the wheel. It’s stable enough that it doesn’t fall over while it’s moving, and it’s only until the bike slows down that it falls on its side. Scientists believe it’s a combination of things, like the front wheel touching the ground behind a tilted steering axis, plus several other gyroscopic effects. You can test this out yourself by removing the front wheel and spinning the axle while holding it. Then, “try to twist the wheel by moving the axle. You’ll see it resists you. Now, with the wheel still spinning, crook a finger under one side of that axle, and let go of the other side. Magically, it stays there, like somebody invisible is holding the other side up.” This is only one of several theories as to why the bicycle stays upright (Fast Company).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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No Explanation For Why We Cry

Crying is a part of the human experience, even if we don’t have an explanation for it. Have you ever tried to hold back your tears? It’s almost painful. We cry when we’re happy, when we’re sad, and when we’re laughing. There are numerous other benefits to crying, like cleaning the eye from debris that could potentially damage the eyeball. But crying is especially unique to humans. Other animals do cry, but it’s only to lubricate their eyes. Our emotions cause us to cry. Even though it remains a mystery, research suggests that when we cry, we release endorphins and oxytocin that help relieve any stress we may feel. Humans have developed crying as a way to get a request without using words, strengthen social bonds, sympathize, and process emotions. Some people cry more than others, and people with different attachment styles cry at varying levels. Because it’s so widespread, scientists still haven’t figured out why we cry (Healthline).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Solitary Humpback Whales To Super Social Creatures

The shift in humpback whale behavior has baffled scientists. They’ve gone from solitary creatures to living in “super-groups.” The change is strange, and biologists are studying their behavior day in and day out to try and figure out why. Usually, humpback whales are solitary creatures. They only stay in large groups when they are migrating or mating. But only recently have they begun to feed in packs of 20 to 200 around the entire planet, most notably in 2011, 2014, and 2015. These whales typically feed in Antarctica, but now they’re finding them thousands of miles away near South Africa. Scientists cannot figure out why they’ve changed, but they assume it’s because of the rise in the population of humpbacks, and they’re going back to their typical behavior before human interference (All That’s Interesting).

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