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Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Tomatoes Are More Complex Than Humans

You’ve likely been in an argument with someone over a tomato. It is a fruit or vegetable? Does it taste the best in a sandwich or as a pasta sauce? The delicious, juicy red fruit is found in a variety of dishes around the entire world. Technically, tomatoes have over 35,000 genes. Humans have 20,000 genes. The tiny fruits have 15,000 more genes than humans do. Researchers at Missouri State University discovered that tomatoes likely have more genes because they have at least two genome triplications, which resulted in additional replications of the genes. But why tomatoes require more genes than humans remains a mystery and has baffled scientists for hundreds of years (The Standard).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
Science Alert

Mystical Mushrooms Baffle Scientists

We’re not talking about the magic mushrooms, either, which scientists fully understand, for the most part. There’s a specific mushroom called the Chorioactis geaster which is only found in central and northern Texas and several locations in Japan. In Texas, it’s known as the “Devil’s Cigar” because of its shape. Those locations seem a bit random, right? Even though Texas and Japan are on the same latitude, scientists cannot figure out why these mushrooms only grow in this one specific state and one specific country. The closest scientists can come to cracking the case is a study conducted in 2004 by Harvard University Herbaria. About 19 million years ago, it seems like the mushrooms were separated into two lineages. Now, it’s locally abundant in Texas and Japan (Science Alert).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Iceskating Defies The Laws Of Science

Every winter, thousands of people around the world put on a pair of ice skates and defy the laws of science. You’re likely one of those people who propel themselves on an icy surface on a blustery, winter night. Around 9.5 million people go ice skating every year, and even though it lacks a concrete, scientific explanation, many people still embark on the adventure. Scientists previously believed the pressure of the skates lowered the temperature of the ice. In turn, this would melt the ice, enabling the skater to glide. However, this theory did not hold up, since it would take a lot more pressure to melt the ice. One working theory is that the blade glides with little friction over the ice, where water molecules are not bound as tightly (NSF).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
Science Alert

Dark Matter’s Makeup Is A Mystery

Scientists understand regular matter. But dark matter and regular matter are two completely different things. Regular matter is made up of electrons, neutrons, and protons, but the makeup of dark matter is unknown. As of right now, scientists assume dark matter is made up of black holes or other exotic particles like axions or WIMPS. Scientists only know it exists because of its ability to bend light. On its own, it doesn’t reflect or emit light, and it doesn’t interact with electromagnetic force. Dark matter outweighs visible matter six to one, and it’s required to create planets and galaxies. Still, scientists can only theorize what dark matter is made up of and the gravitational effects it has on visible matter (Home).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Scientists Don’t Understand Purring Cats

Cats purr when they’re happy, comfortable, sad, or frightened. Most of the time, purring is said to send out waves of calmness or when the cat is feeling content. The list goes on, and because of this, scientists still don’t fully understand when and why cats purr. Tigers and lions are unable to purr, even though they’re considered big cats, while cougars, bobcats, and lynxes can purr. While the reason for a cat’s purr remains a mystery, scientists assume they engage in purring as a soothing mechanism and to encourage bone growth. Their purrs range at a frequency between 25-150 Hz, which helps improve bone density and promotes healing in their bodies. Their cute rumbles have much more purpose than sounding like a cute grumble (North Care).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Eight Hours Of Shut Eye Is Necessary, But We Don’t Know Why

The older we get, the more it seems like we need to sleep. Even though humans and every other animal on the planet sleep (except the bullfrog), scientists still have no explanation as to why we sleep. They also can’t figure out how the body puts itself to sleep and how each person determines how much sleep they need since every person needs a different amount of sleep. Some people need 9 hours, while others need 7, though those are the sweet spots. Sleep poses a threat to human and animal species since sleeping renders humans susceptible to predators and attacks. Experiments conducted have tried to genetically remove the need for sleep out of subjects, though the experiments failed. Some hypotheses suggest that sleep acts as a cleaning mechanism for clearing the brain of damaged molecules that build up while we’re awake. (Big Think).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
Boston University

The Act Of Dreaming Is As Mysterious As Our Dreams

Falling down a flight of stairs, being Beyonce’s backup dancer, or showing up to a school exam in a language you’ve never heard of before are a few types of dreams that feel a bit too close to reality. These terrifying nightmares, or blissful dreams, give us a bit of insight into our psyche. If we’re anxious, chances are, our dreams will be anxiety-ridden. Dreams also tell us what we think of ourselves and others, and the world in general. But scientists don’t exactly know what the point of dreams, or nightmares, is. Some theorize that dreams help you make sense of your day, while others say dreams are nothing more than simple images with no meaning whatsoever. If you have a recurring dream about a plane crash, we really can’t tell you if you’re psychic or not. Scientists simply don’t know (Healthline).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
Science Alert

Are Space Signals Aliens?

On a day-to-day basis, scientists receive FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), which are brief emissions of radio light that can power 500 million suns. These come from unidentified sources in the cosmos. Evidence suggests they come from a variety of causes, though scientists have been unable to pinpoint exactly one cause. They’ve only managed to identify 30 of them, even though astronomers believe one happens every second. One FRB in particular originated outside of our Milky Way, FRB 121102. According to Science Alert, these FRBs remain the biggest mystery to modern-day astronomy, and they have a predictable pattern of hourly activity over four days. Following those four days, there are 12 days of quiet. Perhaps these signals are aliens from another planet, and it’s their attempt at communication (Science Alert).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
Pinterest

That Jaw-Dropping Yawn Is Contagious

Yawning is contagious. Scientists believe that it’s contagious because of synchronized group behavior, coinciding with particular times of the day with certain activities. It’s common between periods of sleeping and wakefulness, and some people are more susceptible to the contagious yawn than others. And even though it’s common and contagious, scientists know little about yawning. One theory is that “yawning is an indicator that one individual is experiencing diminished arousal, then seeing another person yawn might, in turn, increase the observer’s vigilance to compensate for the low vigilance of the yawner.” It’s also suggested that it’s a way for the body to get more oxygen-rich blood to the brain, but the neurology behind the process is lacking. It may be a form of social mirroring, where animals mimic the behavior of others, or a form of empathic relating, where we mimic others (Science).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
Science Alert

Saturn’s Hexagon-Shaped Storm Perplexes Scientists

We’ve all seen how massive hurricanes are. But at Saturn’s north pole, there’s a storm that’s unimaginable in size. It’s as big as two Earths and is in the shape of a hexagon. Several things form hexagonal shapes, and that includes crystals, insect eyes, beehives, and basalt columns. But Saturn’s storm is also hexagonal, and it’s also said to change color from turquoise to yellow over several years. According to Syfy, scientists “believe that vortexes occur at the planet’s north pole because of atmospheric flows deep within the gas giant and that these vortexes pinch an intense horizontal jet near the equator—which is what warps the storm into a hexagon.” This is one of many theories scientists have come across to try and explain the unexplainable (Science Alert).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Laughter Is Puzzling

Laughing feels good. It triggers the release of endorphins, which helps promote an overall sense of well-being. Not only that, but it strengthens your immune system, diminishes pain, and lessens the horrible impact of stress. You’d think scientists found a unifying theory to explain those bubbles of laughter, but it’s the opposite. They haven’t found an explanation for humor or how it works. There are numerous theories, one of those theories states that laughter is a short-term stress reliever, while others suggest it’s a way to communicate, a tool to conquer insecurity or associate with other people. Research also suggests that our ancestors, millions of years ago, also laughed. There is such a thing as a 10-million-old laugh, and it was most likely when the ape or human was tickled (Kid Spirit Online).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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The Structure Of Glass Makes Zero Sense

You don’t think twice about picking up a glass of water, tilting it towards your head, and taking a big swig. But because glass is amorphous and doesn’t have a well-ordered molecular structure, it makes it unlike other solid objects and does not qualify as solid. But it doesn’t qualify as liquid, either, since its structure isn’t irregular enough. It fits right in between. This all means that the structure of glass is constantly moving and evolving by slow movements of its molecules. Glass remains a mystery to scientists, and they’re constantly working on trying to figure out its structure and material. They have concluded, though, that there are similar structural building blocks between both amorphous and crystalline metallic glass (BBC).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Static Hair With Balloons Has A Secret

If you have a head full of hair, chances are, you’ve rubbed your head with a balloon at one point to get a static charge. It’s so common, that most of us barely think about what causes it. Scientists have tried studying the phenomenon and were unable to come up with a clear and concise reason as to why it happens. Previously, scientists claimed that electrons move from the atoms and molecules on your hair to the balloon. When the balloon has a negative charge, your hair turns to a positive charge, thus standing on end. This is called static electricity, though scientists later learned this theory doesn’t hold. It doesn’t explain why objects of the same material also build up a static charge. In an experiment with tiny grains of material, scientists, could not explain the static build-up and assumed that it may come from the water molecules that coat the grains. Still, it remains a complete mystery (Gizmodo).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Even Though We Use Anesthesia, Scientists Aren’t Sure How It Works

Without anesthesia, surgery would be a lot more painful, if not downright impossible. If you’ve ever undergone surgery, you probably thanked anesthesia for making you unconscious and preventing an immense amount of pain from coursing through your body. In the past, surgeries without anesthesia were unbearable, and the advancements in modern medicine have made surgery a lot more pleasant. Before this magical drug, doctors used opium and hypnosis, though we’re not sure if it worked or not. In 1811, an English novelist by the name of Fanny Burney underwent surgery without any sort of numbing solution. In a letter to her sister, she wrote, “I began a scream that lasted unintermittingly [sic] during the whole time of the incision — and I almost marvel that it rings not in my ears still! So excruciating was the agony.” Fainting was the best outcome. Regardless, scientists are still unsure how anesthesia works. Some believe it’s affected the fatty parts of the brain and interrupts neural activity. Now, it’s said that certain receptors attach themselves to the anesthetic, which leads to unconsciousness. There may also be multiple processes at work (Medical News Today).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Only Birds Know Why They Migrate

Humans aren’t the only species who head to warmer climates to escape the chill of winter when their nesting conditions become unsuitable. If you’ve ever booked a flight to a tropical country once that first snowflake fell from the sky, you’re not alone. Birds also migrate incredibly long distances once winter sets in. But scientists have no idea how birds migrate or how they manage the migration. They’ll fly hundreds of thousands of miles to find the perfect conditions and habitats to breed and live. Some birds fly up to 4,350 miles (7,000 kilometers). That’s the distance from Andorra to the USA. Birds use sight, smell, and even the stars to migrate. They follow Earth’s magnetic field with their biological compass. Scientists theorize that birds sense an invisible magnetic field with built-in hardware, though they’re not entirely sure (Vox).

Ordinary Things Scientists Somehow Still Can’t Explain
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Scientists Don’t Understand That Soft Sand Between Your Toes

Walking barefoot through the soft sand is one of the most pleasurable feelings in the world. Scientists understand why sand feels so good in between your toes, but they don’t know why sand is so soft. There’s a scientific reason why you love sitting on your towel and sticking your toes into the cool, comforting sand. When we walk through sand, the motion activates lymphatic circulation and the anastomosis of the blood vessels in our feet. This relaxes your feet. It’s also exfoliating and removes dead skin cells. We know the top surface of sand feels the softest. But the layers underneath feel rougher, and the smaller the grain of sand, the softer the sand feels. Nevertheless, some rules to sand don’t apply, like the smaller grains of sand trap more moisture, thus making it feel clumpier (Ranker)

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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