Alzheimer’s is one of the most incurable neurodegenerative diseases out there. And it remains one of those scientific mysteries scientists have not yet figured out. Alzheimer’s causes dementia, which in turn affects people’s memory and motor skills with a decline until death. Even though scientists have been studying Alzheimer’s for decades, they’ve still been unable to find a highly effective treatment, despite everything they know about the disease. But one thing is for certain, is that scientists don’t know what truly causes the disease.
There are many theories and speculations, but they haven’t found a solidified reason. Vox reports that “for years, the prevailing theory has been that Alzheimer’s is caused by pile-ups of proteins called amyloids, which effectively create plaques in the brain. But drugs that help clear amyloids from the brain don’t seem to work very well in combating the disease. Some scientists think Alzheimer’s researchers have been too focused on this one theory, at the expense of studying other potential causes, like viral infections.” Despite all the research, they still have not come up with an answer. All we can do is hope that one day, scientists will figure out the cause and develop a cure for this heartbreaking disease (Vox).
We’ve seen scientists discovering the scales of butterfly wings, but what about the clap they make? It seems like butterflies remain one of the biggest scientific mysteries out there, and scientists are working very hard to try and figure out these fascinating insects as best they can. First of all, they’re shaped unlike any other animal out there. To fly and generate thrust, it turns out that butterflies use a clapping and cupping method that’s efficient and works. A couple of biologists found that the broad-winged butterflies clap their wings together as they fly on an upstroke, but their wings don’t press flat together, as we do when we’re applauding.
They bend their wings, which might cup the air between their wings instead and help strengthen their downstroke. Smithsonian Mag reports an interesting experiment to research this. They said, “the scientists compared the flapping capabilities of two robotic clappers, one with rigid wings and one with flexible wings. They found that flexibility increased wing efficiency by 28 percent and added 22 percent more force to their flaps. In nature, a butterfly’s wing clap probably gives them the extra boost they need to escape predators. Back in the lab, the pair hope their observations inspire new flying and swimming robots.” Because of this discovery, the future of humanity is changed. We can use butterfly wings to create robots and other things using their technique, in a similar way to shark intestines, as we saw previously on this list (Smithsonian Mag).
As we’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest scientific mysteries involves dark matter. Almost eighty years ago, astronomers noticed there was more gravity pulling stuff around out in space than we can visibly see, which means something is going on that we cannot see.
It’s an unknown thing, and astronomers have attempted time and time again to detect what it is. Their results have proven to be frustrating, as they haven’t been able to uncover just what’s happening up in space. Let’s hope that the scientists have a breakthrough one day, so all of their efforts are worth it (Science News).
Let’s start by explaining what general relativity is. According to Smithsonian Mag, “general relativity describes the universe as a “fabric” of space-time that is warped by large masses. It’s this warping that causes gravity, rather than an internal property of mass as Isaac Newton thought.” Interestingly enough Einstein developed these theories back in 1915 and they held ever since. A prediction in this model includes the acceleration of masses that cause “ripples” in space-time. Astronomers on Earth would be able to detect this with a large enough mass, including a black hole.
Furthermore, “in September 2015, the LIGO and Virgo collaboration detected gravitational waves for the first time, propagating from a pair of merging black holes some 1.3 billion light-years away. Since then, the two instruments have detected several additional gravitational waves, including one from two merging neutron stars.” The cosmos have remained scientific mystery that scientists haven’t been able to figure out, but are slowly becoming closer to figuring out the truth behind it all (Smithsonian Mag).
Scientists speculate how old humans can reach, and what the average lifespan is. We never really know how old a human can live, for example, if it could be up to 150 years. We won’t know until it happens. Over the past several decades, the human lifespan has risen in most parts of the world, but scientists are still unsure if there’s a limit. It remains one of the biggest scientific mysteries, considering there’s no way to measure it except for when it happens.
Technology that may help humans live into their second decade is being developed, albeit slowly. It if does work, though, would you want to live until you’re 200 years old? Even though that sounds awesome, the human body isn’t designed physically to last that long, so there’s no way to tell what type of mobility we would have. If we were confined to our beds because we were too sick to move, that would be a different story (Vox).
The model of the universe remains one of the biggest scientific mysteries in the world. If we uncover it fully, it could change the future of humanity. In fact, over the last several decades, physicians have worked a day in and day out to model the workings of the universe and developed the Standard Model. According to Smithsonian Mag, “this model describes four basic interactions of matter, known as the fundamental forces. Two are familiar in everyday life: the gravitational force and the electromagnetic force. The other two, however, only exert their influence inside the nuclei of atoms: the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force.” Get that?
They’re first exploring the different makeup of the universe, which is four basic interactions of matter. In the 1960s, Peter Higgs described the quantum field and its role in the Standard Model. Furthermore, “according to the laws of quantum mechanics, all such fundamental fields should have an associated particle, which came to be known as the Higgs boson. Decades later, in 2012, two teams using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to conduct particle collisions reported the detection of a particle with the predicted mass of the Higgs boson, providing substantial evidence for the existence of the Higgs field and Higgs boson.” This was a breakthrough for scientists to further understand the universe in which we live (Smithsonian Mag).
We have something to learn from squirrels, and that’s how to navigate treetops and leap long distances. Squirrels engage in risky behavior. But it’s their expert-level recovery skills that help them stick to the landing and prevent any injuries. We could use them to help create robots that are agile and successful at landing jumps and missed marks. According to Smithsonian Mag, Nathaniel Hunt, an engineer at the University of Nebraska, said, “like squirrels, the next generation of fast, agile legged robots could perceive opportunities to exploit specific aspects of the world around them that directly complement their capabilities.
Sensors and perception may be designed to directly identify only the critical information that supports movement decisions and control while ignoring a huge amount of irrelevant information.” To put this into action, scientists use wild fox squirrels in their study on an obstacle course in a eucalyptus grove. Depending on the branch’s flexibility, squirrels alter their jumps to match the branches weight. Sometimes, they twist mid-air, and other times, they find something to bounce off of. It’s one of those scientific mysteries that scientists have finally figured out, that will shape the future of robots (Smithsonian Mag).
For the first time, fat-tailed dwarf lemurs hibernate in captivity. They’re our closest primate relatives who hibernate in the wild. Researchers recreated the conditions that lemurs needed to hibernate. Because of this, scientists were able to learn about the metabolic processes and what they could teach us about humans. According to Smithsonian Mag, researchers “set the mood for a really good nap, and made a makeshift tree hollow for the lemurs to settle into in their enclosure. They exposed the critters to 9.5 hours of light instead of a summery 11 hours to mimic winter’s shortened daylight. Also, they lowered the enclosure’s temperature to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Because they were able to control and alter the conditions, the lemurs were fooled into thinking it was winter time. They also controlled the hibernators’ metabolic reduction, so they could tolerate the extremes without any ill effects. Interestingly enough, “despite not moving or eating for months, these animals maintain muscle mass and organ function.” They’ve also discovered that successful space travel to distant destinations would require hibernation-like states in astronauts (Smithsonian Mag).
One of the biggest scientific mysteries of today is the spheres of light that crackle and glow during thunderstorms. People have reported these mysterious balls of light all over the world, in rural areas, homes, and on airplanes. First, people assumed they were aliens, but they’re something much more interesting than that. These crazy apparitions are called ball lightning, and they’re one of the most interesting phenomena on Earth.
They only last for a few moments, and it’s impossible to determine where they’ll show up, so if you see one, you’re one of the lucky few. It’s also tough to replicate, although people have tried to do such a thing in their labs. It looks like we’ll just have to stick to gazing out our windows and hoping we’ll see one of those floating balls pass by somewhere (Vox).
The closest related thing to slime mold is fungi, so if you’re having trouble picturing what it might be, then just picture a giant mushroom. However, they’re pretty gooey and are soil-dwelling amoebas that are in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. They lack a nervous system and a brain, and yet, they’re able to store memories. Researchers found out that slime molds can recall the location of food and navigate a maze even though they don’t have a brain. If you feel guilty about your bad memory after hearing that, you’re not alone.
According to Smithsonian Mag, “the single-celled organisms unleash tubular tendrils, which also transport fluid and nutrients throughout their sprawling network-like body plan, to explore new environments. In a study published in the journal PNAS in February, researchers found that they record important details of their surroundings by changing the diameter of these outstretched tubes.”
This is a breaking discovery that’s uncovered one of the biggest scientific mysteries related to amoeba. If we study these more, we’re studying and uncovering more about the micro parts that make the world spin. Karen Alim, a biophysicist at the Technical University of Munich, said, “given P. polycephalum’s highly dynamic network reorganization, the persistence of this imprint sparked the idea that the network architecture itself could serve as a memory of the past.” This could also pave the way for scientists to study major bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections that have long since been hard to uncover (Smithsonian Mag).
One of the biggest scientific mysteries for women has been endometriosis. For some reason or another, scientists have not yet been able to figure out what causes it. If you don’t know what it is, we can give you a run down. Women suffering from endometriosis have tissue that’s similar to what grows inside the uterus in other places in the body. It’s incredibly debilitating and painful, and for some reason, scientists have had trouble figuring out a cure. The treatment options are also limited, so people with the disease just have to live with it.
Oftentimes, people with the disease go to the doctor and find that they’re dismissive of their disease and concerns. It also may take several years before someone gets an accurate diagnosis, and research on the condition has not been properly funded. Patients find it very frustrating that scientists have been unable to tackle one of the most debilitating mysteries in the medical literature (Vox).
We’ve all heard a thing or two about global warming. Scientists have been predicting the effects of fossil fuels and burning coal on the rising temperatures. But did you know they’ve done this for over 100 years? We can’t help but recognize that we, humans, are the cause of the rising temperatures, considering we’re the ones burning fossil fuels. We’re also the ones using single-use plastic and causing oil spillages across the entire planet. An issue of Popular Mechanics magazine from 1912 said, “the furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and raise its temperature.
The effect may be considerable in a few centuries.” Only one century later, the increase was more than we could imagine. It’s happening at a rate faster than we can believe. Smithsonian Mag reports that “2016 was the hottest year since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) started recording global temperature 139 years ago. The effects of this global change include more frequent and destructive wildfires, more common droughts, accelerating polar ice melt, and increased storm surges.
California is burning, Venice is flooding, urban heat deaths are on the rise, and countless coastal and island communities face an existential crisisânot to mention the ecological havoc wreaked by climate change, stifling the planet’s ability to pull carbon back out of the atmosphere.” That’s a disastrous thing to read about, but it’s, unfortunately, the reality of our situation. Still, it remains one of those scientific mysteries we’ll never be able to figure out. Just what will happen when the world gets too hot? Is there a strategic way to stop it or slow it down? (Smithsonian Mag).
We’ve read about dark matter, but what about dark energy? Even though it sounds the same, it’s quite different from each other. The only similarity is that both confuse scientists and remain one of the biggest scientific mysteries in the world. Basically, with dark energy, something in space is continuously expanding at an ever-increasing rate. But only recently have scientists possibly figured out what it is.
Science News reports that “it’s the never-changing density of energy residing throughout all of space, referred to by Einstein as the “cosmical term” and now called the cosmological constant.” However, they’re unsure of how large the cosmological constant should be. It’s much more than the difference between the size of the universe and a proton. Because of this, its identity remains a mystery. Scientists have yet to discover the cosmological constant (Science News).
As we’ve already mentioned on this list, alien life must exist elsewhere, right? There must be some distant world where aliens are speaking to each other and plotting their takeover of planet Earth. That is if they even know we exist. In fact, according to Science News, there are already projects underway that are trying to discover life in other solar systems. They said, “projects like SETI have been listening for some such message, so far unsuccessfully.
There are two possible explanations. One, there have been no messages (perhaps the aliens are experts at game theory and calculated that contacting humans would be a bad strategy). Two, the messages are there, but nobody knows how to detect or recognize them.” At least they’re trying. That’s more effort than previously done. It remains one of those scientific mysteries that researchers want to discover. Let’s hope they’ll pick something up in our lifetime, otherwise, we’ll never know if there are truly aliens out there or not. Or maybe they’re already on our planet, living right next to us (Science News).
Truthfully, one of the biggest scientific mysteries of humankind is time. Even though it seems straightforward, it’s more complex than that. It’s funny because scientists need more time to study time. But that’s the conundrum. Until they can figure out how to manipulate time, they’ll just have to keep on studying it.
Many questions arise regarding time, and that’s questions as, is time illusory or real? Does time always move forward, or can we manipulate time and make it more backward? Is time travel possible, and could we go into the future and go back into the past? Or must we always stay in the present? We may never get the answers to any of these and will just need to keep on living in the present moment (Science News).
We’re not talking about the show The Twilight Zone from the 1950s, we’re talking about the layer of the ocean called the Twilight Zone. As you dive deeper into the ocean, less sunlight shines through the surface until you reach a depth of 200 meters.
The sunlight fades almost completely, and you’re left in eery darkness that scientists have had trouble studying. Andone Lavery, who works at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told Vox,” “it’s almost easier to define it by what we don’t know than what we do know.” It remains one of the biggest scientific mysteries, but scientists assume that more fish are living in the twilight zone than in the regular ocean. They even assume that these creatures play a large role in climate regulation (Vox).
Paleontology had its revolution when scientists got their first look at the colors of dinosaurs. Because no human was alive during this period, it’s always been a question of what these massive mammals looked like. They remain one of the biggest scientific mysteries out there. It was discovered by an analysis of melanosomes, which are organelles that contain pigments, in the fossilized feathers of Sinosauropteryz. This dinosaur lived in China more than 120 million years ago. After the discovery, it was found that the prehistoric creature had “reddish-brown tones” and stripes along its tail. Shortly after, a full-body reconstruction revealed the colors of a small feathered dinosaur that lived some 160 million years ago, Anchiornis,” reports Smithsonian Mag.
Through studying fossilized pigments, scientists have discovered more strategies about the dinosaurs’ countershading and camouflage. Furthermore, it was discovered that “in 2017, a remarkably well-preserved armored dinosaur which lived about 110 million years ago, Borealopelta, was found to have reddish-brown tones to help blend into the environment.” These discoveries are slowly shaping the way for humanity and helping scientists discover more about our past (Smithsonian Mag).
In the early 1950s, scientists discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. Since then, scientists have thought about the possibility of artificially modifying DNA to change the functions of the organism. It was first trialed in 1990, when “a four-year-old girl had her white blood cells removed, augmented with the genes that produce an enzyme called adenosine deaminase (ADA), and then reinjected into her body to treat ADA deficiency, a genetic condition that hampers the immune system’s ability to fight disease,” reports Smithsonian Mag.
If we can edit genes, there’s a host of discoveries that will help the future. Furthermore, “the patient’s body began producing the ADA enzyme. But new white blood cells with the corrected gene were not produced, and she had to continue receiving injections.” This is pretty remarkable and opened a ton of new doors for researchers and scientists. They might be able to discover diseases like cancer by modifying the cells and reinjecting them into the body (Smithsonian Mag).
Everyone has a butt. The butt is the butt of all jokes. We could go on and on forever with butt jokes, but why do we have them? The truth of the matter is that butts remain one of the biggest scientific mysteries out there, even if it does seem hilarious. The appearance of the anus was a huge momentous moment in the evolution of animals. Before we had an anus, animals had to both eat and excrete through the same hole.
That doesn’t sound pleasant at all and sounds horrifying and repulsive. That sounds like one way to catch an illness and fast. Scientists are unaware of which animal first developed the anus, and when they developed it. Because the anus doesn’t fossilize, it’s impossible to dig through skeletal bones and fossils and find out where it first came from. Until we solve that mystery, we just have to be thankful for it (Vox).
Learning about the past and where humans came from is one of the biggest scientific mysteries in the world. We weren’t there to study them. In 2010, scientists used a tool to study the past. They “used a hair preserved in permafrost to sequence the genome of a man who lived some 4,000 years ago in what is now Greenland.” It’s fascinating that hair can survive a long time. He says, the hair revealed “the physical traits and even the blood type of a member of one of the first cultures to settle in that part of the world,” according to Smithsonian Mag. This is fascinating, considering how much information they were able to discover from just hair.
Because of this finding, geneticists and anthropologists were able to learn more about the culture of the past than they were previously. Still, it’s challenging to extract ancient DNA like hair or skin. Oftentimes, it’s contaminated with the DNA of microbes from the environment, which taints any findings the scientists might have made. To fight this, scientists also used the petrous bone of the skull, which is a dense bone near the ear to learn more about our ancestors (Smithsonian Mag).
Some insects and animals can walk on water, and that’s spiders, lizards, ants, and snails. Scavenger Beetles can also walk on water, but they can also do more tricks than just walk. They’re remarkable in that they can flip upside-down and scuttle beneath the surface of the water. It’s as if they’re climbing underneath a glass table, except that glass is water. It’s truly bizarre and is something that remains one of the most fascinating mysteries in regard to insects. To study this, scientists took a few different approaches. “In the first study to analyze this skill in-depth, researchers filmed the insects’ inverted crawling technique. These beetles trap air bubbles with their leg hairs to keep them oxygenated. But video footage shows this behavior may also keep them afloat and pinned to the surface.”
It seems like these insects are smarter than us humans. “The bubble likely gives the bug enough support to put some pressure on the water-air boundary without breaking through. The beetle’s footsteps even push up “tiny hills” of water along the surface as they go.” Even after observing these bugs, scientists still have many questions. They’re using these insects to help build bots that replicate the bug’s skills. This is just like the shark intestines and butterfly wings. It looks like scientists are turning to the natural world more and more to create an unnatural world for the use of search and rescue or military purposes (Smithsonian Mag).
These aquatic extremophiles look like eight-legged chunky bears. They can survive in some of the most inhospitable places in the world. This includes extremely hot, boiling, hydrothermal vents, and absolute zero temperatures going from one extreme to the next. That’s not something humans will ever think about surviving, ever. They can survive the vacuum of space and pressure six times the deepest pit of the ocean. They’re also the only soft-bodied animal that can walk, compared to their counterparts that slither, wriggle, and thrash around like worms. Smithsonian Mag found out that “tardigrades walk like insects 500,000 times their size.
These little creatures look like aliens. They’re a bit freaky to look at, but we honestly have a lot to learn from them. Though they move only half of their already-minuscule body length (0.5 millimeters) per second on average, they can move two body lengths simultaneously at top speed. Slow as they may be, they also seem to adjust their steps according to the terrain they’re navigating.” Scientists are looking at ways to use the way they walk in new forms of locomotion, used for micro-scale robots. Again, we’re seeing the scientific mysteries in the world. The Tardigrades use minimal brain power and energy, following simple rules that have a high impact (Smithsonian Mag).