13 Unsolved Mysteries Easily Explained by Science
Everyone loves a good mystery—everyone except scientists, that is. Here are their perfectly rational explanations for some truly bizarre mysteries.
The Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle is known as one of the world’s most dangerous bodies of water, but science has proven it’s not really any scarier than any other part of the ocean. Sure, ships and planes have disappeared there in seemingly calm weather. But Coast Guard records demonstrate many disappearances were the result of nothing more than human error, boat failure, and other natural occurrences that can happen at sea. In fact, based on the sheer size of the triangle, it would be unusual for there not to be some disappearances there. Find out more of the world’s most haunted bodies of water.
The legend of Anastasia
Russia’s Czar Nicholas II’s entire family was murdered in 1918. When the body of Nicholas’s teenage daughter, Anastasia, was not found with the other family members, people hoped that Anastasia had escaped. And for most of the last century, people kept that hope alive—a belief that was fueled in part by this woman’s claim. In 2007, a DNA analysis conclusively identified Anastasia’s body, which had been found in a separate grave, according to Biography. Don’t miss more of the biggest lies that made history.
The sailing stones of Death Valley
In parts of California’s Death Valley, stones sail across the desert floor, leaving trails in the sand—and it seems like they do it all on their own. But Live Science reports that a team of scientists attached motion-activated video equipment to some of the stones and discovered that during the winter, the desert floor develops a thin coating of ice. When the ice melts and begins to break up, the sheets—with the wind’s help—drag the rocks to a new position. Check out the mysteries of science that no one has figured out.
Two of the biggest mysteries surrounding Stonehenge are how and why people created the huge monument. But both of these mysteries seem to have been solved by an archeologist who published his findings not long ago in the Journal of British Archaeology. Seems the two largest stones weren’t placed by humans but had been in place for millions of years before humans decided to create a monument around them.
The “alien” of Atacama
In 2003, a skeleton was discovered in South America’s Atacama Desert. What was so mysterious about it was it was only six inches tall, had 10 ribs (instead of 12), giant eye sockets, and a pointy skull. Sounds like an alien, right? Sadly for X Files fans, researchers from California conducted a DNA analysis that revealed the skeleton was that of a human with severe genetic mutations. Love fun science facts and mysteries? Read about these 25 scientific discoveries you never learned about in school.
Those purple lights in Canada
In 2016, a man in Canada was watching the Northern Lights (the aurora borealis) when a glowing ribbon of purple light appeared. He knew immediately what he was seeing wasn’t part of the aurora borealis, NASA reports. Luckily, he took photos: The phenomenon was an example of the delightful acronym “STEVE”—strong thermal emission velocity enhancement. STEVE is a stream of extremely hot particles called “a sub auroral ion drift” (SAID). Scientists have been studying SAIDs for decades, but no one had ever seen the purple-light effect until now.
What on earth is a Yeti?
In 1951, a guy climbing Mt. Everest took a photo of a giant footprint (far too large to be, well, anything except… a monster), and the world was totally creeped out. Thus the mystery of “Yeti” (which translates from the native language as,”that thing there”) was born, and even scientists were curious. Recently, however, a team of scientists ran DNA testing on some Yeti “samples” collected over the years: They discovered that Yetis are in fact a large endangered species of bear. Here are 15 things the internet promised were true—but weren’t.
Why the universe glows with infrared light
For decades, scientists have been puzzled why the universe is filled with infrared light. Earlier this year, astronomers presented the answer at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society: The infrared light is emitted by an organic molecule called benzonitrile, which they say “permeates every part of the known universe.”
What happened to Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first person—man or woman—to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland. Sadly, her plane vanished over the Pacific in 1937; her disappearance became one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century. Well, the mystery was actually solved almost 80 years ago when searchers found bones on a remote Pacific island: At the time, experts believed the bones belonged to a man, but modern retesting revealed the remains are most likely Amelia Earhart’s. Here are other science mysteries no one has figured out.
Human spontaneous combustion?
Nearly every supposed case of humans spontaneously bursting into flames is false, according to Live Science: Most involved elderly people who lived alone and were sitting near an open fire. “If the person is asleep, intoxicated, unconscious, infirm or otherwise unable to move or put the flames out, the victim’s clothes can act as a wick… The flames draw on the body’s fat (a flammable oil very near the skin’s surface which combines with the burning clothing) to fuel the fire,” according to the report.
The Kummakivi Balancing Rock
Imagine a giant rock perched precariously atop another—how did it get there? Probably a giant troll, right? That’s just one of the theories you’ll hear about the Kummakivi Balancing Rock in Finland. Geologists, however, figure that the rock was deposited by a glacier during the last Ice Age.
Most crop circles
When crop circles suddenly appear in the countryside, lots of people get excited, thinking, “This is it! This is proof we’ve been visited by other life forms.” But in 1991, two men confessed that they’d been making crop circles as a prank for decades. According to Live Science, “Most crop circle researchers admit that the vast majority of crop circles are created by hoaxers…” However, there are a few they still can’t explain.
The Webdriver Torso YouTube account
In 2013, people began to notice a rather strange YouTube account posting really weird slideshows accompanied by even weirder beeping sounds. As Mental Floss says, “Commentors posited that the videos—which were usually 11 seconds long and featured colored rectangles moving around on a white screen—were spy code, alien code, or recruitment searches for expert hackers.” As it turns out, Google was behind the account. In 2014, the YouTube parent company revealed it was using the account to test the quality of YouTube videos.