Science is all-powerful, all-knowing; our beneficent and kindly master. Well, not quite! Despite the temptation to laud Science as if it had absolute powers, there is much that it has not come close to understanding. The truth is that science is a process which will perhaps never be complete. In fact, most of the fun scientists have is in trying to figure out the solutions to hard questions. But there are some things they may need your help on. Can you figure out the answers to these 12 mysteries? All it takes is a good theory. Give it your best shot!
1. How on Earth Do Cat’s Purr?
When your little pussy cat is happy and contented, it purrs. But how cats do this remains a mystery. Some scientists believe that cats use their vocal chords to make the vibrating sounds. These sounds are at a frequency which may accelerate the healing process, and/or reduce pain. So, if a cat is stressed or hurt, it will also purr.
Evolution is a powerful theory that makes many assumptions which have not (yet) been matched by data. That’s why, for instance, there are many species that we can’t find the ancestors for. Amphibians are thought to have evolved from fish, but this doesn’t explain how the first land mammals came to have perfectly developed limbs and heads. Scientists are also unsure how dinosaurs could have been wiped out so suddenly before or why giant wooly mammoths appeared as if from nowhere.
3. Are Cows Magnetic?
Scientists have used Google Earth to study the patterns of cow grazing and found something very curious indeed. Apparently, 7 in 10 cows eat while holding their heads either to the north or south. When you consider that this ratio is the same for all countries and all continents, it’s quite a notable statistic. Why this happens, though, is a complete mystery.
In Oakville, Washington State in August 1994, instead of the usual rain, residents noticed this jelly falling from the sky. Then, remarkably, the following day many people became sick with flu-like symptoms. After inspecting the jelly, scientists noted that there two types of bacteria found inside: one of these is found in the human digestive system. They still don’t know how these bacteria caused the sickness.
5. What’s Dark Matter?
Some 27% of the universe is said to be ‘dark matter’. This matter is impossible to detect or verify because it neither emits nor interacts with electromagnetic radiation. Dark matter has only been known about for 60 years after it was first posited theoretically. We still await positive evidence of its existence.
6. How Many Planets Inhabit the Solar System?
At school, you probably learned that there are nine planets in our solar system, though recently Pluto has been downgraded. In the Kuiper belt beyond the non-planet Pluto, scientists have found many thousands of objects that are bigger than Pluto itself. Furthermore, they have spotted a big gap in the Kuiper belt, which seems to suggest that an Earth-sized planet has attracted the rocks to itself.
7. How Is That Some Are Left, Some Right Handed?
Somewhere between 70 and 95% of people are right handed, with the remaining percentage left handed. Some are ambidextrous, but we can’t estimate what proportion of the world use both. As yet there is no evidence that any left-handed gene exists. It could be that social environment plays the biggest part in determining which arm infants favor.
8. How Did These Megafauna Cease to Be?
10,000 years ago, the Earth’s great roaming giants – megafauna – ceased to exist. How animals like the mammoth came to be extinct is still something of a puzzle. Some theorize that climate change dramatically ruined their survival hopes, others opine that mass starvation was to blame.
9. Why Do We Have Dreams?
Oneirology – the study of dreams – one day hopes to unlock the key to dreams. Ever since the bible’s Joseph, humans have been struck by the uncanny images and stories that our brains tell us in the form of dreams. Extremists consider that they are nothing but random images and brain waves. Others, inspired by psychologists, believe that dreams reveal subconscious desires, and help us resolve hard problems. Whether dreams really do symbolize some deep truth about humanity is still to be discovered, though.
10. What’s a ‘Space Roar’?
In 2006, researchers were studying young stars when they heard strange space roars. The weird thing is that sound doesn’t travel through space, unlike radio waves. The scientists determined that these waves did not come from stars or any other cosmic phenomena. So, where do they come from? They haven’t figured it out yet. Perhaps we aren’t alone, after all.
11. Why Is It That We Have Different Blood Types?
Within our blood, we have antigens that signal the antibodies which kill foreign cells entering the body. Yet, different blood types have different antigens, and no one knows why this came to be. Interestingly, though, those with type B blood are said to be more at risk of E. coli, whereas those with O type have less chance of dying from malaria.
12. What Is the Turin Shroud?
The most scrutinized artifact in human history, which purports to be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth, still eludes scientific explanation. Widely touted as a modern fake after 1988 carbon dating verified it was not ancient, it was discovered that tests had wrongly been conducted on parts of the cloth that were known to have been added to repair damage to the shroud in Medieval times. Today, many people are convinced that not only is the shroud ancient, but it was also used to cover the crucified Jesus.
Tests have found that the linen contains traces of pollen from extinct plants that grew in ancient Jerusalem, and there is soil on it that can only be found outside the Damascus Gate in the same city. But what’s amazing is that no one knows how the image (a negative) was even produced. Skeptics believe it was done with some amazing, lost photocopying technology by an artist in early modern times. Believers are convinced a miracle occurred.