The world we live in is full of weird, wild stuff, to quote the late Johnny Carson. Amidst our busy schedules and daily grind, it’s easy to forget that our universe has some very bizarre things going on in it. This list is only the tiniest fraction of interesting mysteries that have been learned through the study of our planet.
Here are 10 weird scientific facts that will change the way you look at the world.
10. We Eat Insects Every Day
While some cultures eat insects regularly, as a delicacy or as an important source of dietary protein, it’s not the cultural norm to eat bugs in North America…or is it? The FDA has allowances of insect parts specific to almost every food group, like 60ish insect parts per 100 grams of chocolate or up to 30 fly eggs per 100 grams of pizza sauce. Basically, you’re eating bugs every day. In fact, the average person eats up to 430 insects per year, without being aware of it, so that’s about 1.2 bugs per day! Many of those bugs may come from the food material being infested prior to processing, like vegetable crops. If you’ve ever caught a grasshopper outside, think about how many grasshoppers could be on a huge crop field! Now think about all the other bugs you didn’t notice! There’s no efficient way to remove all insect parts from your food, but if you hadn’t read it here, would you have even noticed?
9. Our Skin Cells Are Everywhere
The human body is incredibly fascinating; you are creating, regenerating, aging, and dying all day long, every day. Even your skin is constantly doing its own thing while you go about your business. The skin is regenerated in full over the course of a month, meaning the inner layer of skin moves its way to the outside layer, and then sheds like the leaves on an autumn tree. And what happens to all those flaky old skin cells? Just run a finger along any surface in your house that you haven’t dusted in a while and you’ll know. Skin cells make up about half of the dust in your house and accounts for about a billion tons of dust lingering around in the earth’s atmosphere. Literally, the old you is a dusty film on the tops of your shelves and your fridge and under your bed. This in turn attracts tiny dust mites that hang out in the crevices of your home eating all your old fleshy cast offs! Like pets that you just haven’t named yet! And they have a plentiful supply of you to chew on, since the average person sheds about a pound and a half of cells a year.
8. Most Life on Earth is Still Undiscovered
The ocean is a source of endless mystery, and humans have spent untold hours and dollars trying to root out and understand all of the ocean’s secrets. With 99% of this planet’s livable space, and with as much as 90% of the ocean still unexplored, is it any wonder why we find her so fascinating? At the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest point, which is located about halfway between Japan and Papua New Guinea, you could stack over 23 Empire State Buildings vertically. Imagine that elevator ride! And scientists have discovered that life thrives even at this incredible depth! The ocean currently covers 71% of the world’s surface, but that percentage is steadily increasing. It’s estimated that over 50%, maybe even as much as 80% of earth’s life exists in the briny deep, and we are only aware of a fraction of that life. There are still many new species to be discovered and strange facts to be amazed at!
7. The Largest Penis on Earth Belongs to…
One of the ocean’s most incredible life forms is the blue whale, the great leviathan of the deep! Not only is it the largest animal currently in existence, but the blue whale is the largest animal ever known to have existed, and that’s counting the dinosaurs. Blue whales gestate for 10-12 months before giving birth in mammalian fashion, which, as a reminder, means that the blue whale calves drink milk, 400 liters/110 gallons per day for almost seven months. Adults can eat about four tons of krill per day. Its heart is about as big as a Mini-Cooper, and its penis is the longest of any other living thing, at an average of nine feet long (2.7 meters). When copulating, the male blue whale ejaculates almost five gallons/20 liters of semen at a time. If you were ever so inclined to see this behemoth member in person, there is a penis museum in Iceland that has amongst its 280-piece collection, just the dried 67 inch tip of the gigantic phallus of a blue whale.
6. This Living Fossil Saves Lives
Another of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures is the humble horseshoe crab. It’s considered to be a “living fossil” because it has experienced such a minute amount of genetic drift compared to horseshoe crabs present in the fossil record, dating back as far as 450 million years, (which is about 200 million years prior to the dinosaur).
They’re not crabs really, they’re more closely related to spiders and scorpions. As an organism, humans have found them to be very useful. Their nitrogen rich bodies make a great fertilizer and the harvesting of horseshoe crabs for this purpose was once a booming East coast industry. Their shells are made of a substance called chitin which when applied to wounds, allows for strong skin bonding and improves healing times. Many medical instruments like needles and stitching thread are coated in chitin for this purpose. Their blood is blue due to the use of copper to carry oxygen as opposed to iron which causes the red color of blood in humans.
But the most interesting thing about the horseshoe crab is the presence of amebocytes in their blood. Amebocytes function a bit like our own white blood cells. The amebocytes react in the presence of gram-negative bacteria and create a viscous gel to surround and deactivate the bacteria. Scientists harvest the blood of horseshoe crabs to isolate this useful element, and all intravenous or injectable drugs, as well as prosthetic devices are tested with horseshoe blood amebocytes as per the FDA requirements. The need for amebocytes has caused over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs on the East coast of the U.S.
5. Alcohol Has Many Health Benefits
Humans love to drink. There is no place in the world where humans have not developed some form of alcohol to imbibe. In the U.S. alone, retail alcohol sales are estimated at almost $200 billion annually. Compare that number to about $14 billion annually in the pornography industry or $28 billion annually for McDonald’s Corporation. People just love their suds.
Consider the kerfuffle about alcohol during the Prohibition. Bootleggers, moon shiners, and mobsters made insane amounts of money on the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages even when it was illegal to do so. You just can’t stop the brew, and apparently you shouldn’t. Researchers have found that one 12 oz bottle of beer a day contains a healthy amount of antioxidants and promotes heart health (through thinning of the blood), but three or more 12 oz bottles of beer a day do the exact opposite, causing the formation of free radicals which oxidize cells and promote premature aging.
Vodka is useful in preventing Alzheimers, is an efficient home remedy for fevers and cold sores, and is actually a terrific antiseptic. Rum and wine mixes flavored with limejuice were given to British army soldiers to prevent scurvy while on the open seas. A primitive brew similar to beer was given to the slaves that erected the Great Pyramids. It functioned as a mild sedative, was a good source of carbohydrates for energy, and was cleaner than water from the Nile. Did you know that hops are in the Cannabaceae family and are closely related to marijuana? Coincidental?
4. Marijuana Is More Useful Than We Think
Speaking of MaryJane…let’s talk about one of the world’s favorite herbs! Whether you use it or not, it is hard to deny the usefulness of this plant. First, the portion people smoke is the ‘bud’, which is the flowering portion of the female plant. You can smoke the leaves, but they are less potent due to having only a fraction of the amount of THC as compared to the bud. THC is the chemical that causes the mind-altering effect experienced from smoking it.
Marijuana is second only to alcohol in widespread world usage. Scientific studies have reported over and over that marijuana usage is far less damaging to the body than alcohol or tobacco. In fact, there is a compound derived from marijuana that has been shown to freeze growth and cease the spread of cancer cells, and marijuana has been shown to help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy by stimulating their appetite (think munchies). Hemp, which is derived from a variety of the marijuana plant with a lower THC concentration, has an incredible variety of industrial uses, including textiles, paper, bio-degradable plastics, biofuel, and construction uses. However, hemp production is tightly regulated. Also, if the Apocalypse happens, the best thing you could have with you is a pocketful of marijuana seeds: they contain all the essential amino acids and are one of the only things a person could live off indefinitely with no other food supplementation.
3. Being in Love is Like Having OCD
One of the world’s other favorite things is love. Anything that makes us feel “good”, like alcohol, marijuana, and love becomes one of humanity’s obsessions. So what don’t you already know about love? Did you know that neurologically, the sensations of falling in love are extremely similar to the sensations of using cocaine? Did you know that people who are in love experience prolonged periods of low serotonin levels, which are similar to the levels presented in people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which might explain why people act so erratically when they get into relationships? Were you aware that people seeking to invest themselves in a long-term relationship are more likely to seek out someone with an attractive face as opposed to an attractive body? People seeking an attractive body are more likely looking for a sexual tryst than something with long-lasting capacity. Are you aware that people who are around the same “level” on an attractive scale are more likely to work out long term than a couple in which one partner is extremely attractive or extremely unattractive? So, try searching within your own league, eh? Did you know falling in love nets you the same results as walking out into oncoming traffic? No, that’s not true, but it can feel like that sometimes.
2. Break Ups Can Be Dangerous
In fact, breaking up is one of the most painful things a person can experience psychosomatically. Research has shown that the emotional experience of breaking up can actually cause physical manifestations, including pangs of pain in the heart region, known as Broken Heart Syndrome. Research has also shown that the physical and emotional pain of breaking up can be slightly assuaged by looking at a picture of the person from whom you feel separated. On the other hand, MRI scans of people who have been broken up with indicate activity in the portion of the brain which experiences and controls rage, not heartsickness. In fact, according to one study, 40-70% women who are murdered are killed by their spouse or partner, because apparently losing love makes you go even more nuts than finding love.
1. 1/2 Cup of Semen Could Repopulate the Earth
Here are some interesting things you may not have known about your other “other” favorite pastime…intercourse. Even though it takes only one sperm to fertilize an egg, men produce about 300 million spermatozoa per teaspoon of semen, so in theory, you could repopulate the earth to current population levels with ½ cup (24 teaspoons) of semen. Depending on the informational source you trust, semen has between 5 and 20 calories per teaspoon, and about the same protein content as an egg white (in case you were ever curious about that). Sperm can travel about 7 inches per hour, and can live inside the female reproductive system for up to 9 days. Most women only release one egg per month and incidentally, the egg is actually the only single human cell that is visible to the naked eye. At one time, British spies used semen as a nearly undetectable invisible ink, but discontinued the practice due to the odor that would result from older documents…and now you know, even if you didn’t want to…