The Earth and our universe are so full of mysteries and knowledge that we will never fully understand what’s out there. There are even plenty of things on our planet that haven’t been discovered, and never will be. Throughout the decades and even in recent years, experts uncover new things and shed light on profound history. It goes to show just how small we really are, even with all of the documentation and technology available to us.
Beyond our world lie even more things to learn and discover. There are so many planets, galaxies, and solar systems out there that we are still trying to find extraterrestrial life to this day. Not a single human has even set foot on another planet. There isn’t much we know about interstellar space. What lies beyond the universe? Does it even have a limit? we just don’t know.
All these questions and so much more will hopefully be answered within time, but discoveries have been made along the way just in the 2000s alone that provide us with such fascinating insight regarding our world and the universe around us. Some of the discoveries have been relatively minor, such as discovering old ruins, but others are game changers, like finding planets with a similar atmosphere to Earth’s. The potential for discovery is virtually endless.
You’ll be surprised and astounded at some of the things humanity has found out about the universe we live in. Here are fifteen of the coolest things that we’ve discovered in the new millennium.
15. Water On Mars
One of the biggest questions that have ever circulated in history is whether there is life on Mars or not. Movies have been made about it, books have been written, games have been created, etc. Well, after years of studying the red planet, NASA has been able to confirm that there was running water on the planet at one point, hinting at its capability to sustain life. The water is salty, however, and is said to flow through Mars’s canyons and crater walls in the summertime. Whether this could mean that some form of life could be supported is anyone’s guess, but it more than anything alludes to how little we know about the planet. We’ve been studying it for a very long time and only now just discovered that water could exist within its rock. There could potentially be some Martians to find, but they’d be hidden pretty well at this point, or they’re microscopic organisms that we haven’t had the time to look for- we’re open to suggestions.
14. Fat Jupiter
We all know Jupiter as the gas giant of planets, roughly over 1,000 times the size of our very own Earth. But no more is this stormy beauty the king of the planets. Astronomers have recently discovered a planet approximately eleven times larger than Jupiter, and it lives far outside our solar system. Aptly nicknamed “Fat Jupiter” this planet is a beast in every sense of the word. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this new planet has to do with its orbit. Fat Jupiter orbits its star at a distance of about 60 billion miles- for perspective, that is 16 times the distance that Pluto orbits the sun! Speculation has led some to believe that the planet’s orbit used to be much closer to its star, but that it was eventually knocked out of orbit and then settled at the edge of its solar system. Unfortunately, for astronomers and scientists, there’s no way to know for sure. You could file Fat Jupiter’s orbit under, “The many mysteries of the universe.” Another interesting little tidbit is that a pair of twin planets that are very Earth-like also exist in the same solar system, orbiting the same star. There’s definitely some weird Twilight Zone thing happening here.
13. New State of Matter
If anybody asks you what the states of matter are, your response should be solid, liquid, and gas. We’ve had that lecture one hundred times before and will probably hear it one hundred times more. However, your answer just might have to change now, due to a recent discovery by international scientists. Just a few months ago, they caught evidence of a new state of matter; one where the electrons in an atom are broken down into “quasiparticles” (those aren’t completely new particles. Quasiparticles is only a term used to describe how a particular structure is behaving). They’ve been speculating about the existence about this state of matter for about forty years, but now proof has been found. This new state of matter is called quantum spin liquid, but don’t let the name fool you. The matter isn’t spinning, nor is it liquid. Instead, the name is only used to give people a picture of how the matter behaves. The spin refers more to a distribution of energy per a form of angular momentum in the structure. Then the quantum spins inside the electrons, reacting with each other to create an anarchic state of being.
12. Beneath Stonehenge
I think it’s safe to say that we will always see Stonehenge as a mystery of sorts. Why is it there? What was its purpose? Who built it in the first place? While we will still be asking those questions for many years to come, some new data surfaced that gives us a better idea of the thinking behind this creation. A study was conducted digitally that involved ground-penetrating radar. The result gave us a picture of what existed beneath Stonehenge. As it turns out, Stonehenge is not a lonesome monument, but actually goes hand in hand with many other structures. Seventeen other buildings were discovered in this study, which are all uninterpreted shrines, burial mounds, and pits. The study also revealed that the Circus (a long mound just north of Stonehenge) houses two deep pits that line up astronomically with Stonehenge. Apparently, Stonehenge is just a piece in a much larger framework, but it’s still bittersweet, as nobody is able to determine what any of its purpose is, or still, who put it there. Despite us having a much better idea of the true structure, we are no closer to fully understanding this wonder of the ancient world.
11. The Voyager Leaves Our Solar System
Many expeditions into space have taken place. Man-made craft have been launched to the depths of our solar system, photographing the most amazing of spatial objects. Massive telescopes sit on our planet, capturing things beyond our view. Just recently, a spacecraft has been to Pluto, showing us what the surface actually looks like, after much speculation. Just a mere three years ago, another milestone in space exploration was reached. The Voyager probe, after being launched in 1977, passed the boundaries of our solar system and ventured into interstellar space- an empty black void where you see stars and galaxies in every direction you look. Who knows where the Voyager will end up at this point, or how long it will take to stumble upon an interstellar planet, comet, etc., to photograph and show us back on Earth. One thing is for sure; we will never be able to fully explore the depths of space, and it will never stop surprising us. Maybe in several years, the Voyager will stumble across another solar system, and we’ll have a slew of new planets’ particles to learn about and discover. The possibilities are endless, and astronomers couldn’t be more excited.
10. Ancient Antarctic Life
Those of you that know your geology know that Antarctica is one of two Continental Ice Sheets on Planet Earth. Basically, almost the entire continent is made up of ice. However, that doesn’t mean that it was entirely barren. For example, Antarctica does have a lake, believe it or not- Lake Vida to be exact. However, if you walk around looking for it, you’ll never find it because the lake has been buried in about sixty feet of solid ice for approximately 2,800 years. So for nearly 3,000 years this lake has been cut off from the rest of the world. Well, this didn’t stop curious scientists who continued to drill for years and years. Eventually, they broke through and were able to sample the water contained below. What they found was an entirely new species of bacteria that had been living in the buried lake for thousands of years. This put a stick in their gears, as it told them that perhaps life could exist and thrive in places previously deemed uninhabitable. Hopefully this doesn’t lead scientists to start sampling lava to see if there are any special bacteria in there.
9. The Smell Of White
There are many colors in art and light, but none more flexible and fascinating than the color white. It is the pure essence of light, and the combination of every other color in the rainbow (unless we’re talking about art, then the combination of all the colors is an ugly brown). But did you know that scientists actually tried to create a white smell about four years ago? The principle behind it is similar to that of white noise. White noise is simply a pure sound, untouched by any other factors. It’s recognizable, and we’ve all heard it one time or another. So, in a lab they combined a plethora of different items (eighty-six different odor molecules to be exact) with various smells such as flowers, metals, and even food to create a pure scent or what they call “olfactory white.” By combining all of these different scents, it appeals to all of the smells we can detect as a human all at the same intensity. It is said that the smell of this olfactory white is so pure that when our noses get a whiff of it, it carries a scent of pure equilibrium. The more and more that I hear about it, the more and more I want to smell it.
8. Largest Black Hole
The concept of black holes is one that I don’t believe we will ever fully understand, and the knowledge we do have only confuses us even more. Black holes suck in light, sound, matter, and everything else to the point where you truly have nothing, and there is much speculation as to what happens if you were to come into contact with one, but everyone agrees it wouldn’t be good. These monstrosities have devoured planets, stars, and any nearby object they can bring into their vortex. They can grow massive, but not quite so large as the one they found in 2012. Astronomers were scanning the stars, and found a galaxy that was like “looking at a big hurricane.” Upon closer examination, they saw that the stars were moving at breakneck speeds in a circular motion. At the center of it all was a black hole with 17 billion times the mass of our sun. It’s marvel of our universe, but like a tornado, is only beautiful at a distance. What’s strange about this black hole, though, is that it doesn’t seem to swallow any of the nearby stars and planets. Still, I wouldn’t try my luck and get anywhere near it.
7. Cordyceps Fungus
Zombies have been a hot topic for an incredibly long time, and there has constantly been speculation as to whether or not a zombie outbreak could actually happen. In fact, the question has become prevalent enough that there are people who are even preparing for that fateful day. Unfortunately, for my future peace of mind, there were different types of fungus discovered just five years ago that hinted at the potential for zombies. The fungus Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani was found in a Brazilian rainforest, but even stranger was that it was found growing out of an ant’s head. Upon closer examination, scientists discovered that the fungus would actually infect an ant and take over its brain. Once the fungus takes over its brain, the ant loses all control of motion, and is at the full mercy of the fungus, hence the “zombie” part of it all. Then once the cordyceps fungus is ready to reproduce, it moves the ant to a proper location, kills it, and releases the spores. It can’t infect humans, but the possibility of it evolving to do so is a scary thought indeed, and one that the game The Last of Us deals with. Spoiler alert: it’s terrifying.
6. Yellowstone Volcano Deep Breath
The Yellowstone “supervolcano” is both beautiful and frightening. It has scientists and volcanologists alike on edge and will do so for more many years. An eruption from a super volcano could affect the entire world, and forever change how the Earth is structured. The volcano has erupted in the distant past, each eruption being 1,000 times stronger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Imagine the kind of damage that would do. Back in 2011, the volcano took a deep breath and released a lot of built up gases and heat. The result was that miles of land around the volcano bulged by as much as ten inches, reminding people that it still has the potential to erupt. Don’t get too worried though, the Yellowstone volcano, if the data matches up, shouldn’t blow anytime soon, so don’t start investing in a bomb shelter just yet. Scientists discovered that the magma was still at around ten kilometers deep when the breath happened, so no disasters are imminent. Experts hope that they can better monitor the volcano to predict the next deep breath, or even predict the next eruption.
5. Cyclops Shark
This is one of those creatures that is so creepy, I can’t bring myself to look away. It’s one of the strangest I’ve ever seen, and I’ll probably never sleep well again. But I’ll be darned if it isn’t cool. Understand that the cyclops shark isn’t a species of shark, rather the result of a rare genetic condition known as cyclopia, where instead of having two eyes, the affected has a single large eye. It is a condition that can occur in humans, but anything affected by it typically doesn’t survive for very long. While a man was fishing off the coast of Mexico, he managed to catch himself a pregnant dusky shark. However, when he cut it open, and found all of the unborn sharks, he saw a strange one that looked different from all the others. After careful analysis from experts, as well as comparisons to other creatures affected with cyclopia, it was confirmed that it was indeed a cyclops shark. Scientists involved in the case marveled at it and iterated how they still had very much to learn. It’s a cool looking shark, but that single eye just feels like it’s staring into my soul.
4. Fish with Hands
As a lover of the Final Fantasy franchise, a fish with hands is something I was no stranger to, but knowing that something like that exists, makes me truly happy inside. This new species of fish (new for 2010 that is) walks, not swims, along the ocean floor with a set of feet and hands for mobility. It was heralded as a new species after careful examination of its vertebrae, coloration, presence of spines, and the obvious presence of little hands. Fourteen species of these “handfish” were determined, and they all live in the coastal waters of Australia, but only four specimens of the pink handfish were ever found. It seems that they’re afraid of people like Cloud Strife taking them out (couldn’t resist). Unfortunately, not much else is known about the handfish, as they are poorly studied in favor of other creatures. Very little has been documented about their eating habits, behavior, communication, and everything else you could think of. Other varieties of handfish include the spotted handfish, the red handfish, and the purple handfish, although all of those tend to swim. The pink handfish is the only one that seems to walk on two legs.
3. Structures Past The Universe
Is the Universe finite? That is the question that has always bogged down even the most intelligent of people. It was believed for a while that the Universe is infinite, but now scientists aren’t so sure. And if the Universe has an end, what lies beyond its borders? Just six years ago, a group of individuals may have gotten a clearer picture of what exists past the universe. In 2008, it was reported that there was a group of galaxies traveling in the same direction at a speed of 2.2 million miles per hour. This motion baffled scientists, because no form of discovered science could explain what exactly was happening. After studying for a few years, the same group determined that the galaxies must have been acting on a force of gravity that exists outside of the universe. Dubbed “dark flow”, the scientists were able to see a consistent pattern of movement with the galaxies. Some were so moved by this discovery that they believed that our universe could have even been a part of something even bigger- a multiverse, if you will. It’s definitely a fascinating thought to think about, that’s for sure.
2. Black Holes Contain Other Universes
Segueing from the idea of the multiverse is a theory discussed around the same time frame. We already know how powerful and mysterious black holes are, and the one thing that we will perhaps never understand is what exactly happens to everything that gets sucked into a black hole. It was commonly accepted that it all gets compacted into a single point, but due to recent mathematical experimentation by a scientist in Indiana, that may not be the case. His research suggests that black holes are in fact tunnels to other worlds, and when things get sucked into it, they come out from a “white hole”. If that were the case, then multiple realities exist, each accessible by means of a black hole. Don’t get too excited though, you probably wouldn’t survive the trip. The concept is still interesting, but can never be proven. Until then, we’re left to wonder if a multiverse does exist, and wonder what kind of worlds are beyond our own borders. Once you try to go into detail you start to get into a lot of math, and then it becomes incredibly complicated, but as I said earlier, we will never be able to truly know everything.
1. The Universe Is Dying
Personally, I’m not a believer that the universe is infinite, and I think this data really helps that idea. Using incredibly strong radio telescopes, scientists have been able to monitor galaxies and their energy output. Interestingly enough, they are putting out a significantly less amount of energy than they have in the past. With much extrapolation, it is safe to say that the universe is slowly dying. The galaxies will continue to release energy until there is simply nothing left. As a matter of fact, many scientists predict that the universe won’t fade out for another quintillion years. Who knows what will become of humanity at that point? What technological advancements we’ll have? If any of the various religions prove to be true? Regardless, there is a timer on the universe, but none of us will live to see it reach zero. Such is the course of nature, but it will be a pretty sweet ride up until that point. It’s a depressing and humbling thought to think about, but when all’s said and done, humanity probably benefits from the universe being finite. After all, infinity isn’t something that we can fully understand, and at least we can wrap our heads around the limited nature of our universe.