We are but microscopic specks in an infinite universe. That puts a terrifying picture into our minds doesn’t it? The transcendence of the human brain into the everlasting cosmos gives us a feeling of false perpetuity. The numerous rules and theories proposed by man and the consequent implementation and proved results respectively have given us the idea that a common language can decipher anything.
The workings of this planet and the known universe have been modestly defined over the years with the help of this language. What is this omnipotent language you ask? It is a little something we call science. However, as we learn in most cases, the workings of this planet is hardly ideal. No concept of perfection has yet been achieved by an individual and nature itself promotes the concept of non ideality. Although science has provided a humble interpretation of the known universe, here are some intriguing mysteries science hasn’t been able to solve yet.
Why do we need sleep?
While the answer seems obvious, in actuality, it is far more complex. Theories exist which speculate the need for sleep but since it varies from one being to another, there is no definitive answer supporting the claim. Sleep is the time when our bodies repair tissues and perform other maintenance activities, and we spend nearly a third of our lives dozing
Although an agreed theory, why do some organisms not sleep at all while we it is necessary for us? Although we belong to a biologically varied planet, the concept of sleep changes within the same species. Some theorize that animals who are able to sleep have evolved the ability to hide from predators, while others who need to remain more alert are able to rest and regenerate in other ways without going to sleep.
Another theory proposed links sleep patterns to information retention. For example, the brain has mechanisms in place allowing it to plunge into a state of tranquility as we sleep. “Sleep is the price we pay for learning,” Giulio Tononi, a psychiatry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison claimed. Tononi and his team conducted experiments on sleeping mice and found that, after sleep, synapses were significantly smaller than those before sleep.
Tononi’s team concluded that the brain needs to allows its activity to diminish in order to make logical connections with old and new information. The brain is bombarded with a series of emotional and logical input during the day which probably have cerebral connections with information stored in the past. To mix the new information in with all of the existing information, those connections need to weaken to “absorb” it.
While this theory sufficiently explains the brain’s process of making new information, it still doesn’t conclude if sleep is required for initiation of said process. Also, how come some of us are able to sleep through extremely noisy environments, and some of us can’t? Once we are able to measure exactly how awake or asleep the human brain is, it will bring us even further to knowing all there is to know about sleep.
What is dark matter?
For starters, we don’t know what it looks like. We can’t see it either. What’s funny is that twenty six percent of the known universe comprises of said matter. Since Dutch astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn hypothesized its existence in 1922, we have come to know it exists because of how it interacts with the matter we can observe, but dark matter is still mysteriously invisible to us.
Most of the known matter as proposed by science is made of electrons, protons and neutrons. However, the mysterious dark matter is composed of particles not discovered yet. It deviates from normal behavior during its interaction with light and matter. Dark matter does not absorb, reflect, or emit light. However, its gravitational influence does bend light as it passes nearby — that was one of the primary observations which indicated the existence of dark matter.
More recently, the Large Hadron Collider at the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) has brought us closer to actually unraveling the mystery behind dark matter. Researchers there are working to identify the invisible material by accelerating tiny particles and then studying the energy and momentum involved in their movements when they collide at high speeds.
Recent studies suggest that gravitational wave detectors could allow us to “see” dark matter for the first time. Although theorized, no definitive conclusion has been drawn yet about a major constituent of the universe. Quite dark huh?
Where is intelligent alien life?
The chief of all mysteries, are we alone in the universe? the universe is billions of years old but we still haven’t encountered life beyond our planet. Are the extraterrestrial beings so advanced that we are potentially being observed by them as experiments, or do they fear our existence and prefer to be in hiding?
Astronomers and physicists have proposed multiple theories trying to explain this intriguing conundrum. One theory suggests there is a great cataclysmic event that stops any civilization from ever making contact, while another proposes that aliens are trapped beneath thick layers of ice and rock on distant moons.
If extraterrestrial life does exist in our solar system, researchers suggest that it is likely microbial, as opposed to intelligent alien life. These alien organisms are thought to be on small, icy planets, such as the moons of Saturn or Jupiter. Scientists have theorized that the presence of abundant water might allow alien life to thrive.
However, these are just calculated guesses based on the findings and research by scientists. Alternate proposals could question the specific need for water by these beings? What if they thrived on another element? What if they are not as primitive as we believe? These questions have remained unanswered since time unknown.
How did Life begin?
How were we made when when no beings existed to procreate? What created “life” as we know it? What breathed life into barren elements? Those who believe in the Primordial Soup model believe that a nutrient-rich early Earth eventually formed increasingly-complex molecules that gave rise to life. This could have taken place in the deep ocean vents, in clay, or under ice.
Different models also give variable levels of importance to the presence of lightning or volcanic activity for the growth of early life. What makes distinct lifeforms distinguishable is DNA. However, it is believed that RNA may have dominated the biological construction of the early beings. However, this still does not answer the creation of these logical sequences.
Additionally, other scientists question whether other nucleic acids aside from RNA or DNA may have once existed. Another theory could possibly suggest the creation of life by advanced extraterrestrial creatures. This connects to the popular mystery of their existence. Some believe in panspermia, in which microbial life was brought to Earth via meteorites or comets. Even if that is true, it doesn’t answer the question of how that life originated.
Why do these sounds make my brain tingle?
A thousand videos from YouTube and Instagram are probably flashing across you mind right now. ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) videos are a popular trend these days and they cater to the needs of millions of people who claim to experience its calming effects. However, there are millions more whose seem unaffected by these peculiar sensation inducing sounds.
An array of of videos exist with narration in hushed voices and accompanied by soft sounds, like massaging a textured fabric or slicing through sand. A specialized microphone gives you the sensation that you are present in the created situation. For some people, the sound creates the sensation of a scalp massage. Millions have reported a significant decrease in anxiety and irritability due to relaxing neurological responses as a result of these sounds. However, why it happens, and why it doesn’t work for everyone, is still unknown.
Craig Richard, a professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University and founder of ASMR University, has been studying this peculiar sensation since 2013. “We are at the very beginning of unraveling the science behind ASMR,” Richard says. While past biological studies have shown that functional connectivity (regions of the brain that light up on a fMRI) is different in brains that experience ASMR than in those that don’t, ASMR remains a mystery. Why does it even exist? “I don’t think there will ever be one explanation that satisfies everyone,” he says.