From Alien DNA to the Placebo Effect: Mysteries That Science Still Can’t Fully Explain

We’re all familiar with the common scientific debates: Evolution vs. creationism, climate change, what happens when we die. Scientists and physicists spend plenty of time trying to crack the unique mysteries of our universe that still escape us today.

From who is most likely to have alien DNA (page 5) to why the placebo effect works (page 7) these are the enigmas that science still can’t totally explain … yet.

Black holes

Black hole

For all we know a black hole can swallow us right up. | lukutin77/iStock/Getty Images

Black holes, the “ultimate cosmic quicksand,” aren’t just the plot-driver of a Sci-Fi movie. Physicists have a sense of how black holes form. They speculate that a large star collapses and creates a gravitational pull that sucks in everything around it, including light.

Black holes are invisible to modern telescopes, which can pick up electromagnetic radiation and light. 2012 calculations suspect you’d fall into a wall of fire. Other physicists believe you wouldn’t notice you were in a black hole until you crossed it. Regardless, black holes are controversial and challenge theoretical physics.

Next: This allegedly helped create the universe, but no one can explain where it went.

Where is all the lithium?

Lithium is a rare commodoty in the universe. | AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images

Isotopes of hydrogen, helium, and lithium were abundant early on in our universe. Hydrogen and helium still make up nearly all of the Universe’s matter, yet lithium-7 is only about a third as abundant as it should be.

Some scientists hypothesize that the lithium is trapped in the core of stars where modern telescopes can’t find it. Others blame hypothetical axions for the lack of lithium.

Next: This fruit is more complex than humans.

Tomato genes

Heirloom tomatoes

Tomatoes are more complex than you might think. | dovate/iStock/Getty Images

The tomato contains roughly 31,760 genes, while human beings only have between 20,000 – 30,000. This enigma, formerly known as the C-value paradox, explains that gene size doesn’t necessarily correlate with the complexity of the organism.

However, scientists still can’t identify why there is a lack of correlation. The enigma remains: why does the amount of non-coding DNA vary immensely between different organisms, and how is DNA lost and gained?

Next: What scientists can’t explain about the sun.

The sun’s atmosphere

Sun and Star with Cosmic Cloud in Space

The sun’s atmosphere is hotter than its surface. | Nixxphotography/iStock/Getty Images

The sun’s atmosphere, the corona, extends over a million kilometers from the sun’s surface. However, while the sun’s surface only reaches 5,000 degrees, the corona hits temperatures of two million degrees. NASA compares this phenomenon to walking away from a campfire and growing increasingly hot as you walk farther from the flames.

Astronomers have been searching for an explanation for a long time. The IRIS NASA mission discovered “heat bombs” that fly from the sun into the corona where they explode and release their energy in the form of heat. However, the astronomers think this is only a small part of why the corona is hundreds of times hotter than the sun’s surface.

Next: If you have green or blue eyes, you could have this unexplained DNA.

Alien DNA

blood bag

RH-negative blood is incredibly rare. | JarekJoepera/iStock/Getty Images

There are eight common blood types: A, AB, B, and O, each either positive or negative and based on the proteins found in your blood. The least common blood type is AB-negative, accounting for as little as 1% of the population — until now. Scientists claim they’ve discovered a new blood type known as RH-negative.

The RH blood type doesn’t carry the evolutionary gene most other humans have found in rhesus monkeys. Scientists are calling this unique finding “Alien DNA,” since RH-negative blood types didn’t come from the same lineage as the majority of the population. People with RH-negative blood are more likely to have a higher IQ and have green or blue eyes.

Next: If you have green or blue eyes, you could have this unexplained DNA.

The U.K. coastline’s official length

It’s almost impossible to measure the U.K.’s craggy coastline. | Dave Poultney/LOCOG via Getty Images

The U.K.’s coastline length has stumped scientists. The “coastline paradox” describes how the method you use to measure it determines the length. It’s tough to measure a coastline since the outline is made up of tiny fractions. As a result, there is no obvious distinction of the smallest feature you can measure.

However, you can approximate the length of the coastline depending on the scale you choose to use.

Next: You may have experienced this inexplicable phenomenon.

Placebo effect

housewife eating pills

No one knows how the placebo effect works. | CentralITAlliance/iStock/Getty Images

Placebo pills are used in controlled experiments to help researchers compare the effects of a new drug to those who received essentially a sugar pill (the placebo). However, for many people, just expecting a pill to have an influence on you can make it appear to work. This is known as the placebo effect.

No one can explain how our body heals through “mind power,” yet placebo pills have been shown to relieve pain and reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s, a neurological disorder.

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