By our very nature, humans demand answers. We’re not too keen on mysteries that go unsolved. Sure, we’re drawn to them, but mostly as part or our quest to conquer the unknown like a climber might conquer Everest.
Lucky for us there’s virtually endless opportunities to quench our thirst for answers. From manmade phenomena (like Stonehenge) to those undefined phenomena created by nature (of and beyond this world), we as humans have plenty to investigate. And, true to our nature, investigate we do. Here are two stories of mysteries that boggle our minds, and awaken the detective in all of us.
Certain estimates suggest that crop circles appear somewhere around the world on a weekly basis. These strange circles and patterns seem to appear overnight, and while they are often concentrated in the United Kingdom, have spread to dozens of other countries across the globe.
But who, or what, is behind these circles?
From mowing devils to UFOs, there’s been endless speculation on what causes the circles to form. But legendary beasts and alien encounters don’t typically sit well with those of a more practical mind. Alas, in 1991, two men admitted having created a fair number of crop circles throughout the UK, as a way to perpetuate the belief that aliens had landed. Others filled the role as copycats and helped to spread this fervor of alien fear.
Yet, despite the exposure of these hoaxers, many researchers claim there remain a tiny percentage of crop circles whose origin is still unexplained. There are still countless theories behind how these circles are made, from aliens to mysterious vortices, to even wind patterns.
While many conspiracy theorists and alien aficionados have their own theories, scientists and researches have committed themselves to discovering the true origin of those few circles that remain a mystery.
Deep within the remote Death Valley National Park in California, exists one of the strangest natural phenomena in all the country: sailing stones.
Heavy stones sitting atop the desert floor appear to move across the dried lake bed (known as Racetrack Playa), leaving a trail of cracked mud behind them. Aliens, being mankind’s go-to scapegoat, have long been blamed for this odd occurrence. How else could stones move on their own? They don’t have feet (neither do snakes, but that’s another story).
Adding to the mystery is that no one’s really seen these stones move on their own. We have only the trails left behind them as evidence. Beyond the obvious culprits (you know, aliens), other theories have suggested Earth’s magnetic field, gale-force winds, or even the work of dust devils (despite some of these stones weighing in at over 700 lbs.).
Most of these more logical theories have all but been disproved, leaving scientists scratching their heads in wonder. It took a man with a background in outer space science to derive a theory that most seem plausible.
Interested in the meteorological similarities between Death Valley and Ontario Lacus (a lake on Saturn’s moon, Titan), Ralph Lorenz was magnetically drawn (pardon the pun) to these mysterious sailing stones.
Like any practical scientist would, Lorenz created a kitchen-table model of Death Valley and the stones (using a Tupperware container), to determine how rocks could possibly slide across a lake bed. He put a small rock into a Tupperware container (along with sand), filled it with roughly an inch of water, and placed the container in a freezer.
The end result was a slab of ice with a rock embedded in it. All Lorenz had to do, at that point, was gently blow on the rock to get it to move across the container. As the ice-embedded rock moved, it left a trail in the sand at the bottom of the tray. What Lorenz realized is that the buoyancy of ice can cause large rocks to easily float.
His research team did some calculations and concluded that under certain winter conditions in Death Valley, enough water and ice could form to float the rocks across the muddy bottom of Racetrack Playa, even with just the slightest breeze.
Even as the world’s oldest and most theorized mysteries fall victim to mankind’s detective work, there’ll always be more unexplained phenomena for us to feast on. These strange occurrences fuel our imaginations while simultaneously allowing us the opportunity to flex our analytical minds. No wonder we’re obsessed with the strange and usual: this obsession provides us an excuse to play the role of mad scientist, kooky theorist, and believer in things greater than this world.