For years, we grew up hearing unanswered questions. Although most people try to come up with the most reasonable explanations for them, we never knew whether it was in fact true or not. For instance, did the chicken come first or did the egg? What are those white spots that appear in our eyes when we look into the sky? Like these, there are many questions that leave us pondering but little do we know, scientists already have answers for them. Here, we have gathered some answers to questions that we have always wanted to know.
1. Which appeared first? The chicken or the egg?
For centuries the question has been causing dilemma. Did the chicken come first or did the egg? Going back in time, even Aristotle, the Ancient Greek philosopher and scientist was confused by the question. He however, took the easy way out by concluding that both the chicken and the egg must have always existed. The late Stephen Hawking, often called the successor to Albert Einstein, always argued that the egg came before the chicken. Although it took scientists to figure out the right answer, we now know that the egg did in fact come before the chicken.
Archaeological study shows that the oldest fossils of dinosaur eggs and embryos are about 190 million years old and archaeopteryx fossils, which are the oldest generally accepted as birds, are only around 150 million years old. This means that birds came after eggs. (source)
2. Why do we experience Déjà Vu?
Almost all of us have experienced Déjà Vu at least once in our lives. The feeling that we have already experienced the present situation before is remarkably common. For some, it could be as simple as walking into another room, or seeing a picture while for others, it could be a major event. While it makes us feel like we are traveling through time and experiencing an event that we once already experienced, neuroscientists believe that this is a short-term dysfunction in several regions of the brain. Things such as stress, fatigue or even being intoxicated can play a major role in this process of confusion, which causes our brain to treat our new memories as old ones.
Another study also showed that feelings of déjà vu were likely linked to seizure activity in the medial temporal lobe, which is the part of the brain that is associated with sensory perception, speech production and memory association. (source 1, 2)
3. Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes?
According to the principles of embryology, zebras are black with white stripes. The white stripes are basically a lack of their natural pigmentation, which is black. Although many believe that zebras are white with black stripes, the opposite is true scientifically. Studies show that zebra embryos are completely black and the white stripes only appear during the last embryonic stage. Not only are the stripes unique with each zebra, they also help them survive in the wild.
According to researchers, the white stripes attract fewer horseflies. There’s also a popular belief that the stripes also work as a camouflage to deter predators. Since zebras spend a lot of time grazing in open plains, their bodies are subjected to intense African heat for long periods of time. The white stripes deflect some if not all sunlight, thus helping them regulate body temperature. (source)
4. Why do some naps make us feel rested while sleeping for 7-8 hours makes us feel exhausted?
There are instances where we sleep for short periods of time but wake up completely rejuvenated and ready to finish the rest of the day. And then there are times where we get 7-8 hours of sleep but wake up completely exhausted. So, why does this happen? First of all, our diet, lifestyle and amount of caffeine intake can affect the quality of our sleep. Consuming too much fast food, diet drinks, caffeine and energy drinks can make us feel tired, even after a good night’s sleep. Something as simple as being dehydrated can also affect the quality of our sleep.
Another important fact is that naps should always be short. When we take long naps, we go into deep REM sleep cycles, which makes it hard for us to wake up or feel tired upon waking up. According to researchers, the best time to take a nap is between 1 pm to 3 pm and our naps should not exceed more than 30 minutes. Anything longer can make you feel exhausted for the rest of the day.
Sleeping too late at night or sleeping at different times of the night can also affect the quality of sleep. This is because your body has trouble synthesizing melatonin in time. Less than 1% of the population is also capable of sleeping for extremely short periods of time and yet be able to function all day. Scientists believe that this is due to some kind of genetic mutation that impacts their wake-sleep cycles. (source)
5. What are those little strings that float in our eyes when we look at bright light?
At some point in our lives, we have experienced this. The floaters, “cobwebs” or specks drift in our field of vision and if we try to focus on them, they will keep moving away. The small, dark, shadowy shapes or squiggly lines do not follow your eye movements precisely, and float away as we stop moving our eyes. They appear when looking at something bright, such as white paper or a blue sky and most people learn to ignore them. These little squiggly lines are formed when the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills about 80% of the eye and helps it maintain a round shape, slowly shrinks. As the vitreous shrinks, it can become somewhat stringy and these strands can cast shadows on the retina; which is what we see as floaters. (source)
6. Why does flying make you tired, even if you have been sleeping or resting?
There are many reason as to why we feel drained after a long flight. The main reasons however, has to do with altitude, vibrations and dehydration. When you fly at an elevation of 35,000 feet, even if the cabin is pressurized, the humidity is extremely low. This causes you to lose more fluids and feel exhausted. Studies show that on a flight, the atmosphere has approximately 1 to 2% humidity, whereas at sea level, in contrast, we often experience humidity levels around 40 to 50%.
Another factor that makes us feel tired is vibrations. When the airplane’s turbines rotate during flight, they generate subtle but constant vibrations. Although you may not feel the vibrations, they’re gyrating your muscles, bones, and connective tissue, draining your energy. Experts suggest using pillows or padding on your seat to reduce vibrations and to stay hydrated to reduce the effects of flying. (source)
7. Why did some pirates wear eye patches?
The fact that some pirates wore eye patches had nothing to do with missing an eye. In fact, studies show that it had everything to do with vision, specifically above decks and below them. When we go outside from a dark room, our eyes are quickly able to adapt to the change in light. When we go into a dark room however, it can take a while before our eyes can adapt to the light change. Studies have shown that in some cases, it can take up to 25 minutes for our eyes to adapt when we go from bright light to total darkness.
Pirates had to move in between above and below deck. For them, time was extremely important and wearing an eye patch helped them manage going in between with ease. Smart pirates wore eye patches that allowed them to keep one eye always adapted to darkness while the other adapting to brightness. When they went below the deck, they would switch the eye patch, thus allowing them to see clearly. MythBusters tested this hypothesis in 2007 and determined that it was plausible. (source)
8. Why do cats stare at walls or at nothing at all?
It’s not uncommon for our beloved pets to sit and stare at absolute nothing. Most cat owners have encountered this instance at least once in their lifetime. So, why do our furry little friends sit and stare at walls? Do they see something that we can’t see? Well, the truth is that cats have an extremely keen sense of smell and hearing. Unlike us, they pick up on even the smallest of sounds. So, when a cat is staring at nothing, it’s because it probably heard a sound coming from that direction and is waiting for the sound to repeat. (source)
9. Why do chameleons change their color?
Chameleons are lizards that are part of the scientific family called Chamaeleonidae. Many people believe that chameleons change their color and blend into their surroundings as a way to hide from predators. In addition to their ability to change color, chameleons are extremely fast, capable of running up to speeds of 21 mph. So, changing colors is only their secondary form of protection. The main reason why they change their colors is to reflect their mood. By doing so, they are sending signals to other chameleons in the area that they are either happy, annoyed, angry or ready to mate.
Studies show that some chameleons also change their color to adjust with the temperature. For example, if it gets colder by night, a chameleon will change into a darker color, thus allowing its body to absorb more heat and light. (source)
10. Why does it feel like time is going faster as we get older?
The expression “time flies” sounds realistic as we get older. As we grow older, it can feel like time is flying by but when we were in school, playing, or studying, it felt like time was taking forever. According to neuroscientists, the perception of time moving at a leisurely pace in childhood, and then quickening as we become adults, is a common experience. This happens because, during our childhood, a year of life amounts to much more time of existence, percentage-wise.
Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD, neurologist, neuro-oncologist, neuroscientist and chair of the Department of Translational Neurosciences and Neurotherapeutics at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center explains:
“For a 10-year-old, one year is 10 percent of their lives. For a 60-year-old, one year is less than two percent of their lives”.
Additionally, experts say that it also has to do with how our brains process information. When we are young, our brains are learning new things and processing information at a much faster pace. This gives the impression that time is moving slow. As we grow older, our brains take more time to process, which gives the impression that time is flying. Experts suggest practicing meditation, traveling, and keeping a journal in order to speed up our thinking process. (source 1, 2)