You can ask a scientist about photosynthesis and he’ll tell you more than you wanted to know. Ask him to explain how a bicycle works however, and he will be completed dumbfounded. It may surprise you to know that despite all we know about the world, some very simple questions remain unanswered. Here are a few of them:
How do bicycles work?
We’ve been using them for about a century, yet we still don’t know exactly how they work. In 2011, a group of engineers led by Andy Ruina of Cornell University tried to create a solid proposition of how the physics behind bicycles can be explained.
Their conclusion? ”The complex interactions have not been worked out. My suspicion is that we will never come to grips with them, but I don’t know that for sure,”
Why do cats purr?
It’s one of the most recognized animal sounds in the world, yet we still don’t know what it means. Cats purr both when they’re happy and when they’re upset. That has made it almost impossible for scientists to determine what purring signifies.
In Scientific American, Lyons proposed a theory that purring improves bone density and healing in felines. Because cats sleep for long periods of time, purring may be a way of strengthening their muscles. However, this still doesn’t explain why cats purr when they do. Lyons is convinced this will remain unsolved: ”I am pretty sure this one will stay a mystery – still cannot get cats to talk about it no matter how hard I try,”
Why are moths attracted to light?
Most scientists believe that bright lights throw off their internal navigation systems. But this theory has a major stumbling point: campfires have been around for 400,000 years. Wouldn’t bright fires have attracted moths and killed them off centuries ago? Alternate theories are filled with holes as well.
All we know for sure is this: the reason for moths’ suicidal nose-dives remains a total mystery.
Why is yawning contagious?
This one is tough. Last year Austrian researchers discovered that yawns are not contagious among red-footed tortoises. But what about human yawning? Still a mystery.
Not only do we not know why yawning is contagious, we don’t know why we yawn. Embryos do it to sculpt their jaws. Humans do it when they’re bored and tired.
Why do left-handed and right-handed people exist?
One tenth of people in the world have more control over their left limbs than their right. No one knows exactly why these people exist. And no one knows why righties exist either, for that matter.
Some theories state that since the left hemisphere of the brain controls most motor skills (which is wired to the right side of the body) that the right hand ends up being dominant in most people.
The hole in that theory is a rather big one. If lefties and righties have the same brain hemispheres, why does one side dominate the other in different people?
*stats via LLM