October 4, 2010

Unsolved Mysteries (That Are Actually Solved)

People never seem to be able to accept the truth for what it is. So what do we do? Come up with crazy explanations of what really happened.

#1. Amelia Earhart's 'Disappearance'

In case you don't know who Amelia Earhart is, she was a famous airplane pilot who decided to put herself in the record books by flying around the world, which would be a 29,000-mile journey. During her second attempt in 1937, she disappeared after giving her last radio transmission. She was on the last 7,000-mile leg of her journey.

More has been speculated about her disappearance than has probably been written about her life. Some say that she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, went down over part of the Japanese Empire, got captured and then executed. Some say she was a spy for President Roosevelt and secretly lived the end of her days in New Jersey. Then there are the people who say she flew her plane into the Pacific Ocean for no reason.

Well, did you know in 1940, 70 years ago and only four years after she vanished, they found a partial skeleton of a white woman with Earhart's measurements, alongside a pocket knife, broken cosmetics jar, a piece of glass from an airplane windshield and the same exact type of navigational system Earhart was using in her plane on an island. Did I mention this island is just southeast of where she was going?

#2. The Ghost Ship Mary Celeste

In 1872, a ship was spotted off the Azres in the Atlantic. It was completely intact and undisturbed, aside from the missing crew. No one was aboard, yet everyone's personal belongings were still sitting undisturbed where they had been left. Little valuables, piano music—everything right where it should be. All of the ship’s papers were missing, but the logbook was safe and sound. There was no sign of struggle, and the main hatch was sealed.

If you watch the History Channel, it was ghosts, aliens, sea monsters, or a dimensional vortex. If you either don't watch the History Channel (or you just don't believe in the other wonderful options), here's something else. 1,701 barrels of alcohol were on board and nine were empty. Easy, right? Everyone got drunk, took the lifeboat for a joyride, crashed into a whale and mystery solved. WRONG. The truth is actually more awesome.

It turns out Dr. Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London, cracked this case back in 2006. He simulated a leak of the ship’s nine barrels of alcohol and found that once the vapor was ignited, by a pipe or spark, it created a type of explosion that created a spectacular wave of flame with cool air behind it. No soot is left behind and there would be no burning or scorching. So everyone was actually okay ( just freaked out); they all piled into the ship's lifeboats without useful things like food or water, eventually sinking or dying of thirst and exposure all because they were too terrified to go back on the boat.

#3. The Fate of Atlantis

Many people know of this city from the Disney classic The Little Mermaid. Of course, they only got the idea from Greek philosophers. Atlantis was supposed to be the most advanced civilization on Earth, but they couldn't stop some big catastrophe from sinking their island into the Atlantic. People have spent centuries trying to find this lost city hoping that it will be filled with mermaids. Unfortunately no one has ever found any clues to the existence of Atlantis or where it might be (the same goes for proof of mermaids’ existence). Plato, the Greek philosopher who wrote about Atlantis, is dead and we can't really ask him what happened. So where is Atlantis?

It doesn't exist. Our knowledge of plate tectonics tells us that the possibility of sunken mystery continents wouldn't work. Also, Plato just so happened to mention in his writing that Atlantis is a completely hypothetical city. This is probably why it wasn't taken seriously until modern times. Most people actually took Plato's dialogues as the experiments that they actually were. If people had actually read the Timeaus, the book that mentions Atlantis, they would've figured this out a lot sooner. Of course, it doesn't help that the History Channel loves exploiting things like this to get people to watch.

#4. The Tunguska Explosion

Many people have seen the pictures of over 80 million trees in an area almost the size of Rhode Island completely flattened. This idea has also been used in many apocalyptic scenes where trees are all flattened, or seen when crazy powers are released destroying everything in a large area. It just so happens that on June 30, 1908, this actually happened, and that picture I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph just so happens to be real.

So, did anyone get hurt? Nope. It happened out in the middle of nowhere in Siberia. But people as far off as Great Britain have reported that the skies lit up like the Fourth of July right over the area where those 80 million trees got brutally murdered. Theories range from meteorites, natural gas, natural H-bomb explosions, antimatter, black holes, aliens, and Nikola Tesla.

Well, it took over 100 years, but in 2009 some researchers at Cornell University discovered the bright skies over Britain were just noctilucent clouds—clouds only produced by comets and spaceships. In fact they realized this completely by accident after watching a space shuttle launch to create the same effect. So, as much as Hollywood would like it to be an honest-to-goodness comet collision, the truth is always more mundane.

#5. Stonehenge, The Pyramids, and Ancient People Moving Huge Stones

All right, how do primitive people with not so much as a single bulldozer or any fancy-schmancy machinery move stones that weigh tons each? It's impossible, right? Unless aliens helped them. One theory for the pyramids is that a massive slave was forced to painstakingly throw one block at a time. Except that would have taken forever and the project would probably still be ongoing today. This is all of course based on the idea that people were unable to move stones in the Stone Age.

Not too long ago a guy decided to build his own Stonehenge just for the heck of it. His name is Wally Wallington and he did it all by himself using observational physics, wood, stones, and his own strength. What does this mean? Obviously moving stones isn't as hard as people make it out to be. Also, there were some pretty good techniques for moving enormous objects from one place to another back in the day.

It just so turns out that the Egyptians used contractors to build their pyramids, and guess what else? Pyramids, believe it or not, are pyramid shaped. Meaning they're ideal for having ramps put up the side which just so happens to make for the easiest possible way to move stones up a building.

Now about Stonehenge, built out in the middle of nowhere? Aliens did that one, right? No. Actually a long time ago, it was a short distance outside the largest Stone Age settlement in Britain. Also, as Wally Wallington proved, it might've just been one incredibly bored person building it.

#6. Anastasia

Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of all time is Anastasia, especially because so many little girls have seen the cartoon adaptation. So, did Anastasia—the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II and heir to the Russian monarchy—survive the brutal massacre of the Romanov family during the Russian Revolution?

Many people, especially women, have claimed that yes, indeed she did, and they are her! This really started in the early 1920’s, when a woman named Anna Anderson claimed just that and stuck by it until her death in 1984. Eventually it was determined she wasn't even Russian. Other than her, at least ten other women and a few men have come forward trying to be the real Romanov princess. Unfortunately, no one ever thought it was strange that most of these people were suffering from mental illnesses.

Well there happened to be the "Cold War," and this stopped people from getting access to the Romanov gravesite, but in 1991, when they finally got to dig up the bodies, there still were a few missing bodies, including that of the princess…until about two decades later, when they found the rest 200-feet away. In 2008, our DNA technology confirmed that these were, once and for all the remains of Anastasia, and unsurprisingly, she's dead.

In conclusion, the next time you have an unsolved mystery that was probably caused by aliens, and the History Channel backs you up, wait a few years and with our technology the real answer should show up. Or you know, stop thinking up crazy ideas and go for something much more bland and obvious and it'll probably be the truth.