How Can That Be?

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Aubrey Sanders Lisa Autz Samantha Spoto

It seems that for as much as we know, there is even more that we do not. Scientists may have discovered water on Mars, but is there life? We know there’s life on Earth, but how did it originate?

For all of the knowledge that empirical research has seemingly established, the universe still remains replete with unsolved mysteries, with higher-thinkers professing theories in attempts to explain them.

Here are some of the enigmatic entanglements that we’ve found ourselves unable to escape.

Samantha’s Take

With the recent celebration of Marty McFly’s expedition to the future, time travel has been on my mind. The concept seems to be saved for cinematic scenes, with Back to the Future being one of many films to take a stab at the perplexing phenomenon. There have been other comedic approaches to this theory, most notably in movies like Groundhog Day and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. However, some films take a more serious approach to time travel and consider the science behind it. Donnie Darko is a film that takes this approach and it has, in turn, led me to do my own research on the topic.

In Donnie Darko, the title character has the ability to control a wormhole. Hypothetically, a wormhole is a tunnel-like feature that has the potential to connect two separate points in space, spanning extremely far distances (i.e. light years, alternate universes) or even shorter distances, like mere feet or days.

Although there has been no observational evidence of wormholes existing, movies like Donnie Darko have managed to make the manipulation of time and space seem fairly feasible. Plus, scientists and mathematicians have developed equations and spent a great deal of energy formulating this theory. I may be universes away from understanding the concept fully, but maybe Marty McFly can explain it to me when he finds his way back to the future.

Tanya’s Take

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Animal evolution perplexes me, particularly the trajectories of the felidae family. But, while the cats that roam today’s Earth are majestic in their own regard–from the spotty little oncilla of the Central American rainforests to the puffy Pallas’ cats of the Central Asian steppes–those that dominated the land during past epochs deserve reverence, too.

The Homotherium is a respectable extinct cat, considered the most successful of the saber-tooth type. A beast that roamed through the Americas, Africa, and Euraisa, this cat’s extensive fore legs allowed for energy-efficient travel. The animal’s enlarged nasal opening suggests it had an immense requirement for oxygen intake, perhaps so that it could exert energy for hunting. The Homotherium’s limb structure also seems fit for making sudden leaps to attack prey.

Some speculate that these cats went extinct around 10,000 years ago. What boggles my mind is how such a mighty creature could cease to exist completely. Even if all of its megafauna prey were killed, couldn’t the Homotherium just find other creatures to eat? Even if humans were hunting them, couldn’t they just hunt the humans?

Though, as time only moves forth, that just makes me wonder what the state of cat species will evolve towards thousands of years from now…

Lisa’s Take

In grammar school mathematics we are taught how to count: one, two, three. We start to wonder, “is there is an end to counting?” and sooner or later our teacher needs to explain the endlessness of infinity. It’s a concept that grazed over my mind at a young age, for there were monkey bars and swings to be played on.

As I get older, the concept grows ever more psychologically vexing. The paradox of having finite objects, like humans, planets, and stars, yet an infinite amount of space and materializations of said objects is almost impossible for me to grasp. It makes me think of the different ways to interpret infinity as well, such as viewing a circle as both infinite and finite. However, my mind can’t help but want to reconcile the paradox in some way. It’s an endless mystery that will perhaps forever plague us as humans.

Aubrey’s Take

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ever since I saw a documentary about the sailing stones in California’s Death Valley, the topic will occasionally cross my mind and melt my brain for a quick minute. For those who aren’t familiar with this ridiculous phenomenon, the sailing stones are heavy rocks that travel inexplicably across the dried-up lakebed of Racetrack Playa, leaving trails hundreds of feet long etched into their wake. There is no indication of an outside force moving them, and no one has ever observed them moving of their own accord. Sometimes, the tracks will even make sharp 90-degree turns for no apparent reason.

Researchers speculated for years about the cause of the stones’ enigmatic road trips, proposing magnetic effects, strong winds, or weather-related activity. Of course, skeptics have proposed extraterrestrial influence, but it seems unlikely that aliens would have nothing better to do than periodically push some rocks around in the desert. Space travel can be so boring, you know?

Turns out that science can account for the movements of some of the smaller stones: a combination of wind, water, and freezing temperatures creates a thin sheet of ice beneath the rocks and then pulls them along the ground. Is this to say that if I leave a small boulder outside of my apartment in a polar vortex, one day I’ll come home to find that it just skedaddled 15 feet to the right? Not quite. The phenomenon only works as it does due to the conditions of the lakebed.

Still, though, this explanation has yet to confirm the movements of the sneaky larger stones, and I’ll likely continue to lose sleep over it until scientists can catch them in the act.

Feature photo courtesy of Rudolf Getel.