The past century has seen a massive increase in scientific explanations for different phenomena. From Alfred Wegener’s 1912 theory of continental drift to the complete mapping of the human genome in 2003, scientists have – through their blood, sweat, tears, and feuds – provided plenty of insights into the nature of the universe, as well as why your body does weird stuff. One of the most dramatic scientific leaps has come in the area of medicine as doctors and researchers have begun to elucidate the most mysterious and complex processes of the human body. Thanks to these advances in modern medicine, doctors are not only able to offer explanations for strange things that the body does, but they are also able to provide better treatments to those in need.
However, despite the sheer amount of research done on and for humans, there is still a whole host of things that no one can explain about the body. These lasting enigmas largely revolve around the strange bodily functions that seem to either have no purpose or operate in a way that simply baffles scientists. Some of them are part of everyday life, while others are simply weird things that your body does without you ever even noticing. Whatever the case, the human body is a far more peculiar thing than you might ever have imagined.
Nobody Knows Why We Find Kissing Enjoyable
Although there are a very limited number of animals that “kiss,” none of them do so romantically like human beings do. In fact, kissing isn’t really even a general human “thing” – many cultures from around the world don’t kiss, and scientists and anthropologists have discerned kissing to be a western cultural phenomenon. This makes it even more difficult to explain why some bodies seem to enjoy kissing so much. Kissing presents the threat of sharing 80 million saliva bacteria, and at least half of the human world finds it revolting. So why is it so arousing – a fundamental ritual of courtship – in some societies?
One prominent explanation is that it has evolved culturally as a way of being able to sniff out potential mates, giving people the chance to smell pheromones and genes in a partner to see if they are suitable. Some societies culturally evolved to get really up close and personal to take in pheromones through lip-on-lip contact, while others do it through more general close contact that doesn’t actually involve saliva swapping. The root of social kissing, though, has been difficult to pinpoint, leaving it as one of those bodily mysteries for the ages.
It Remains A Mystery Why We Have Pubic Hair
The mere fact that humans have pubic hair at all is strange considering that fact that all other primates, our closest living relatives, are the exact opposite with hair covering everything on their bodies except the pubic regions. The reason for having pubic hair is also difficult to work out when those who remove it do not seem to suffer from any ill effects.
Some of the suggested theories for why the human body grows thick hair near the genitals and under the arms include the idea that it provides protection, creates a cozy genital blanket, and acts to stop friction. However, the most prominent idea is that sweet, smelly pubic hairs collect pheromones to help attract mates.
There’s No Explanation For Why We Go Through Puberty
We share so much with our primate cousins, including opposable thumbs and the majority of our genetic code. However, one thing they don’t have to undergo is a hallmark of human existence: the bittersweet symphony that is puberty.
In fact, out of all of the animals that live on planet Earth, only humans have the pleasure of experiencing that awkward, pimply, hormonal rollercoaster of physical and sexual maturation. Other creatures simply transition into adulthood in a constant kind of growing, rather than having a “childhood” of small to moderate growth followed by a protracted adolescence. While scientists can’t definitively explain that tumultuous period of human existence, they know that it must serve some purpose as it has lasted for at least 200,000 years.
Scientists Are Unsure Why We Feel Pain
Pain is something that nearly everyone experiences despite the lengths that we go to in order to avoid it. Yet, the concept of pain in the human body is not fully understood in part because it’s such a personal, subjective experience. Researchers know that certain stimuli hurt, and some pains can be treated with medication. They also know that it is transmitted via nerve cells sending signals to the brain. But that’s about all they know.
The exact reason for feeling pain may seem obvious – on many levels it’s simply a warning that you could be about to seriously damage yourself. Still, it’s so subjective and can occur in so many different ways that researchers haven’t come to grips with how and why the brain interprets pain the way it does.
There’s No Answer For Why Humans And Other Animals Sleep
Despite the fact that every animal on the planet sleeps in one way or another for large proportions of its life, sleep is one of the great mysteries of modern science and one of the weirder things your body does. Perhaps to make it even more mysterious, scientists know that sleep is essential to life – humans can actually die if they get too sleep deprived. As far as explanations for it go, though, William C. Dement, founder of Stanford University’s Sleep Research Center, once said that, “As far as I know, the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.”
Multiple theories have been offered to explain why we sleep, such as that it’s a way to save energy, restore our bodies, and clear the brain of chemical buildups. But none of the explanations have come close to providing a definitive answer. Considering how much time we spend sleeping and the fact that we die without enough of it, it’s difficult to think that it does not play some imperative role in sustaining life.
What Blushing Is Actually For Is An Enigma
It is highly likely that you’ve blushed at some point in your life. This involuntary reddening of the face usually occurs when someone is embarrassed, shamed, or angered, but it can also be induced as a result of sexual and romantic situations. What scientists do know about blushing is that it’s connected to the fight-or-flight response system, that complex network of hormonal, circulatory, and neural processes that enables us to respond to intense, threatening stimuli.
However, why blushing is part of that system has puzzled scientists and psychologists for some time. The fact that it can be triggered by a variety of different psychological cues makes it even more difficult to explain. Different theories have suggested it may be a way of showing submissiveness or act as a communicative signal to others in a group, but none of these hypothesized explanations have been agreed upon.
Why We Involuntarily Twitch Before Sleep Remains Unanswered
While you may not be familiar with the phrase “hypnic jerk,” there’s a good chance that you’ve experienced one during your lifetime. Hypnic jerk is the involuntary twitch that can occur at night just before you fall asleep, often accompanied by a falling sensation. Exactly why this happens and why it’s so common have never been explained. Some believe it may be a leftover quirk of when our ancient ancestors lived in trees.
They’d twitch themselves awake to keep from falling from their nighttime perches. Others characterize hypnic jerks as involuntary battles between our wakeful brain and our restful one in which surges of energy from the day suddenly spark through our nervous systems, twitching us back into cognizance. There’s really no data to support either theory, though.
No One Knows What Purpose Laughing Serves
While many animals can “laugh” (just try searching for a video of mice or monkeys being tickled for proof), only humans have a sense of humor that can provoke laughter without physical touching. Yet (sincere) laughter is completely involuntary and incredibly difficult to fake, suggesting it must have some sort of evolutionary purpose that has helped it to become so ingrained in us.
Most of the leading ideas involve humor acting as a mechanism for achieving social superiority and laughter acting as either a communicative tool and signal or a means of relieving sexual and aggressive tension. However, scientists, philosophers, and psychologists have yet to come to a definitive agreement on the roles of humor and laughter, leaving them to conclude that perhaps a single explanation doesn’t exist.
Why We Yawn And Why It’s Contagious Are Unsolvable Mysteries
Yawning is something that every single person on the planet does, and yet no one seems to know exactly why. After all, yawning doesn’t appear to have any noticeable effect on you when you do it unlike many other strange bodily functions. For a long time, the prevailing theory was that it may have injected extra oxygen into the blood when levels were low, but this has largely been dismissed. Some researchers have recently suggested it could be a way to control the temperature of the brain, helping keep ambient core temperatures through the injection of a cold, refreshing blast of oxygen.
Even more troubling for scientists than what purpose a yawn serves is why they are so contagious. Seeing someone else yawn, or even reading about the action, can be enough to invoke yawning. The fact that it is involuntary may mean that it’s a psychological response meant to be communicative rather than a physiological one. Some scientists even reason that yawning is a herding symbol, intended to help us link up with the others of our species. However, there are no fully accepted theories for the phenomenon.
Scientists Still Can’t Say How The Placebo Effect Fools Us
While a well-documented phenomenon, the placebo effect – the fact that humans can experience benefits from inactive drugs and treatments simply through the belief that they work – continues to baffle almost every researcher who has investigated it. Essentially, the placebo effect is the ability of sugar pills and other non-active medicines to improve the symptoms of a patient for no physiological reason.
While researchers have made strides in deciphering the areas of the brain that are involved in the placebo effect, it’s still unclear exactly how or why it can have such an impact.
There’s No Definitive Explanation For Why We Dream When Asleep
Dreams have long puzzled scientists, philosophers, and thinkers. Yet, despite being such an important topic of discussion for centuries, we know surprisingly little about their purpose or how they work. The predominant idea among those in the know, though, was that dreams are a psychological mechanism necessary for working through the tensions, sensations, and unconscious elements of our days.
However, some scientists now say that dreams might not actually be that meaningful, and they’re actually part of some other physiological process. While some researchers have suggested it could be a way for the brain to sort through memories and live out fantasies, there are others who believe dreams are simply the “crackles” of the tv sets that are human brains “cooling down” for rest. Many scientists, however, believe some combination of the two modes of interpreting dreams is probably the most accurate answer.
Why The Body Has Hand Dominance Is A Conundrum
Apart from a few select individuals, almost everyone demonstrates hand dominance to some degree. Exactly why this happens has never been fully understood, however. Possible explanations have to account for the fact that around 10% of people are left handed, something that evolution should have weeded out a long time ago.
Unlike past theories that simply stated that learning to favor one had an environmental cause, the leading thought today is that hand dominance is determined genetically, through complex genetic networks and brain asymmetries. But, as far as a single best reason for why humans manifest hand dominance, researchers still don’t have a precise explanation.
Nobody Knows What Consciousness Even Is
Here’s an unsettling mystery of the human self – no one has ever been able to definitely, decidedly explain what human consciousness is or where it comes from. Philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists can agree on the fact that it’s something intangible that hovers above our conscious decisions and experiences, but what it’s “made of” remains elusive. And one of the biggest issues in trying to decipher consciousness is that our brains might actually be too “puny” to reach over and beyond themselves in order to understand how they work.
The crazy thing is, many in the know reason we might never have an answer to the mystery of consciousness.