31 Things You Probably Never Thought About—Until Just Now
You know all those little mysteries that you stop to ponder but forget to look up? We get to the bottom of them; so now you know.
Why do my fingers get wrinkly when I’m swimming?
It may seem as if your skin is absorbing extra water during a soak in the pool or bathtub, but that’s not the case. Researchers have known since the 1930s that people with nerve damage in their fingers don’t prune up in the same way, meaning it’s not just happening through osmosis, according to Scientific American. Instead, it’s caused by blood vessels below the skin that constrict, which seems to have the evolutionary advantage of making it easier for us to pick up wet objects. For a 2013 study published in Biology Letters, scientists found that subjects with wrinkled fingers were faster at picking up submerged marbles (but didn’t do any better at picking up dry objects) than those with unwrinkled fingers. Check out these 9 unsolved mysteries about the human body.
Why do cats climb into boxes?
They do it to feel safe, according to Live Science—and it’s not just your domestic tabby: Big cats also like to hide in a spot where nothing can sneak up on them. Susan Bass, director of public relations at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, told Mental Floss that the tigers and other cats at her sanctuary will hop into any box big enough to hold them, just like the little kitty living at your house does.
How did the colors blue and pink get assigned to boys and girls?
It seems so embedded in our culture, but it wasn’t always so; in 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing that four major department stores suggested dressing boys in pink, according to Smithsonian Magazine. In 1918 the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department wrote, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Jo B. Paoletti, a historian at the University of Maryland and author of the book Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America, told Smithsonian that the color designations were pretty much arbitrary until the 1940s when manufacturers attempted to interpret the preferences of the American audience and could easily have gone the other way. Take a look at these 10 surprising mysteries we take for granted.
Why do car windows have little black dots?
The little black dots on your car’s windshield and windows and the black rims that surround them aren’t just there for decoration. The dots date all the way back to the 50s when car manufacturers used adhesive to hold car windows in place rather than metal trim. The black trim around the windows (called “frits”) and the black dots are painted onto the glass to hide the not very appealing look of the adhesive. The rims are actually baked into the window, so they hold the glue and window in place. The dots serve as an aesthetically pleasing transition from the thick black line to the transparent window. They aren’t just there to look nice though, they help to provide temperature control. When the glass is bent to fit into the frame of the windshield it’s heated up, the black-painted glass heats up faster than the rest of it, the dots help to distribute the heat more evenly and keep the glass from warping.
Why do we hiccup?
Believe it or not, hiccups might be an evolutionary holdover from our more fishlike ancestors, according to Smithsonian Magazine. During a hiccup, the muscles we use to inhale contract while the vocal cords are slammed shut at the same time by the tongue and the roof of the mouth. There’s no discernible purpose for hiccups in humans, but a similar pattern of movement among amphibians is useful: When tadpoles are breathing underwater during a stage when they have both lungs and gills, they take in a mouthful of water, close the opening to the lungs, and then force the water out through their gills. In both humans and amphibians, the signal initiating hiccuplike activity comes from the brain stem. And guess what? Dogs get hiccups too.
What were the first crops humans started to grow?
Crop cultivation probably started with wild varieties of peas, lentils, and barley that humans already found growing naturally around 12,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East (including modern Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Palestine, southeastern Turkey, and western Iran), according to NPR’s food blog, the Salt.
Why do seashells sound like the ocean?
It’s lovely to reminisce about your beach vacation by listening to the sound of waves in a big conch shell—but be aware that it isn’t the ocean you hear. The shape of seashells allows them to capture and reflect ambient noise, amplifying certain frequencies, so when you hold one to your ear, you’re really just hearing echoes of the quiet sounds that are already surrounding you. Nationally accredited audiologist Shruti Deshpande, PhD, an assistant professor at St. John’s University and the Long Island Doctor of Audiology Consortium, told HuffPost recently that empty bowls and bottles can produce similar effects. Take a look at 14 mysteries of the ocean that scientists still can’t explain.
Why do humans have an appendix?
We rarely think about the appendix—a small structure near the beginning of the large intestine—until it gets infected and requires emergency surgery. Since Charles Darwin’s era many have thought the appendix a vestigial digestive organ left over from some previous evolutionary phase of our development and no longer in use. But in recent years, scientists have realized that many other mammals have appendixes (including koalas and beavers). The tiny organ might be part of the immune system, assisting the body’s defenses by storing healthy gut bacteria. Read about this and 15 other signs of evolution you can find on your body.
Why do cops touch the taillight on a car during traffic stops?
For decades, police officers have put their fingers on a car’s taillight as they approach the drivers-side window in order to leave fingerprints. It’s a just-in-case precaution that would prove they pulled a car over should they be injured during the encounter or go missing afterward, according to the Law Dictionary. The practice has fallen off recently, though, as dashboard and body cameras have become more commonplace.
Why are school buses yellow?
The color is officially called “national school bus glossy yellow,” and it’s standard across the United States. Back in 1939, a conference funded by the Rockefeller Foundation attracted transportation officials from all of the then-48 states, who came together and agreed on a number of safety standards for school buses, including the color. Yellow is very visible, even in early morning or late-evening light, and black lettering on a yellow background is easy to read. It took until 1974 for all the school buses in the country to meet the standards.