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Two Unsolved Mysteries Answered by Science

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Mysteries are considered awesome as they intrigue people and catch their attention as there is an inexplicable fact involved in every mystery that cannot be readily perceived by our understanding. But not all of them remain mystifying forever. Science has shed a lot of light in the recent years and has made many of these mysteries comprehensible, but not without much painstaking efforts. Here are two such unsolved mysteries that have made people wonder about how on earth are they possible.

I. The Tunguska Event

On the 30th of June 1908 at 7.14 am, there was a huge explosion caused by a fireball flying over the skies of Eastern Siberian Taiga that felled nearly 80 million trees in the forest area of 2000 square kilometres. No persons were harmed during the event.

Trees fallen during the event

Trees fallen during the event [Pic: Wikipedia]

The tremors of the explosion were felt widely across the continent as the meteorological stations in various parts of Europe picked up seismic and atmospheric anomalies. The initial explosion was followed by a sequence of fourteen explosions that can be heard from thousands of miles away. It was estimated that the explosion had a potential 1000 times more than that of the atom bombs used during World War II.

There were many speculations about the reason for this explosion as the area cannot be reached for investigation due to the region’s inaccessibility and political quagmires till 1927, when Russian mineralogist Leonid Kulik took interest in finding out the reason.

He believed that it is a meteorite impact, but he couldn’t find any crater or any mineral material that is found on meteors. As a meteorite clash was the most anticipated reason –even the Russian Press reported so -, failure of Kulik to find any such material as evidence brought more possible explanations about the explosion.

There were other beliefs that the explosion was caused by a UFO, or a natural gas leakage, volcanic explosion, a clash with a black hole, etc. Even it was speculated the explosion was caused by one of Nikola Tesla’s experiment.

Anyhow, Kulik believed that the meteorite didn’t fall on earth but exploded very near to the earth’s surface, which was felt by many. The mystery remained unsolved until 2007 when Luca Gasperini and his team of researchers from University of Bologna found a lake unusually deep in the region.

They speculated that the Lake Cheko might be created by a fragment of the meteorite, which was later confirmed by them with the help of acoustic imaging. Moreover, there was no evidence that such a lake existed before 1908.

Lake Cheko

A view of lake Cheko [Pic: tunguska.ru]

In 2007, Ukrainian researchers claimed to find out some minerals found in meteorites in the region, which conforms to the idea that the explosion was caused by a meteorite. Any extraterrestrial material found in the lake can be a strong evidence for the claim, but nothing as such has happened so far. So, many believe that Tunguska event is still a mystery.

Related Video: Tunguska event on June 30, 1908

II. The Sailing Stones of Death Valley

When a rock weighing more than 300 kilograms move on its own, leaving a trail behind, what do you think is the phenomenon that makes it possible for the stones to move? Magical you may say. But there are so many components out there in the world that act in combinatorial ways to make things happen, which may appear strange to us.

Sailing stones

Sailing stones [Pic: Anatoliy Lukich]

Aerial view of Death Valley with Sailing Stones

Aerial view of Death Valley with Sailing Stones [Pic; sci-news.com]

So these heavy rocks were found moving in two of the lake beds in the United States (There are many, in fact). One is the Little Bonnie Claire Playa in Nevada and the second, also the significant, Racetrack Playa in the Death Valley National Park of California.

When it is said that the rocks move, do not imagine that they slide along continuously like an automobile. Their movement cannot be watched from a distance, and they move a few inches in a few seconds. This movement has been observed since the early 1900s, but it remained a mystery for a long time.

Recently in 2011 researchers from Scripps Institute of Oceanography unravelled the mystery, saying that during winter the playa receives some rainfall and the water gets frozen to become thin sheets of ice, when the mercury dips during the night. The next morning when the sun shines, these ice sheets break to move the stones a few inches. As the surface of the lake bed is muddy, it creates a track.

Time lapsed images of sailing Stones

Time lapsed images of sailing Stones [Pic: sci-news.com]

To put simply, imagine a piece of rock kept on a sheet of ice. When the ice breaks, the rock is displaced. A similar phenomenon has been happening in the playa for a century that has moved stones even up to a distance of 250 meters, as quoted by Slate.com.

This movement is brought under very conducive circumstances when there is a right amount of breeze, or the right strength of wind that acts to break the sheet of ice, which is capable of moving the stone, everything synchronous.

But wait, before you come to a conclusion!

Three researchers from Spain claim that they have found stones sailing in an area where no ice is formed, because of a less severe winter and a salty soil. They propose that in the absence of ice, stones can move in winter when there is a strong wind during a storm. They also say that the microbes found on the soil would facilitate the movement of the stones reducing the friction.

Related Video: How Rocks Move

Thus, there are more than one explanations offered by science in explaining a strange phenomenon, may it be the Tunguska event or the sailing stones. There is always a possibility that none of the explanations is true. That is why we call those phenomena a mystery. There are many such phenomena, and we have looked into just two.

But two of them are enough to conclude that a mystery sounds interesting only if it remains unsolved!

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