Everyone loves a good mystery, and nothing is better for getting the brain spinning off into fantastical realms or towards bizarre conclusions. Was it aliens? Ancient Atlanteans? Ancient Alien Atlanteans?
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately depending on your opinion), many of the world's greatest mysteries have already been solved to their most absolute conclusion. As you might expect, there's no mention of extraterrestrial visitors or ghosts, but there is some very interesting scientific and historical research. Here are 10 such solved mysteries.
1. 'The Bloop'
In 1997, strange sounds were recorded deep in the South Pacific by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The sound, which to the untrained ear seemed biological in nature, led to suggestions it could have been caused by a massive whale, unknown sea monster or even the god of the The Deep Ones himself, Cthulhu. Listen to it below:
In reality, NOAA has since concluded the 'bloop' was in fact caused by icequakes - the fracturing and breaking off of ice shelves thousands of miles away.
2. The Fate of Richard III
Everyone knew England's King Richard III was killed around the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, but no one was entirely sure what kind of fate he met. Some suggested he was killed on the field of battle, while others claim he was captured and executed afterwards. Without any remains, it was impossible for historians to say with any kind of certainly.
However, that was until a body was found beneath a parking lot in Leicester in 2012. Using genealogical and forensic research, experts were able to confirm it was indeed Richard III. They were similarly able to confirm he was likely killed in battle. Professor Guy Rutty, from the University of Leicester, said:
The most likely injuries to have caused the king's death are the two to the inferior aspect of the skull – a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon.
3. The Shroud of Turin
It has long been claimed the Shroud of Turin is a piece of linen which was used as the burial shroud for Jesus Christ following his crucifixion. Some have gone so far to proclaim it is a holy relic, as it appears to show the ghostly outline of the body of Christ. The Catholic Church has never officially endorsed or rejected the shroud, although independent Pope's have appeared to condone its authenticity.
However, carbon testing conducted on the shroud in 1988 fairly conclusively revealed the shroud could not be from the time of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, it is around 1,300 years younger than was originally suggested. The testing revealed the linen itself originates from around 1260 to 1390 and cannot be older. Despite this, researchers are still divided on how the actual image of a man was made on the linen.
4. The Disappearance of the Nazca Civilization
At some point around 500 AD, the Nazca people of Peru disappeared. They left behind the buildings of their settlements, and more famously, the large geoglyphs of animals which were carved into the ground.
The combination of their sudden disappearance and apparent communication with the heavens, led some pseudo-scientists to suggest they were abducted by aliens. However, more recent research has come up with a much more plausible answer.
The Nazca cleared large areas of huarango trees in their native region to make room for farming. They cleared so many, they irreparably damaged the eco-system and led to the collapse of their own civilization. The huarango was an important source of nutrients to the soil, with the nitrogen-fixing trees increasing moisture and soil fertility. Once they were removed, desert like conditions settled in, while the deforestation also removed a barrier that protected from flooding. Faced with the collapse of their eco-system, the Nazca likely died out, or became dispersed.
5. The Mysterious Notes in Homer's The Odyssey
Over 150 years ago, a bizarre copy of Homer's The Odyssey was uncovered. The 500 year old manuscript, which was written in Greek, was accompanied by hundreds and hundreds of annotations written in an unknown language. All researchers knew was that they were likely written around the mid-19th century, although they had no idea what they said.
More recently, collector M.C. Lang offered a reward to anyone who could decode the text, inviting amateur cryptographers from around the world to get involved. In early 2014, Italian cryptology enthusiasts Daniele Metilli and Giula Accetta cracked the case when they revealed the notes were written in an obscure form of shorthand invented by Jean Coulon de Thevenot in the 18th century.
Unfortunately, the decoded text did not point to hidden treasures or bizarre rambling. Instead it was merely revealed to be an amateur French translation of the original Greek text.
6. The Bermuda Triangle
The area of the Atlantic Ocean between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico has become one of the most enduring mysteries on Earth - with claims it is murderous to ships or planes that pass through.
Many supernatural and scientific explanations have been suggested for its apparently insatiable appetite for shipwrecks - from alien abductions to magnetic anomalies and methane bubbles.
However, as far back as 1975, Larry Kusche revealed that statistically speaking, the Bermuda Triangle is no more dangerous than any other body of water, which is especially damning when you consider the area's propensity for tropical storms. In 2013, the World Wide Fund for Nature released a report listing the 10 most dangerous waters for shipping. The Bermuda Triangle was not among them.
Basically, there's nothing special - statistically speaking - about the Bermuda Triangle. It is no more dangerous to ships than any other randomly selected piece of ocean.
7. The Sailing Stones
For centuries, the mysterious 'sailing stones' of the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley national Park have defied explanation. The stones, which can often be surprisingly large, seemingly move across the surface of the earth of their own accord, leaving behind trails.
Various theories have been put forward to explain the phenomena, however in August 2014, one of the most popular was confirmed - it's all down to ice. The rocks move when large ice sheets which have formed on the surface begin to break up. These small ice panels are then pushed by light winds and can move the rocks at up to 5 meters a minute. You can see the time lapse video which confirmed this theory below:
8. Crystal Skulls
Since the early 20th century, there have been several examples of so called 'Crystal Skulls' - beautifully crafted translucent skulls which claim to be of Aztec or Mayan origin. Some even go further to claim they hold some kind of supernatural or paranormal powers.
However, detailed examination of the crystal skulls owned by The British Museum and the Smithsonian have revealed they were likely created much, much later than originally suggested. Electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography revealed minute rotary scratch marks around the eye sockets, teeth and cranium which meant it must have been cut and polished with a high-speed wheeled instrument. The Aztecs and Mayans never used the wheel.
Furthermore, the researchers deduced the skulls were cut from a piece of Brazilian rock crystal in Europe and then sold to travelers as apparent ancient Aztec relics. It is likely most were made around the mid-19th century, when interest in ancient culture saw a revival. Most museums have now removed their crystal skulls from display.
9. The Face on Mars
When the Viking 1 orbiter sent back one of its first batches of images from the surface of Mars, NASA received a rather bizarre and chilling image of what appears to be a human face.
Initially, NASA believed the face was created by the light and shadow at the time the picture was taken, however subsequent images also recreated the haunting face. This, of course, led some pseudo-experts to suggest extra-terrestrial intelligence was at play.
However, in 2003, the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe put things to rest. Using its high resolution stereo camera, it was able to take clearer images and create a 3D image of the "Face on Mars." In reality, it is nothing but a fairly normal Martian mesa. You can see the 3D reconstruction below:
10. How Bumblebees Fly
One of the more common 'facts' you'll hear is that, technically, bumblebees should not be able to fly according to the laws of physics (Side note: I was once at a party when someone got confused by this fact and claimed there was no scientific basis for why planes fly. It took longer to persuade him of his mistake than you'd think it would).
The previous thinking stated that their short wingspan, combined with their hefty bulk and un-aerodynamic shape, meant they simply shouldn't be able to fly. Some have even suggested the bumblebee can only fly because it thinks it can - which is a bizarre, if slightly adorable, explanation.
However, in 2005, a team of researchers used high-speed cinematography and mechanical models of the bee’s wings to solve the mystery. Bee's are able to achieve flight through a combination of extraordinary factors, especially the speed with which they beat their wings. In fact, bees flap their wings 230 times a second, which is considerably faster than most insects. Furthermore, they use a complex system of short, choppy wing strokes and rapid wing rotations to stay in the air. Check out one in slow motion below: