Our planet is an amazing, beautiful place. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its weird quirks.
From having a huge moon to having a huge fungus taking up thousands of acres of space, Earth has plenty of strange features that we may not have heard about before. Our planet is a water-covered rock hurtling through space, and in the grand scheme of things, maybe it’s not all that special. But it’s our home, and it’s the only one we have, at least for now. So it’s only right that we learn more about it, be it good, bad, or deeply weird.
What's weird about the moon?
Our moon, compared to other moons in the solar system, isn’t really all that big. However, if you compare the moon’s size to that of Earth, it’s actually quite large.
We may have learned at school that the moon is a little over a quarter as wide as Earth. It’s likely that we’ve taken that piece of information for granted and haven’t thought more of it, but it’s actually one pertinent example of Earth’s weirdness. Our moon is one of the most overgrown moons in the solar system, coming in second after Pluto’s Chiron. Pluto and Chiron actually seem less like a celestial body and its satellite, and more like two objects close in size that circle around each other.
A Peruvian shaman plays a song, eveloped by the steam of the Boiling River. [Photo by Andrés Ruzo, National Geographic]
Let’s go back down to the surface for this strange terrestrial feature: the Boiling River. This river, which flows deep in the Amazon in Peru, was once the stuff of legends. However, it turned out that the river actually exists.
The river doesn’t actually boil, but its temperatures come close enough, just a few degrees off the boiling point of water. These temperatures have made the river produce enough steam to make an already otherworldly rainforest look even more mystical. However, it’s not all wondrousness. These waters aren’t something you’d want to wade in, and they can even cook small animals careless and unfortunate enough to fall in.
National Geographic’s Andrés Ruzo discovered the possible reason behind the river’s high temperatures: it’s actually a natural, geothermal, non-volcanic feature.
A patch of Posidonia on the Mediterranean Sea floor. [Photo by Yoruno]
It’s no surprise that one of the oldest organisms on Earth lives at the bottom of the sea. A Mediterranean seagrass called Posidonia, after the Greek god of the sea, has been found to be one of the oldest living things still thriving on Earth. Amazingly, genetic analysis has revealed that there’s a large, ancient meadow of this seagrass growing off the coast of Spain.
This meadow is possibly hundreds of thousands of years old. If this is true, then the meadow’s earliest beginnings took place even before Homo sapiens ancestors left Africa.
Will our magnetic poles switch again soon? [Image by Peter Reid]
If we can be certain of anything in this world, we can be certain that north is north and south is south. Thus, our North Pole is always north, somewhere above Alaska, and the South Pole is always south, in Antarctica. However, this is only true for our geographic poles. Our magnetic poles, meanwhile, don’t necessarily follow these rules.
Every hundreds of years or so in the past 20 million years, the magnetic poles have switched around. This means that if you were alive the last time that this happened, and you had a compass with you, your compass would tell you that Antarctica is north. We’ll probably experience another reversal soon, since the last time it happened was 780,000 years ago.
Armillaria ostoyae, the species of mushroom taking up a lot space in an Oregon Forest [Photo by Shutterstock]
What’s the biggest living thing on Earth? Blue whales, you might answer. You wouldn’t be wrong, but you wouldn’t necessarily be right either.
The largest known single organism isn’t a whale, or a pachyderm, or something that roams the Earth. This largest organism has been discovered to be the culprit behind a mysterious tree die-off in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. It’s actually a fungus, basically a mushroom, that covers 2,385 acres of the forest.
Not only is this the largest still-living single organism on Earth, but it may also be one of the oldest, if not the oldest. It’s estimated to be 2,400 years to 8,650 years old, which means that it has lived and grown through quite a lot of the things that Earth has gone through in the past several millennia.
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