2017 was an interesting year in many ways, but it was an especially interesting year when it came to scientific mysteries.
Are we getting any closer to finding Amelia Earhart? Is there a distant alien civilization trying to communicate with us? Why does this medieval porpoise have its own grave? These are questions that science brought to our attention this year, but they’re still unanswered. There have been a few updates to these mysteries since their stories broke, but so far, they remain unsolved.
Nikumaroro Island, Kiribati [Image via Google Maps]
The whereabouts of Amelia Earhart’s remains have been among the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time since Earhart vanished 80 years ago. The search for her remains has been going on for just as long, but so far, no dice.
This year, a pack of four human remains detection dogs are joining the search. Back in July, the dogs zeroed in on a spot on Nikumaroro Island in Kiribati, where Earhart could have landed her aircraft in an emergency. It’s possible that Earhart spent her last days on that island. The dogs detected the scent of human bones, but no human remains were found. Until these searches turn up a bone or some other hard evidence of Earhart’s remains, her place of death will remain a mystery.
The researchers involved in this project took soil samples from Nikumaroro Island and sent them in for analysis to see if the soil contains human DNA. So far, however, there are still no results.
Artist's impression of a fast radio burst [Image by Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium/NRAO]
Early this past September, scientists detected a total of 15 radio signal blasts, called fast radio bursts (FRBs), all originating from a galaxy about three billion light years away. Scientists say that though these signal blasts were quick, lasting only milliseconds long, they were very powerful. Their galaxy of origin was also first found to emit FRBs in 2007, with more FRBs detected since then.
So what exactly is producing these radio signals? Scientists aren’t sure yet. So far, what they know is that the origins of these signals have very strong magnetic fields.
Footage by Guernsey Archaeology
What was this porpoise’s significance in life—and, indeed, in its death?
That was basically one of the most important questions asked after archaeologists found a medieval grave containing a porpoise. Excavations on Chapelle Dom Hue island in the English channel, which was once a religious retreat for monks, uncovered a carefully-cut hole in the ground that they were sure was a grave. However, instead of human remains, they found a porpoise skeleton.
The small grave was found just outside of a monastic retreat, and the researchers found that the porpoise remains seemed to have been arranged with great care in the grave. It was almost as if it was carefully buried, which was certainly strange. There were two theories as to what happened: the porpoise was caught and eaten, with the leftovers stored in the “grave”; the burial had religious reasons.
Researchers still don’t have an explanation, but carbon dating may be able to give clues.
Footage by SeaMor Dolphin Watching Boat Trips New Quay
Octopuses don’t always stay in the water. Sometimes they spend a bit of time on land, but not too much, and not too far from a water source. However, footage from late October shows over two dozen octopuses crawling out and away from the water. Some were as far as 30 meters away from the water line. Locals say that they have definitely not witnessed the phenomenon happen before.
There are three theories to explain what happened: the octopuses were undergoing senescence, and thus they were literally going senile; Hurricanes Ophelia and Brian led the animals out of the water; octopus populations are booming, forcing some to range further from home in search of food.
Sightings of land-walking octopuses stopped around mid November, but why they were on land in the first place is still unknown.
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