Some Weird Facts About Earth You (Probably) Don't Know Yet - The Comprehensive Minds

Some Weird Facts About Earth You (Probably) Don't Know Yet

Some Weird Facts About Earth You (Probably) Don't Know Yet

The planet we call home is even more bizarre than you might think.

Source: National Geographic

There is no doubt that the earth is an overwhelming place. This is particularly the opinion of the handful of people who have seen them from space with their own eyes.

“We tend to think of ourselves as strange little people on a huge, powerful planet and therefore completely insignificant to anything that could affect the planet on a planetary level,” says Kathryn Sullivan. The former NASA astronaut became the first woman to go on a spacewalk in 1984. “In some ways, that's true. But if you take a step back and look at the entire planet, you can see how connected and interwoven all the existing systems are with one another.

But even with all of its glory and grandeur, the earth is also somehow strange. Aside from the fact that it is the only known planet with life on it, it also has a number of other idiosyncrasies. It starts with geophysical peculiarities and goes through strange landscapes to the creatures that cavort on it. The more we learn about the peculiarities of the earth, the more we learn to appreciate its numerous wonders - even if they are as seemingly banal as the air we breathe.

"You look at the earth and this huge, huge ocean, [and the atmosphere] there is much more like the rough layer on a tennis ball than a giant thing," says Sullivan. "It is like the wall of a soap bubble, this small membrane that surrounds this tiny bit of rock and the reason for this is that beings like us can live on it."

Here we have listed some of the strangest peculiarities of this gas-surrounded sphere of rock and water that we call our home.

The poles of the earth switch places

Some Weird Facts About Earth

We all know that north ... well ... is north, somewhere over Greenland, and that the South Pole is roughly in the middle of Antarctica. For the geographic poles of the planet, this will probably be true forever, but for the magnetic poles, this is only a temporary condition. 

Over the past 20 million years, the magnetic poles have swapped positions after a few hundred thousand years, which means that a compass would have shown the North Pole in Antarctica 800,000 years ago.

Although scientists are fairly certain that these polar acrobatics are caused by the churned, molten iron core of the planet, it is not yet entirely clear what exactly triggers the exchange. It is a gradual process that can drag on for millennia. 

The Earth's magnetic north pole is currently moving around 40 miles north each year. And considering that the last major pole swap took place 780,000 years ago, the next swap is actually due again.

Our moon is oversized

Some Weird Facts About Earth You (Probably) Don't Know Yet

Last Sunday you could see the last super moon. But regardless of how big the satellite appears in our night sky, it is always one of the largest satellites in our solar system. Relative to Earth, it is gigantic and is a quarter the width of our planet.

The only heavenly duo that the Earth-Moon team beats in this regard consists of Pluto and its largest moon Charon. The two basically form a double planetary system - i.e. two planets orbiting a common center of gravity - than a typical pair of planet and moon. 

The fact that our moon is so big and so close has the advantage, among other things, that we can experience the phenomenon of the total solar eclipse.

The greatest mammal migration takes place in the air

The greatest mammal migration

You may have thought that the greatest mammal migration is that of the 1.3 million wildebeest that roam between Kenya and Tanzania - but that is wrong.

Every year millions and millions of fruit bats fly back and forth between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kasanka National Park in Zambia. 

With more than ten million of these cat-sized, mango-eating bats making this journey, it is the largest known mammal migration in the world.

The largest living thing is a giant mushroom

giant mushroom

When it comes to the largest living being on earth, most people might think of blue whales, elephants or trees. Some might also point to coral reefs as the largest accumulation of living things.

But the largest, single organism known to us is a honey mushroom (Armillaria) in the US state of Oregon. In 1992, one such mushroom covered 15 acres in Michigan. 

When a mysterious tree death was recently investigated, a research team discovered that the culprit was an even more gigantic mushroom that covers at least 809 hectares and is estimated to be thousands of years old.

The mushrooms themselves sprout from the ground but are connected by an underground network of tissue called mycelia. 

Chances are, the mushroom's offshoots aren't perfect clones, but the gigantic mushroom still seems to deserve a size trophy (and apparently it tastes great with spaghetti).

Some parts look pretty extraterrestrial

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is a bizarre landscape that deserves a whole series of superlatives: Hottest. Driest. Deepest. Strangest. 

Although the simmering hot springs, the poisonous gases, the crackling lava lakes, and the salty illusions make the Danakil Depression seem like one of the most inhospitable places on earth, life itself has found a way here. 

In the colorful hydrothermal springs, one can find ecosystems that astrobiologists are currently using as analog models for the search for life outside the earth.

There is an island with a "waterfall underwater"

waterfall underwater

The southwest coast of Mauritius appears to be on the edge of an underwater waterfall. But the abyss that is there is only an illusion. 

The swirling ocean currents carry silt and sand with them, creating the terrifying pattern that emerges on the actually harmless ocean floor. Seen from above, the sight looks spectacular and can even be admired on Google Earth.

There are treasures hidden under our feet

Cave of Crystals

About 300 meters below the floor of Mexico, the aptly named Cave of Crystals is home to the largest known natural crystals in the world. 

Some of the giant crystals of selenite are over nine meters long. You'd think it wouldn't be easy to keep such a cave hidden for a long time. 

But it wasn't actually discovered until 2000 when miners from a silver mine accidentally broke the cave wall.

A similarly magical, underground treasure is the Sơn-Đoòng Cave in Vietnam. Although it is the largest cave in the world, it was also unknown until 1991. There is a lush rainforest inside the cave, and it is so large that a Boeing 747 could easily park in it.

Some of the clouds are alive

clouds are alive

Sometimes dark clouds appear near the ground during dusk, changing their shape. As they swirl and change, they seem downright alive - and they are. They are made up of hundreds of thousands of starlings that fly in unison. 

The phenomenon is known as formation flight or murmuration. Scientists suspect that the birds make these hypnotic movements when avoiding predators or looking for a place to sleep. 

But it is still a mystery how exactly they manage to perform these acrobatic flight maneuvers synchronously.

There is an underwater meadow

underwater meadow

The most common seaweed in the Mediterranean, the Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanica), was named after the Greek god of the sea. 

It is believed that it is one of the oldest known organisms on earth. Genetic sequencing recently revealed that the seagrass meadow off the coast of Spain could be up to 100,000 years old.

This means that the first stalks of seagrass put down their roots and the process of cell division and cloning began before the ancestors of modern humans had even left Africa. 

One of the reasons the slow-growing Posidonia survived for so long is the fact that this weed has so little competition and hardly any predators. 

Only humans are slowly destroying the habitat of the ancient seagrass through poor marine management and the exploding population.

photos credit: Google Image

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