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16 Wikipedia Pages That Will Change The Way You See The Universe

Robot proteins, immortality, Martian rocks falling from the sky, catastrophic eruptions, and reverse evolution! What more could you ask for?

Posted on October 12, 2015, at 8:17 p.m. ET

1. Martian meteorites

NASA / Via

We've never sent a human to collect rocks from Mars and bring them back, and no mission has ever landed on and returned from Mars, but that doesn't mean we don't have any actual honest-to-god Mars rocks here on Earth for us to study. Some of the meteorites that fall to Earth were once rocks that were ejected from the surface of Mars into the cold emptiness of space, only to find a new home on Earth.

2. Kinesin

A kinesin is something called a "motor protein." It's a friendly chemical that can, essentially, walk different proteins and membranes from one place in a cell to another place to help different cellular processes along. They are kinda cute, and you (and all other eukaryotes) have a bunch of 'em in you right now!

3. Despeciation

Ron Offermans / Via

When you think of evolution, you probably think of a single species breaking apart to form two distinct lineages. The opposite has been known to happen, too, when two distinct species interbreed and join together to form a single species distinct from either of the two previous species. It's rare, but just this week scientists announced they had found an example of it happening to a bird species in Madagascar!

4. Limnic eruption

USGS / Via

In rare instances, seemingly placid lakes can turn into deadly suffocation machines. In a "limnic eruption," all of the trapped CO2 and other gases chilling at the bottom of a deep lake can suddenly become unstable and erupt to the surface. That rapid influx of non-oxygen gas can suffocate anyone unfortunate enough to be nearby. The most famous example occurred at Lake Nyos in Cameroon on Aug. 21, 1986. All but six of the approximately 800 residents of the nearby village perished, along with most of their livestock.

5. Door to Hell

Tormod Sandtorv / Via

This awesome-looking fire hole has been burning in Turkmenistan since 1971, when geologists working a natural gas field tried to prevent the spread of dangerous amounts of methane by burning it off. Turns out there's a pretty steady supply of methane, and the field has since collapsed into a continually burning crater.

6. Turritopsis dohrnii

Peter Schuchert / Via

Turritopsis dohrnii, also known as "the immortal jellyfish," is found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the waters of Japan. It is a famous example of biological immortality. What's that, you ask? In this case, it means that the jellyfish can revert back to its immature state after becoming a mature individual. It can do this an indefinite number of times! This skill does not, sadly, prevent it from being eaten by predators, though.

7. 90377 Sedna

NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech) / Via

When you think of faraway planet-ish objects, Pluto likely comes to mind. But at its farthest, Pluto is ~only~ 4.6 billion miles away from the sun. There are a ton of things even farther away than that. The most extreme example that astronomers know about is a Pluto-sized object whose orbit takes it as far as 83 billion miles away — 90377 Sedna. At that distance, the sun would pretty much appear to be just another star!

8. Snowball Earth

Stephen Hudson / Via

There's a pretty solid number of geologists who think that all of Earth was completely frozen over — oceans and everything else — one or two times in Earth's long history. It's unclear whether or not all of the planet would have been completely frozen, or if it was more of a "slushball," but there is strong evidence that stuff was pretty wacky a couple of times back in the day — most recently 650 million years ago.

9. Theia (planet)

NASA/JPL-Caltech / Via

Theia is the name scientists have given to the theoretical Mars-sized object that collided with Earth around 4.5 billion years ago and formed the moon. Sounds pretty Hollywood, sure, but it's the leading theory about how we got our moon at the moment.

10. Zanclean flood

Roger Pibernat / Via

Around 6 million years ago, tectonic shifts blocked off the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and it nearly or completely dried up. Around 5.3 million years ago, the Strait of Gibraltar opened up and rapidly filled the basin in an event known to geologists as the Zanclean Flood.

11. Blood rain

National Geographic / Via

It's been a thing of mythology and legend for much of written human history and was often interpreted as a bad omen. Now scientists are pretty sure it happens when the airborne spores of a green microalgae named Trentepohlia annulata mix with rain.

12. La Garita Caldera

G. Thomas / Via

This volcanic caldera was created nearly 30 million years ago by one of the largest volcanic eruptions EVER TO HAPPEN ON EARTH! It released enough material to fill Lake Michigan (which is about 4,800 times more material than Mount St. Helens released) and is estimated to have been about 5,000 times more energetic than the largest nuclear detonation ever tested.

13. Timeline of the far future

Fsgregs / Via

Some seriously crazy shit is going to happen in the future, and this article sends you down a ton of different apocalyptic rabbit holes. Some highlights: In 50,000 years Niagara Falls will have eroded all the way to Lake Erie, and will cease to exist; in 10 million years, the widening East African Rift valley will lead to a new ocean basin that will divide the continent of Africa; in 3.3 billion years there will be a 1% chance that Mercury will collide with Venus, sending the inner solar system into chaos; and in 100 trillion years normal star formation will have ended due to the lack of free hydrogen to form new stars.

14. Great Oxygenation Event

André Karwath / Via

All that oxygen in the atmosphere that we breathe originally came from a bacterial troublemaker that decided it was going to create oxygen as a waste product. The problem was that nearly all other life forms on the planet at the time couldn't survive in the presence of oxygen gas, so the little bugger ended up killing most of its friends off. Geologists call this the Great Oxygenation Event, and it was a pretty dramatic and destructive moment in Earth's history. It went down around 2.3 billion years ago.

15. Toba catastrophe theory

NASA / Via

The Toba super-eruption, one of the largest known, occurred between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago at the site of present-day Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. Some scientists argue that the eruption would have caused a global volcanic winter of 6 to 10 years and possibly a further 1,000-year-long cooling episode. Other scientists, noting that the event seems to have happened when genetic evidence suggests the human population was dramatically reduced, make the case that the eruption was responsible for a "genetic bottleneck" that limits genetic diversity in humans to this day. All of these issues are still topics of hearty debate.

16. Andromeda–Milky Way collision

Visualization Credit: NASA; ESA; and F. Summers, STScI; Simulation Credit: NASA; ESA; G. Besla, Columbia University; and R. van der Marel, STScI / Via–Milky_Way_collision

In like 4 billion years, our Milky Way galaxy will collide with the nearby Andromeda galaxy. This is a fact, so you might as well read about it.


Lake Nyos is in Cameroon. An earlier version of this post misstated its location.