Weird History

Mysteries Of Science And History That Have Actually Been Solved Already

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Vote up your favorite answers to these longstanding mysteries.

In a world where internet search engines provide logical explanations to just about every question a person can think of, a good mystery can reignite the imagination and recreate the sense of a world not wholly explored or understood. Possibly out of nostalgia for a past when inexplicable occurrences remained unexplained, many of these mysterious tales go unchecked over the years. 

However, just because eerie tale collectors neglect to search for answers doesn't mean that logical explanations to these phenomena don't exist. In fact, many longstanding historical and scientific mysteries the internet loves to put on lists have actually been solved by scholars. Readers who enjoy a good conspiracy theory regarding aliens, magical moving rocks, unexplained noises in the wild, or royal murders, beware. This list features some of the most popular science and history mysteries experts have debunked.

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    187 VOTES

    The Sailing Stones Of Death Valley Don't Really Move All By Themselves

    In California's Death Valley National Park, rocks that weigh up to 500 pounds travel up to 15 feet in a single minute, seemingly by magic. These rocks, known as the "sailing stones," leave trails up to 1,000 feet along the valley's surface - and yet no one has ever actually seen the rocks make their majestic moves. 

    Despite claims that this portion of the desert, also called the Racetrack, is haunted, there's a scientific explanation for the sailing stones' movement.

    According to national park representatives, no one has ever seen the rocks move because perfect weather conditions have to exist for the phenomena to occur. The desert is usually the hottest place on Earth, but it still experiences winter weather. After a rainstorm on a particularly frigid winter day, thin sheets of ice can form underneath the massive stones. When powerful storms rip through the valley, the slippery surface allows strong winds to push the heavy rocks hundreds, if not a thousand, feet. 

    Because these weather conditions rarely occur, catching the stones mid-move is almost impossible. However, a remote time-lapse photographer did capture the event on film in 2014. If visitors hope to witness the sailing rocks in action, their best option is to visit on a rainy day between December and February. 

  • There's A Chemical Explanation For Why The Iron Pillar Of Delhi Has Not Rusted In 1,600 Years
    Photo: Hridya08 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
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    166 VOTES

    There's A Chemical Explanation For Why The Iron Pillar Of Delhi Has Not Rusted In 1,600 Years

    An iron pillar that has not rusted in 1,600 years stands proudly at Qutub Minar, a ruined mosque in northern India. For centuries, the relatively perfect condition of the pillar has fascinated and confused historians, scientists, and archaeologists. However, there's a chemical explanation for the pillar's preservation. 

    The pillar (about 7 meters high and 400 mm in diameter at its base) was built by hammering multiple pieces of hot iron together to form a cylindrical shape (known as forge welding). Because the process requires numerous selections of steel, the pillar's composition varies greatly. While modern steel holds about the same carbon content as the ancient pillar (0.15%), the pillar's phosphorous levels are over ten times higher than modern steel's. Experts believe that the high phosphorous content within the ancient steel caused a protective film of crystalline iron hydrogen phosphate to form on the pillar's surface, essentially protecting the column from the elements. 

    Despite this revelation, using metals higher in phosphorous isn't recommended for modern structures. The Iron Pillar of Delhi isn't rusting but is losing ductility, making it too brittle to use in contemporary architecture. 

  • Anastasia Romanov Did Not Escape Her Family's Execution
    Photo: Boasson and Eggler St. Petersburg Nevsky 24 / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    195 VOTES

    Anastasia Romanov Did Not Escape Her Family's Execution

    The abdicated Czar Nicholas II and his family were held hostage in Ekaterinburg as civil war ravaged Russia in 1918. When anti-Bolshevik Russian forces approached the city that July, local authorities ordered the royal family's execution

    On July 17, 1918, the officers woke the family in the middle of the night and brought them to the basement. Under the guise that they were taking the family's portrait to ensure the public that they were alive and safe, authorities lined the family into two rows before unloading so many rounds of gunfire that the room filled with smoke. Once the smoke cleared, authorities stabbed any surviving family members to death. 

    However, the Russian Revolutionary period was tumultuous, and reports regarding the family's fate left the entire world uncertain of their demise. Though executioners confirmed that they murdered everyone in the family, their stories contradicted one another, and the bodies were not immediately found. Numerous cases of women reporting to be Anastasia, the Romanov daughter who allegedly escaped the execution, surfaced over the years. 

    The rumor that Czar Nicholas's youngest daughter somehow escaped became so popular that playwrights and movie producers even created their own renditions of the tale, cementing the mystery into modern legend. 

    While the legend makes for an intriguing and hopeful alternative narrative for the family's fate, the bodies of Czar Nicholas, his wife, and three daughters were found in the 1970s. DNA testing in the 1990s proved that the bodies belonged to the Romanov family. However, they also allowed the rumors of Anastasia's escape to resurface, as the bodies of the czar's son and one of his daughters were still missing. 

    In 2007, two more bodies were uncovered that proved to be the last two missing children. 

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    116 VOTES

    Lemmings Do Not Throw Themselves Off Cliffs

    In 1958, Disney produced a documentary entitled White Wilderness, depicting droves of lemmings walking across a snowy cliff and plummeting to their deaths in the ocean below. Though the film sealed the idea of lemmings committing mass suicide in the public mind for decades, experts later revealed that Disney faked the activities shown in the now-famous lemming scene. 

    To demonstrate lemming migration “in the wild,” filmmakers chose a spot in Alberta, Canada, far from the lemmings natural habitat or migration preferences. After purchasing some of the animals from local Inuit children, Disney studios placed the lemmings on a moving, snow-covered Lazy Susan for dramatic effect, then deliberately threw the rodents over a cliff into the ocean (which was actually a river). 

    Experts who study lemmings in the wild argue that the rodents never intentionally commit suicide. While the animals do experience large population booms that require some to relocate every three to four years, most of them can swim and are perfectly capable of surviving the passage. Some do die in search of greener pastures, most likely from water wetting their skin which causes them to drown. However, the final death count is a far cry from the mass suicidal dramas depicted on the 1958 screen.