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They Might Seem Useless, But These 8 Body Parts Actually Have Surprisingly Cool Functions

They Might Seem Useless, But These 8 Body Parts Actually Have Surprisingly Cool Functions 86

As the Ancient Greeks used to say, “Know Thyself.” It probably was meant a little more philosophically that we’re choosing to interpret it, but learning about how your body is put together and why is some seriously fun stuff.

We’ve all marvelled at our fingers and toes, wrinkling into prunes in the bath. We’ve all stared at that weird fleshy appendage hanging down in the back of our throats.

We’ve all known someone – or been that someone – with an emergency appendectomy. “It’s fine,” they say, “the appendix is completely useless anyway.”

But our bodies are amazing machines, and, while we may not need some of its features any more, there’s very little in our anatomies with no purpose whatsoever.

And about those things we don’t need any more? They’re evidence of where we’ve been – and that we continue to evolve even to this day.

Your appendix

Turns out the human appendix – that weird structure attached to the colon that seemed to have little purpose but to occasionally inflame – isn’t just an evolutionary vestige after all.

Recent research has found that it might play a key role in our immune systems by harbouring good bacteria that help fight infection. Good work, little buddy!

That extra ear hole

preauricularsinus(Smooth_O/Wikimedia Commons)

If you look carefully at your ears, you might notice you have a tiny additional hole just where the helix meets the side of your head.

This is called the preauricular sinus, and only a tiny percentage of people have them. It’s actually a rare birth defect first documented by Van Heusinger in 1864.

We don’t know why we have them – but evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History has hypothesised that they’re an evolutionary remnant of fish gills.

Wrinkly fingers

fingers(Brenderous/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

If you spend too long in the swimming pool, you’re going to notice that your fingers and toes start to look a little like raisins. This might not be pointless, according to a paper published in the journal Biology Letters in 2013.

They conducted experiments and found that underwater objects were manipulated much more adroitly by wrinkled fingers than unwrinkled fingers – suggesting that the feature exists to give us improved grip in both handling objects and walking when wet surfaces are involved.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Junk DNA

We have a lot of DNA in our body that, until recently, didn’t really seem to do anything.

It doesn’t create proteins, and it seems to make us more susceptible to damage and disease – but it makes up a significant part of our genome. If it wasn’t somehow beneficial, evolution would have at least started phasing out this so-called “junk DNA,” but that hasn’t happened.

Recently, researchers may have figured out what it’s for – it plays a critical role in holding out genome together by ensuring that chromosomes bundle correctly inside the nuclei if our cells. Without that function, cells die – so it seems like “junk” DNA is not so junky after all.

“Useless” immune cells

We have these immune cells in our bodies that nobody could figure out what they were for.

It was a real head-scratcher, because these “silenced” lymphocytes are present in our bodies in large numbers and only seemed to emerge to attack the body in autoimmune diseases. It looks like a liability, right?

But it ain’t. It turns out that the cells represent a new type of immunity that we didn’t know about before – they attack dangerous infections that otherwise evade the immune system by disguising themselves as part of the body. A pretty useful line of defence to have, wouldn’t you say?

Gut bacteria

There’s a reason that experts have recently suggested that we all start referring to ourselves using the royal “we”.

In recent years, research has found that the microbes that live inside of us, especially our intestines (our microbiome), are symbiotic – and they have far more of an effect on our lives than we realised.

They have been implicated in such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome, which means they may be pretty danged important. But they also seem to play a role in regulating other things, too – such as our appetites, and even our moods.

Interstitium

Turns out we may have an organ wrapped around our other organs, and it’s been hiding in plain sight for all this time. The newly classified organ is called the interstitium, and previously scientists had just thought it was relatively unremarkable, relatively solid tissue to fill the space between our organs.

It’s actually filled with fluid, supported by a collagen lattice, and it helps protect our organs from external shocks as we move around, much like air cushions in running shoes.

The pink bit in your eye

eye(Peter Clarke/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-4.0)

If you look in the mirror, you’ll see a little pink bit of conjunctival tissue in the corner of your eye. This is called the plica semilunaris, and these days its primary function is to help with tear drainage and eyeball mobility.

But once upon a time it was a nictitating membrane – what we call a third eyelid, a translucent eyelid that can be drawn over the eye to keep it moist and protected while maintaining a measure of vision.

If you have a cat or a dog, you may have seen their third eyelid while they’re sleeping. Humans and most other primates don’t need this feature any more, so it evolved away a long time ago – but we still have that vestigial lump of tissue.

Last year, doctors reported the second known case of a nictitating membrane in a human. A nine-year-old girl had a persistent membrane across her left eye that could not be retracted. It was surgically excised, and her eye underneath was fine.

A version of this article was first published in June 2018.

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Bizzare & Odd

The mystery of the “Mandalorian” with a Jetpack flying behind a plane is revealed

The mystery of the “Mandalorian”    with a Jetpack flying behind a plane is revealed 99

Documents have been released revealing the secret of a man with a rocket pack who flew behind passenger planes, according to The Drive.

The owner of The Black Vault, John Greenewald, took advantage of the US Freedom of Information Act to secure the publication of material relating to the rocket pack incident. From the records of the air traffic controllers’ conversations, which he received, it follows that the man maneuvering at an altitude of about 900 meters was noticed by several pilots. At the same time, the radars did not record a single object that would correspond to their description.

It also turned out that in early September 2020, government officials contacted David Mayman, the chief tester of the California-based company Jetpack Aviation, which develops rocket packs. Meiman said that the company had not flown for several months, and questioned the existence of rocket packs that would allow them to climb and hold at an altitude of 900 meters.

Another letter provided to Greenwald mentions that the FBI interrogated an American Airlines pilot who spoke of a man with a jetpack. During the conversation, he confirmed that the figure he noticed resembled a drone in the form of a man from a video filmed at the German Aircraft Modeling Festival in 2019.

This is a radio-controlled drone that was built by model aircraft designer Ralph Kayser. It resembles a life-size human figure, but weighs less than five kilograms. The Rotor Drone Pro website wrote that the device is made from a paintball suit stuffed with packing film and can stay in the air for up to eight minutes.

The incident leading to the investigation took place on August 30, 2020. According to press reports, an unidentified person with a jetpack flew approximately 270 meters from an American Airlines plane landing at the Los Angeles airport. In October, the man with the rocket pack was reported by several other pilots in southern California.

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An abnormal phenomenon on Earth captured from space: NASA and ESA have never seen such lightning

An abnormal phenomenon on Earth captured from space: NASA and ESA have never seen such lightning 100

The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) observatory has recorded five blue jets , an anomalous type of lightning that strikes from the top of a thundercloud into the stratosphere. This is reported in an article published in the journal Nature.

On January 20, a video filmed from the International Space Station was posted on the channel of the European Space Agency, which puzzled all academics who study the atmosphere and build theories about how everything works there:

The 10 microsecond jets were sighted on February 26, 2019, near Nauru Island in the Pacific Ocean. One of the lightning flashes produced a jet that reached the stratopause – the boundary between the stratosphere and the ionosphere at an altitude of about 50 to 55 kilometers. In addition to the jets, “elves” were recorded, which are expanding rings of optical and ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere, lasting no more than a millisecond.

Electrical phenomena in the upper atmosphere are poorly understood and attract a lot of attention from physicists from around the world. They are short-lived and vary greatly with altitude. 

Blue jets occur during electrical breakdown between the positively charged top of a thundercloud and the negatively charged air layer above it. As a result, a leader is formed – a conducting channel of ionized air, through which the discharge propagates. However, in this case, the radiation from the leader was weak, which indicates that the leader itself was short compared to the conductive channels of conventional lightning.

The blue jets belong to streamers – branched filaments of electrical discharges, similar to those generated by Tesla coils. In addition, blue jets are more likely to occur as a phenomenon than previously thought.

Some of the most mysterious are the “elves”. Their name comes from the abbreviation ELVES , which stands for “Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources.”. These phenomena reach four hundred kilometers in diameter and occur at an altitude of about one hundred kilometers. The list of optical phenomena associated with electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere does not end there. There are also TROLL , Pixie , Ghost, and Gnome , but their nature is even less understood. 

There is nothing like this, that is, such strange huge lightning has never been observed before. Something is happening in the Earth’s atmosphere, and it started quite recently. How it will end and what will result in – we do not know, since people living today have no such experience.

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Ancient asteroid sent dinosaur bones into moon

Ancient asteroid sent dinosaur bones into moon 101

The impact of the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was so powerful that it sent into space huge volumes of earth’s soil and rocks from the crash site. But together with them, he could send into orbit the remains of living beings, including dinosaurs.

Such a possibility is discussed in the book “The End of the World” by the scientific journalist and winner of several awards Peter Brannen, according to the Daily Mail.

It is known that an asteroid or meteorite about 10 km in size collided with the Earth 66 million years ago, forming the Chikshulub crater on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. About 15 trillion tons of ash and soot were thrown into the air. Because of  this, during the day it was dark on Earth, like a moonlit night.

As a result of the lack of light in plants, photosynthesis slowed down, which could lead to a decrease in the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere. Temperatures on continents dropped by 28 ° C, in oceans by 11 ° C. The disappearance of phytoplankton has led to the extinction of zooplankton and other marine animals. Other species died after them. 

This is one of the largest mass extinctions in the history of the Earth, which is called the Cretaceous-Paleogene. Brannen, trying to make the numbers more descriptive, points out that the asteroid (or meteorite) was larger than Everest and crashed into the atmosphere 20 times faster than a flying bullet. At the same time, the pressure of the atmosphere was so strong that a crater in the Yucatan began to form even before the asteroid fell.

The “response” release of soil into the atmosphere occurred only within a second or two after the impact and was incredibly powerful.

“So there are probably little pieces of dinosaur bones on the moon,” Brannen suggests.

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