10 Amazing Facts That Put Life in Perspective
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Reality Check1 of 11
You had a spat with a co-worker, the guy you really felt a connection with never called and, to top it all off, the dry cleaner lost your favorite sweater. In short: Life sucks. Or does it? To help put things in perspective, here are ten mind-boggling facts that will take you out of your head and leave you in awe.
Out of This World2 of 11
The Milky Way has at least 46 billion Earth-size planets—more than the total number of grains of sand in all the Earth's beaches and deserts. And that's just in our galaxy. According to theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel, the entire universe may be made up of more than 100 billion galaxies. So in the grand scheme of things, a ruined sweater hopefully seems pretty minuscule.
Somewhere Out There3 of 11
In 2013, astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu looked at 42,000 Sun-like stars and "found 603 planets, 10 of which are Earth size and orbit in the habitable zone, where conditions permit surface liquid water," reported NPR. (That means it's possible for life to exist on them.) Unfortunately, the closest one is about 12 light-years away—one light year equals about 6 trillion miles.
Baby Steps4 of 11
Here's another number that's impressive: Already at birth, the brain contains 100 billion brain cells, or neurons, almost all the neurons the brain will ever have. (Synapses form over time as connections are created between neurons.) Lined up in a row, the 100 billion microscopic neurons would cover a distance of about 620 miles.
Brain Power5 of 11
Sure, computers may be impressive, but they've still got nothing on your brain. "As of now, the largest artificial neural network has 11 billion connections, while the human neural network has close to 100 trillion connections," writes Joey Carmichael on Popular Science.
Humming Along6 of 11
Speaking of brains, a hummingbird's hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, is up to five times bigger than the hippocampus of other birds, according to a study from The Royal Society. The result is that the birds remember which flowers they've visited, their locations and when they'll have nectar again. Given that they can visit a thousand or more flowers a day and can fly 500 miles before resting, that's no easy feat.
Never Forget7 of 11
Another animal wonder? Elephant emotions. As PBS reports, "Elephants remember and mourn loved ones, even many years after their death. When an elephant walks past a place that a loved one died he or she will stop and take a silent pause that can last several minutes. While standing over the remains, the elephant may touch the bones of the dead elephant (not the bones of any other species), smelling them, turning them over and caressing the bones with their trunk."
Uncharted Waters8 of 11
While it may seem like we already know everything there is to know about the world around us, there's plenty left to be discovered. A 2012 study from the journal Current Biology found that between 700,000 and one million species live in the world's oceans, and between one-third and two-thirds of those species have yet to be named and described.
Freeze Frame9 of 11
If you have any doubts about the natural order of things, this snowflake picture (a macro image taken by Alexey Kljatov) might help. The ice crystals that make up a snowflake "reflect the internal order of the crystal's water molecules," explains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a single water molecule crystallizes, it forms bonds with other particles, creating the perfect, intricate pattern of the snowflake.
Ancient History10 of 11
At 4,845 years old, Methuselah was for years the oldest-known living tree. (The new oldest, estimated to be 5064, was discovered last year.) Both trees are located in a grove called the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest within California's Inyo National Forest, though their exact spot isn't disclosed to prevent vandalism. After all, the majestic trees are older than the pyramids of Egypt, have been around longer than Christianity and they're still growing.
Sowing the Seeds11 of 11
There's more to appreciate about plants, flowers and trees than just their beauty. New research suggests that plants can actually communicate via nanomechanical vibrations. What's more, as Daniel Chamovitz, Ph.D., author of What a Plant Knows, explained in an interview with Scientific American, "If a maple tree is attacked by bugs, it releases a pheromone into the air that is picked up by the neighboring trees. This induces the receiving trees to start making chemicals that will help it fight off the impending bug attack."
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