Curious Facts About The Earth That You May Not Know
There is no doubt that the planet Earth is impressive. That is even more true for the few lucky humans who have seen it from space with their own eyes.
“We tend to see ourselves as strange, tiny human beings on a huge and powerful planet, and consequently we think that we are clearly irrelevant to anything that could affect the planet on a planetary scale,” says NASA exastronaut Kathryn Sullivan, who in 1984 became the first American woman to take a spacewalk. In a way, it’s true. But if you step back and see the planet as a whole, you see how interconnected and intertwined all the systems really are. “
Despite all its magnificence and majesty, the Earth is also a bit strange. Besides the fact of being the only known planet (for now) that houses life, it has a lot of peculiarities , from the geophysical oddities to the curious landscapes that adorn its surface, passing through the organisms that inhabit it. The more we know the peculiarities of the Earth, the more we appreciate and value its many wonders, starting with the air we breathe.
“You look at the Earth and you see that huge and majestic ocean, [the atmosphere] is much more like the fluff of a tennis ball than something gigantic,” says Sullivan. “It’s like the surface of a soap bubble , that little membrane that surrounds this piece of rock and is the reason why creatures like us can live.”
These are some of the most peculiar facts about this ball of water and rock wrapped in gas: our home.
The magnetic poles are reversed:
We all know that the north is somewhere above Alaska and the south is near the middle of Antarctica. This will always be the case for the geographical poles of the planet, but only intermittently for the magnetic poles . In the last 20 million years, the magnetic poles have been reversed every 100,000 years or so, which means that if you had a compass and you went back to 800,000 years ago, I would tell you that the north is in Antarctica.
Although scientists are pretty sure that the agitated core of cast iron generates these polar acrobatics, it is not entirely clear what causes the inversion. The process is gradual and occurs over millennia. For now, Earth’s north magnetic pole progresses north at approximately 64 kilometers per year . And since the last investment of the poles took place 780,000 years ago, there are still a few thousand years left for the next one.
It has a satellite of gigantic dimensions:
On Sunday night many of us could see the brightest supermoon of the year , but, no matter how huge our satellite in the sky seemed to us that night, it is always in the ranking of the largest satellites in the solar system. In relation to the Earth, the Moon is enormous: it is one quarter the width of our planet.
The only celestial duo that surpasses the Earth and Moon team in this regard is Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, which rather form a binary system-a pair of objects that rotate around each other-and not a normal planet and satellite couple. And luckily, the Moon is so big and so close. If it were smaller or farther away, we would never see total solar eclipses.
The largest migration of mammals is by air:
When you hear the word “migration” you may think that those who take the palm are the 1.3 million wildebeest that travel between Kenya and Tanzania, but that is not the case.
Each year, millions of bats – giant fruit bats , to be exact – fly between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Kasanka National Park in Zambia. It is the largest migration of mammals on the planet, with more than 10 million bats the size of cats, mango eaters and possessing the ability to echolocation.
It houses a gigantic fungus:
If you think of the largest living creatures on the planet, you probably have blue whales, elephants and trees in mind. You could even think of coral reefs, the largest conglomerates of living beings.
However, the largest (known) individual organism that exists is an Armillaria mushroom in Oregon. In 1992 one of these fungi was discovered in Michigan, where it covered almost 15 hectares. However, more recently a team of researchers studying the causes of the mysterious death of trees discovered that the culprit was an even more monstrous fungus: it covered at least 8.9 square kilometers and is estimated to be thousands of years old.
Although fungi sprout from the ground, they are connected by an underground tentacle network of tissues called mycelium . It is possible that the ramifications of fungi are not perfect clones, but even so it seems that the giant fungus takes this particular prize (and apparently knows very well with spaghetti ).
Some areas have an extraterrestrial aspect:
The depression of Afar , in Ethiopia , is a strange landscape worthy of all the superlatives with which they describe it: the hottest, the driest, the deepest and the strangest. Although the hot thermal waters, the poisonous gases, the crackling lava lakes and the salty mirages make the Afar depression seem one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, living beings have found a way to survive in this habitat. Multi-colored hydrothermal vents house ecosystems that astrobiologists study in the search for life beyond Earth.
An island has an “underwater waterfall”
The southwest coast of Mauritius seems to be arranged on the edge of a submerged waterfall. But this abyss and the precarious position of the island are only an illusion. The spiral ocean currents that transport silt and sand create this threatening pattern, which is disposed on a relatively harmless seabed. It is quite spectacular when viewed from above and can even be seen in Google Earth images.
There are hidden gems under your feet:
Buried at a depth of 300 meters, the plaster pillars in the Cueva de los Cristales de México are the largest known natural crystals. Some of the pillars of the suffocating cavern are more than 9 meters high. You might think that it is difficult for the Earth to hide such a brilliant crystalline treasure, but the cave was not discovered until the year 2000 when some miners went through one of its walls by accident.
Another similar underground magical treasure is the cave of Hang Son Doong in Vietnam, the largest cave in the world, which was hidden until relatively recently. The cave, which was discovered in 1991, has a lush rainforest and is so large that a 747 plane would fit inside it.
Sometimes, at dusk, dark and changing “clouds” appear a few meters from the ground. As they turn and transform, these clouds seem to be alive and, in fact, they are. This phenomenon can be made up of hundreds or thousands of starlings flying in tandem. Scientists suspect that birds perform this hypnotic spectacle when they search for food or pretend to mislead predators. However, it is still unknown how they achieve exactly such an exquisite acrobatic timing when they fly.
Millenarian underwater meadows:
Which is the oldest of all? It is believed that the most extensive meadow in the Mediterranean, called Posidonia by the Greek god Poseidon, is also one of the oldest living beings on the planet: recent genetic sequencing revealed that the extensive Posidonia meadow on the coast of Formentera could be up to 100,000 years old.
This means that before our human ancestors left Africa, these shoots of marine plants were taking root and beginning a process of cell division and cloning that would survive throughout the propagation of humanity around the world. One of the reasons that the slow-growing Posidonia can live for so long is that it has few natural competitors or predators, except for humans : the demographic increase and our poor management of natural habitats are causing little by little the destruction of the old pastures.
A river boiling:
Although it was thought to be a legend, there really is a “boiling” river hidden in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon. Well, it’s not really boiling , but the river is a few degrees away from doing it and the water is hot enough to transform a rainforest from another world into a mystical paradise full of steam.
Recently, National Geographic explorer Andres Ruzo visited this river and returned with an explanation for its effervescence: an extraordinary geothermal activity that is not related to volcanoes or oil drilling.