Why do we dream? Why do we laugh? How does Tylenol work? How vast is the Universe? These are some of the mysteries science has yet to fully unlock.

Strawkennedy asked: What has still not been explained by science?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.


Why the brain goes awry.

Basically what triggers all sorts of different neurodegenerative or psychological diseases on a microscopic level. I.e. we know what happens in Alzheimer's disease or Parkinsons (aggregation of proteins, death of neurons, related to some genes etc.), but we do not know what changes occur on a chemicophysiological level to trigger all this, and therefore we don't know how to counteract it.

Rocketgirl333

You might be right. This is an interesting article about what some scientists think may be what triggers Alzheimer's: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2191814-we-may-finally-know-what-causes-alzheimers-and-how-to-stop-it/amp/

the_noise_you_made

I hope someone in these comments is a genius & figures it out. Or thinks they know someone who could figure it out. ALS runs in my family, already took down my mom, and now my aunt has it. Neurodegenerative diseases are the worst.

Cate1128

The mystery of Tylenol.

How Tylenol works.

Studies show that when taking Tylenol you are less empathetic, that means you "feel other people's pain less"

From medicinenet.com:

"The exact mechanism of action of acetaminophen is not known."

"Acetaminophen relieves pain by elevating the pain threshold, that is, by requiring a greater amount of pain to develop before a person feels it."

sonofthesoupnazi

We don't know how a lot of medicine works. We're ok with that though because we know how much will work and how much will kill you.

thenewspoonybard

So, can one take acetaminophen before a movie to prevent uncontrollable crying at emotional scenes?

Asking for a friend....

mobappbrowse

My psychology professor talked about this and genuinely yes

Edit: If I remember correctly (it's been a couple years now), the reason for this was that the parts of your brain responsible for processing physical and emotional pain are in the same area and use similar pathways and mechanisms so acetaminophen just stifles both of them. To a degree, of course; please don't use Tylenol as an antidepressant, then you'll have liver damage and depression.

sappharah

We are ignorant to 95% of the Universe.

Dark matter, dark energy. Most of the universe. Incredible.

Lark_ODonovan

Dark matter especially because while we can figure out that it is there, we can't see it or how it works. Imagine seeing light and feeling heat but not seeing the Sun or being able to detect it.

CreeperIan02

We do have some idea, but much is still unknown.

As far as I'm aware, I don't think we have a clear answer on the role / purpose / function of dreaming.

kchezum

No clear answer indeed but there compelling evidence that dreams are the result of consolidation and pruning of neural networks.

Basically, whenever you do/experience anything, a network of neurons in your brain fire in a certain way (fire means sending electro-chemical impulses). This happens all the time, every sensation is encoded this way, every thought, every action.

We also know that neurons are sensitive to changes in their firing patterns in relation to other neurons in the network. Basically they seek to strengthen connections that keep being used and weaken those that aren't use or introduce noise. This is central to our capacity to learn: practice something a lot and the network will be very efficiently tuned.

However, some things that might be important to retain and strengthen cannot be practiced. Like the memory of an important event. We also know that the brain has a bunch of control system to help determine what is "useful" to reinforce an weaken. Examples of such systems are the reward control loop and the default mode network (involved in emotions and perception of self).

It's thought that during REM sleep (the phase associated with dreams), there is both a consolidation of the networks that are deemed important by the control systems and pruning of stuff that is deemed less relevant. This would result in the nonsensical sequences that we perceived when dreaming, an activation of select memories and feelings with a lot of noise.

There's evidence in favor of this theory as this strengthening and pruning has been observed to happen in a few animal models during REM. However, this is clearly not the whole picture since people who don't dream/have REM sleep as a result of medication or pathology don't experience a measurable loss in memory function.

Anyway, there are lot of theories floating around trying to build on this. Dreams have also been suggested to be a kind of practice run at potential scenarios (running simulations if you will) as much as they're about consolidating past experiences. There's also the link between REM and dreams that is questioned as some have demonstrated that dreams can be provoked outside of REM and that periods or REM sleep are devoid of the activity normally observed in dreaming subject.

So yeah. We have leads on the answers, but nothing solid yet.Same for sleep, our understanding is "everything goes bad if you don't sleep."

Surcouf

seengi

Sleep is our natural state, being awake is just time to refuel and do necessary tasks to facilitate more sleep. At least that's my theory.

skeetsauce

Someone on here once said a similar thing by comparing us to plants and it really shook me. Like, our natural state is trying to stay as still as possible and not use energy. Plants evolved to soak in sun for energy, we evolved to get up and find energy.

Korn_Bread

The Universe is incomprehensibly big.

True extent of space. Mind boggling what could be out there.

mastrochr

Honestly that's what I love about space, it's so f*cking vast we cant even being to conceive what is out there.

Is it like the Truman Show where we just hit a wall at the end and aliens are like sup ?

Or is it endless and ever expanding?

xXKingDadXx

"If you fell outward to the limit of the universe, would you find a board fence and signs reading DEAD END? No. You might find something hard and rounded, as the chick must see the egg from the inside. And if you should peck through the shell (or find a door), what great and torrential light might shine through your opening at the end of space? Might you look through and discover our entire universe is but part of one atom on a blade of grass? Might you be forced to think that by burning a twig you incinerate an eternity of eternities? That existence rises not to one infinite but to an infinity of them?" - Stephen King, The Gunslinger

wukkaz

Everyone is an expert.

How consciousness works.

Lots of great idea's, but surprisingly hard to figure out.

squeeeeenis

Did you see the study that was published last year or so that was neuronal mapping based? It identified a circuit of neurons that wrap around the whole brain and plugs into everything to connect it all. I think it's unique to humans. Not conclusive by long shot, but it made me think of it!

18bees

Problem with that theory is that not all of the brain is even necessary for consciousness. Plenty of people have genetic defects, injury, or surgical procedures that removes or breaks pretty large portions of the brain. Or merely disconnects them from each other, like split-brain patients. Yet they are (presumably) still perfectly conscious.

iwakan

Yet they are (presumably) still perfectly conscious.

Split-brain patients are more than just conscious, they have 2 different consciousnesses. Each half is still conscious but has no idea what the other half is doing and cannot really communicate with it.

Forkrul

What f*cks with me is the idea that maybe I have many consciousnesses inside of me, each thinking that they are the one in control.

forgotmymainagain

Have we been here before?

Déjà vu - there's a number of various theories of what triggers the feeling of one feeling as though they have experienced something previously, but no definitive explanation.

VictorBlimpmuscle

I read a theory once that it happens when we process current stimlus through the part of the brain usually used for recalling memory. Don't know if it's true but it sounds plausible.

Blackmere

That's what I heard. It's like the brain is filing it away in long term memory instead of short term and at the same time recalling it.

thegnight

When you respawn at your last save.

ridger5

Oh, this.

Placebo effect and (medical) hypnosis.

We know they are there. We know they work and are able to use them, but the research to the exact how and why they do isn't completed.

Edit:

Since this exploded a bit overnight: No, I don't believe in magical healing properties nor mind-over-matter-timy-wimy-stuff.

I'm fascinated by the fact that our brain can shape the perception of our surroundings and ourself to an extend where we have to test against that perception. I myself am, depite not being a psychologist of any kind, in a psychology context and so I'm confronted from time to time with these things and get a glimpse of what it could matter for us to understand perception in the means of psychological diseases. Hence why I mentioned placebo and hypnosis together and formulated the advancement of the science behind rather vaguely because I myself am not a scientist in this field and just replicate what my peers reference to me.

Paknoda

Placebo effect is so strong that it can still work even if you know it's a placebo.

ZombieAlpacaLips

Laughter.

Why we laugh.

Not "cause something is funny," but what cause she reaction of opening a mouth and having a variety of non-lingual sounds be emitted.

twss416

So an interesting theory, not yet confirmed but compelling nonetheless, is the Benign Violation theory. Basically we laugh when something violates our expectations (hear a branch snap in the woods, could be a threat) but is in fact benign (oh just a squirrell, pretty funny right?). The laughter signals to nearby humans that whatever unexpected event they witnessed is not dangerous after all. You can apply it to most humor as well, especially edgy humor (what he's saying is innapropriate [violation of social expectations], but he only means it in jest [violation is benign]).

Chazzysnax

This is correct. Laughing is a signal that there is nothing to fear, important for a group of social animals that have experienced a violation.

chuckchewable

Shed no tears.

Giphy

Why we cry. As far as I know there is no scientific explanation for why droplets of water come out of our eyes when we get sad

MiS_Schuey

I've read theories that it's to signal pain which can be used in different ways like triggering empathy so people help you or stopping an attacker. There was a study that showed when men saw a woman crying it changed their hormone levels iirc.

foxiez

That makes the most sense. Seeing somebody cry has an undeniable effect on most people.

readparse

Unless they've taken Tylenol.

Cymraes1

You Googled it, didn't you.

How wombats mange to sh*t squares.

mr_woo_kie

Actually, it seems like scientists solved this one a few months ago: https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/19/australia/wombat-cube-poo-intl/index.html

snuggleslut

Lmfao they inflated a balloon in a dead wombats rectum.

PrescriptionCocaine

The Fermi Paradox: where are all the aliens?

Where are they? -Fermi

Cutter7292

Well, it's really a paradox, if you ask me.

SCWatson_Art

It kind of is.

It also remind me of that Arthur C. Clarke quote that I love:

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

― Arthur C. Clarke

Cutter7292

This is quite the oversimplification.

Not a direct/clear answer to this question, but this reminds me of

the introductory lines of a physics book.
Aristotle said a bunch of stuff that was wrong. Galileo and Newton fixed things up. Then Einstein broke everything again. Now, we've basically got it all worked out, except for small stuff, big stuff, hot stuff, cold stuff, heavy stuff, dark stuff, turbulence, and the concept of time.

Edit: It's from Science: Abridged beyond the point of usefulness, which is not a textbook.

birdvirus

This... is Aristotle. Thought to be the smartest man on the planet. He believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, and everybody believed him, because he was so smart. Until another smartest guy came around, Galileo, and he disproved that theory, making Aristotle and everybody else on Earth look like a... bitch. [Bell rings] 'Course, Galileo then thought comets were an optical illusion, and there was no way that the moon could cause the ocean's tides. Everybody believed that because he was so smart. He was also wrong, making him and everyone else on Earth look like a bitch again! And then, best of all... Sir Isaac Newton gets born, and blows everybody's nips off with his big brains. 'Course, he also thought he could turn metal into gold, and died eating mercury, making him yet another stupid... bitch! Are you seeing a pattern?

bigmikey69er

I thought I understood time once but it turns out I just ate too much shrooms.

Drugs are a hell of a drug.

slowhand88

Why indeed? 

Restricting to physical phenomena only, and fairly understandable ones at that...

Gravity. We can tell you how, where, and how much to fantastic accuracy. What we cannot tell you is why mass causes a curvature of spacetime.

Sleep. Sleep is incredibly well conserved for something which is so much of a detriment, but we cannot give you a definitive answer as to why. We can tell you things that happen when you're asleep, but can't tell you why you need to be asleep to do it.

Big Bang. What caused it? Why does the universe even have a beginning? At this point you have to inevitably ask "what happened before we had time?" and you get into all kinds of trouble.

Alzheimers' Disease. We cannot diagnose it formally until you're dead, and we know beta-amyloid plaques are associated with it. Amyloids are strongly antiviral and antibacterial, so an infectious cause has been chased many times, one group thinks human herpes virus (HHV-6 and HHV-7) has a role to play, as it is known to be found in Alzheimers' brains. We know neurosurgeons have a much higher chance of the disease than others. What causes it? Come back in twenty years.

The Fermi Paradox. Everything we know about cosmology tells us that the galaxy could have been colonised by any intelligent life in a very tiny fraction of the galaxy's own age, even stuck to sub-luminal velocities. The galaxy should be either teeming with life or contain none at all. It doesn't contain none, because Earth.

Shingles. Why does the h. zoster virus reactivate in some people, and not others? Why does it reactivate at all? Why doesn't the immune system react properly to it?

The Higgs Field. Why is it so weak? It should either be "on" and every particle having an enormous mass, or "off" and no particle has any mass. It seems to be "a little bit on" and particles have only a little mass. Why? Nobody has a clue.

Hattix

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