12 Weird Things We Finally Got Answers For In 2021

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Vote up the weird questions you're glad you finally have answers for.

There were many important questions in 2021: Will life return to normal this year, and what will normal actually look like? Will democracy ever be normal after the events of 2020? Are Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez really getting back together? Is that the return to normal we were waiting for?

Well, these aren’t those important questions. Instead, they're a set of strange curiosities that at first tickled the backs of our minds, but when we stopped to think about them, we were in desperate need of answers. Whether they came to light by a news story, an unexpected documentary, or perhaps an unfortunate mishap in a public restroom - these were the strange questions we had in our everyday lives that we’re incredibly happy there are answers for.

  • Why Do Men Have Nipples?
    Photo: FOTO:FORTEPAN / Urbán Tamás / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
    571 VOTES

    Why Do Men Have Nipples?

    Nipples serve no practical function for human males, so for what reason do they still have them? The answer lies in how human beings develop and grow from their embryonic state. Within the first four weeks of growth and development in the womb, the embryo follows a single genetic blueprint regardless of which sex it will eventually become. During that time, every embryo develops some female characteristics, including nipples and milk lines that run from the upper torso to the lower abdomen.

    After the first four weeks, growth and development begin to diverge and change, depending on the embryo’s 23rd pair of chromosomes. If it’s a female, it has two copies of the X chromosome, while males have an X and Y chromosome. The Y chromosome changes the genetic activity in a male embryo’s cells, affecting the development of systems already in place. In this case, the presence of testosterone impedes any further development of the nipples and mammary glands, and sometimes makes them shrink. However, there is not enough testosterone (nor is there presence of the protein PTHrP) to get rid of them altogether.

    That’s not to say men can never be born without nipples. A rare condition called athelia - which can affect both males and females - results in a person being born without breast tissue or nipples; there isn't even a sign of them during the embryonic stage. Athelia can be part of certain genetic syndromes, or may occur on its own.

    571 votes
  • Why Do People Have Fingernails?
    Photo: Maëlyne.Nagel / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    354 VOTES

    Why Do People Have Fingernails?

    It’s quite strange that people have fingernails. We cut them, trim them, file them, and color them, but besides making them look good and scratching ourselves, there isn’t much purpose for them. They aren’t sharp like cat’s claws. They can’t grip on things without breaking. So why do we have them?

    Evolutionarily speaking, fingernails did indeed have their purposes. The evolution of other primates' nails made it easier for them - especially the extinct marmoset-like Teilhardina brandti - to grip tree branches. In larger primates, large claw-like nails could get snagged in smaller branches. Furthermore (and though it may seem like an inane task now), the ability to pick, scratch, and peel was very important for early humans. Fingernails allowed primitive people to groom certain parts of their bodies. Nails were such perfect tools that some theories suggest they became increasingly specialized as grooming tools, as humans began developing tools for other purposes that claws would have helped with.

    Fingernails still have their purposes today. Their main function may be simply as a form of protection. They have no nerve endings, and because of that, some people believe nails evolved to be tough in order to protect more sensitive parts of the finger from minor and major trauma.

    354 votes
  • Why Don't School Buses Have Seat Belts?
    Photo: Abarr127 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0
    623 VOTES

    Why Don't School Buses Have Seat Belts?

    Every time we get in a car, we’re required to fasten our seat belts. Why are there no seat belts in school buses full of kids? Buses have stop signs on their sides. They’re covered in bright flashing lights. They’re even painted bright yellow to ensure everyone can see an already incredibly visible bus. So why not have what seems to be the simplest safety device?

    Everything about a school bus is highly regulated and designed to be safe. It's highly visible to prevent people from hitting it. It’s a massive, bright yellow vehicle with flashing lights, stop signs, and drives incredibly slowly. The idea is that you can’t miss it, even in low visibility. Yet there are contingencies planned in case someone does run into a school bus. Large buses are built to absorb, distribute, and compartmentalize the force of impact across the entire vehicle. In those cases, seat belts could actually pose a greater danger to the children onboard by presenting an obstacle for those attempting to exit during any emergency situation.

    Seat belts, however, are required in smaller school buses (weighing 10,000 pounds or less) because their weight and size are closer to a passenger car or truck, so the belts are still necessary to protect the occupants.

    623 votes
  • 4
    541 VOTES

    Why Do American Public Restroom Stalls Have Such Large Gaps?

    There's a common question many first-time travelers ask when they visit a public restroom in the US: "Why don't public restroom stalls go all the way to the floor?" And anyone who has ever been intruded upon by a wandering eye or an uncontrollable child knows this may be one of the strangest oddities for a culture that claims to value individual privacy and freedom. Yet there are some good reasons why public restroom stalls have such big gaps.

    The first is for hygienic purposes and cleaning efficiency. The large gaps at the bottom of stalls allow for easier cleaning; janitors can more easily slide mops or use water between the stalls, and dirt can't accumulate in the corners, thus speeding up the cleaning process.

    Another reason is supposedly for public health. Because public restroom stalls offer limited privacy, some people assert the stalls dissuade people from doing drugs or having sex in them. Furthermore, the stalls allow people to see whether there is a potential emergency in the stall, such as if someone were to fall unconscious. However, the US has plenty of single-person public restrooms, so this argument isn’t all that convincing.

    Above all else, these types of stalls are cheap and efficient. They require less material than a full stall that reaches from floor to ceiling; they are easier to install; easier to clean; and they keep the line moving by allowing anyone who’s waiting to know if a stall is vacant.

    541 votes
  • Why Didn't People In Old Photographs Ever Smile?
    Photo: John Thomas / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
    645 VOTES

    Why Didn't People In Old Photographs Ever Smile?

    We’ve all seen it: an old photograph where everyone is unsmiling, sullen, and drab. It gives us the perception that people in the 19th century were perpetually unhappy. However, the straight faces had nothing to do with emotions, but rather the mechanics of photography during the era as well as the culture of photography.

    Photographs in the 19th century were a rare and expensive show of public display. It was difficult to get a photo taken when the technology first debuted. No one had pictures taken at home. They instead had to visit a formal photography studio and capture a timeless record through a means many could not afford. It may be the only photograph they would ever have. Some people wouldn’t want to show their poor dental hygiene. And no one wanted others to perceive them as mad. So of course they treated it as a serious endeavor.

    Even if the culture of photography was more permissive toward smiling for a photo, the early technology made that difficult. Exposure times were lengthy, and photo subjects would often have to stay completely still for up to 15 minutes or risk getting a blurry photo. As anyone who has tried to force a smile for a photograph probably knows, it’s difficult enough to hold a smile for 15 seconds, let alone 15 minutes.

    645 votes
  • 6
    424 VOTES

    Why Do People Fart And Why Do They Smell Bad?

    Sure, it's sometimes funny when someone farts in a crowded room, and other times obnoxious, but we often forget it's very natural and healthy to pass gas. Throughout the day a person's stomach, small intestine, and large intestine fill with different natural gasses; to prevent harming our bodies, we must release the waste that builds up. On average, people pass gas 5 to 15 times daily, regardless of sex, age, or race. Many of those farts happen when we’re asleep.

    Different factors can influence the frequency, composition, and smell, including general health, how much air you’re swallowing, and most importantly, diet. Foods high in complex carbohydrates, for example, cause the body to produce more gas, as it takes more work for bacteria to break down the carbs the intestines can't absorb, thus the bacteria produce more gaseous waste. But other foods like spicy foods, or highly acidic foods can also change the composition of flatulence.

    Generally, your body's gaseous waste consists of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, oxygen, and small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, methanethiol, and dimethyl sulfide. While the last three listed comprise a very small part of your regular fart, they're responsible for giving farts that rotten-egg-cabbage-and-garlic odor.

    424 votes