13 Creepy Science Facts We're Not Sure We Wanted To Know

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Vote up the science facts you might be better off NOT knowing.

Science is a vast field of knowledge, one that extends throughout the natural world. In school, you may have studied branches like chemistry, physics, and biology to learn the basics about plants, animals, and the planet as a whole. Maybe science is even part of your job or another aspect of your daily life. Even so, there's way too much science out there to know everything - and that might be a blessing in disguise.

There are some pretty unnerving scientific facts out there that might make you cringe or simply leave you aghast. We found some creepy ones that, honestly, we're not sure we needed - or wanted - to know. Look for yourself and vote up the facts you probably could have lived without knowing.

  • Microplastics Have Shown Up In Placentas
    Photo: Wei Hsu and Shang-Yi Chiu / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5
    1,357 VOTES

    Microplastics Have Shown Up In Placentas

    Microplastics are just that - tiny pieces of plastic in various shapes and sizes. Primary microplastics are designed to be less than 5 millimeters in length, while secondary microplastics come from broken-down plastics of a larger size.  

    These plastics are everywhere, and evidence of their presence in the human body has increasingly caused concern. In 2020, researcher Rolf Halden indicated, "We have detected these chemicals of plastics in every single organ that we have investigated."

    Exploration into the consequences of microplastics continues, but in 2021, another discovery caught the attention of the scientific community. Microplastics found in the placentas of unborn babies were especially troublesome, "due to the crucial role of placenta in supporting the fetus’s development and in acting as an interface with the external environment."

    Doctor Antonio Ragusa from a hospital in Rome put it another way:

    It is like having a cyborg baby: no longer composed only of human cells, but a mixture of biological and inorganic entities.

    1,357 votes
  • Limnic Eruptions Create A Gas Cloud That Can Suffocate Everything In Its Vicinity 
    Photo: US Geological Survey / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    1,074 VOTES

    Limnic Eruptions Create A Gas Cloud That Can Suffocate Everything In Its Vicinity 

    Limnic eruptions are rare, but when they occur, they can be lethal. Also called "lake overturns," they happen when the Earth's crust shifts, much the same way an earthquake or volcanic activity strikes.

    These eruptions are different in that they take place in waters with high levels of gas - commonly carbon dioxide - that gets released when seismic activity takes place. Because carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, the resulting gas cloud stays close to the ground and can asphyxiate animals and people. 

    One of the most deadly limnic eruptions occurred in 1986 at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, West Africa. At least 1,700 people perished alongside livestock, birds, and other living creatures when more than 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide spewed into the air.

    According to survivor Joseph Nkwain, a loud noise woke him up, and soon after:

    I could not speak. I became unconscious. I could not open my mouth because then I smelled something terrible... I heard my daughter snoring in a terrible way; very abnormal...

    When crossing to my daughter's bed... I collapsed and fell. I was there till nine o'clock in the (Friday) morning... until a friend of mine came and knocked at my door... I was surprised to see that my trousers were red, had some stains like honey. I saw some... starchy mess on my body. My arms had some wounds... I didn't really know how I got these wounds...

    My daughter was already dead... I went into my daughter's bed, thinking that she was still sleeping. I slept till it was 4:30 pm in the afternoon...

    I managed to go over to my neighbors' houses. They were all dead... I decided to leave... I got my motorcycle... As I rode... through Nyos I didn't see any sign of any living thing...

    1,074 votes
  • 3
    1,111 VOTES

    Microscopic Mites Have Sex On Our Faces

    Demodex mites are found on all human faces, necks, and chests. These microscopic organisms "look like kind of stubby little worms," according to entomologist Michelle Trautwein, and are technically arachnids. Two species live on humans - Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis - and eat dead skin cells and oil.

    At night, demodex mites emerge from pores to mate, promptly returning to lay eggs afterward. They only live for about two weeks and, after they die, break down on the surface of the skin.

    There are some benefits to the tiny arachnids (although an overabundance of them can cause demodicosis). Researchers have used demodex mites to uncover information about human genetic ancestry:

    Face mites are definitely the species of animal that we have the closest connection with as humans... We still have this very ancient and intimate relationship, and it seems clear that we've had these face mite species with us for all of our history. So they are as old as our species, as old as Homo sapiens.

    1,111 votes
  • Prions Cause Incurable Neurodegenerative Diseases, And It's Not Entirely Clear How
    Photo: PoopAcidMaker / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
    724 VOTES

    Prions Cause Incurable Neurodegenerative Diseases, And It's Not Entirely Clear How

    Generally speaking, proteins are molecules that perform various functions in living organisms. They comprise amino acids and can fold into structures that allow them to carry out different roles. When a misfolded protein takes shape, that's a prion.

    Prions get their name from what they were called when first identified: "proteinaceous infectious particle." Biologist Stanley B. Prusiner discovered prions during the early 1970s, but there's much about them that the scientific community still doesn't understand. 

    The rogue proteins have the ability to transfer their misshapenness to other proteins, which then results in rare, incurable diseases. This shouldn't be possible, according to Fiona MacDonald from ScienceAlertbecause:

    Technically speaking, proteins shouldn't be able to infect other proteins - they're not alive, after all - and scientists have never really been able to explain the behaviour of prions - hence their reputation as the weirdest molecules ever.

    The most common prion-related affliction in humans is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, but a better-known one is commonly referred to as mad cow disease. Prion diseases are difficult to diagnose, and doctors can only treat the symptoms.

    There's no way to prevent prion diseases that are hereditary, but prevention is possible for those transmitted through tissue or meat. 

    724 votes
  • 5
    783 VOTES

    The Majority Of The Population Has Had HPV

    More than 100 types of human papillomavirus exist, and collectively, they make up the most widely spread sexually transmitted infection in the world. Many people's immune systems eventually clear the virus with no ill effects, but others don't. Some types of HPV cause genital lesions and warts, while others have been traced to cancer.

    The virus is so widespread that, according to the World Health Organization, "most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives and some may be repeatedly infected."

    783 votes
  • 6
    750 VOTES

    Once Rabies Symptoms Appear, There's Almost No Chance Of Survival

    Rabies is a viral disease that infects humans and other mammals. Transmitted through a scratch or bite from a bat, raccoon, skunk, or another wild animal, rabies first presents in humans like the flu. Within days, neurological symptoms appear. As the virus spreads through the body, symptoms like confusion and hallucinations transition to loss of motor function and an increase in saliva that results in the characteristic "foaming of the mouth." 

    The infections can incubate in the body for months before symptoms manifest. Once they do, however, death is usually inevitable. On rare occasions, the Milwaukee Protocol and Recife Protocol have saved some victims' lives.

    In September 2021, an Illinois man succumbed to rabies, the first such death in the state since 1954. His demise occurred roughly one month after exposure to a rabid bat. In a statement issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike stated, "Rabies has the highest mortality rate of any disease... there is life-saving treatment for individuals who quickly seek care after being exposed to an animal with rabies."

    Because rabies is so deadly, prevention is key. After coming into contact with a potentially rabid animal, Dr. Jimmy Whitworth, another expert in public health, recommended:

    Vaccination, as soon as possible after the bite exposure is highly effective at preventing disease. Washing the bite site thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible is also highly recommended to prevent the virus from getting into the body.

    750 votes