Our world is a wonderful, horrible, fascinating and most of us (unless you’re a photographer for National Geographic or something) will only get to experience a tiny fraction of it. Whether it’s new stars being born or what’s happening at the very bottom of the Mariana Trench, there’s a lot we can only get an idea of secondhand.
There’s so much that human beings don’t know about our universe yet, and even the things we think we know are often a lot weirder than they seem. If you’ve ever tried explaining how the Internet actually works to someone else, you’ll know exactly what I mean!
From elephant tails to robots, from children’s teeth to famous prisons, the strange often lurks right under the surface of the familiar. Read on to (re)discover 16 things you’ve heard of, but have probably never seen before!
1. DNA: In our textbooks, DNA is all packed up into a neat little spiral. But if you extract the DNA from a plant or animal tissue, it bunches up into a stringy mass, like the wool in your craft drawer. That’s because the DNA has to be tightly packed together to fit inside the cell!
2. Alcatraz: The impossible-to-escape prison has been immortalized in history and pop culture, but its actual appearance is pretty surprising. From far away, it looks more like a cozy resort than a high-tech prison. Just maybe not a resort I’d want to stay at.
3. Children’s Adult Teeth: We’ve all seen adult teeth poking through the gums after a lost tooth, but not many of us have seen exactly what they look like before they descend. Personally, I wish that I hadn’t, because every time I look at a little kid I’ll be confronted by the fact that the inside of their head looks like a Guillermo Del Toro film.
4. Newborn Kangaroos: We all know that baby kangaroos spend the first few months of their lives cozily nestled in their mothers’ pouches. But not all of us have seen why they need to do that. Baby kangaroos are born so helpless that they couldn’t possibly do anything else. Honestly, they’re pretty ugly-cute!
5. The Black Box: Funnily enough, the “black box” (more commonly known as a flight recorder) is almost always painted orange to make it easier to find. We don’t entirely know why it’s called a black box; one theory is that it’s because a “black box” is an engineering term for a system you can’t see inside.
6. Haggis: If you aren’t a resident of Scotland, you’ve probably never actually seen the tasty treat made from sheep’s heart and lungs mixed with oatmeal. But looking at it up close, it doesn’t seem so bad. Deep-fried Mars bars, on the other hand…
7. The Milky Way: Most of us know that Earth is in the Milky Way Galaxy. But because of light pollution, few of us city-dwellers have gotten to see it in its full glory. When some residents of L.A. saw it for the first time during a 1994 blackout, they called 911 because they didn’t know what it was.
8. The Gutenberg Bible: It’s well-known for being the first mass-produced book, but few of us have actually seen its pages. It’s certainly fancier than anything you could buy at the book store these days!
9. The dark side of the moon: No, not the Pink Floyd album. The side of the moon that’s impossible to see from Earth, first photographed by Soviet astronauts in 1959.
10. Platypus spurs: The platypus is well-known as the animal nature threw together from all the leftover bits: it’s a mammal that lays eggs, echolocates, and has venomous spurs on its back limbs. It’s cute, but seeing its spurs up close makes it way less cuddly.
11. Real Feathered Dinosaurs: The discovery that many dinosaurs were in fact feathered has led to a flood of ridiculous parody images proclaiming that science ruined the dinosaurs. In reality, paleontologists think the feathered dinosaurs may have looked a little more like this:
12. Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer: The world-famous robot defeated Garry Kasparov, the human chess champion at the time, in a 1997 competition. But while it may have caused people to fear a machine uprising, Deep Blue’s actual design isn’t especially frightening, and wouldn’t be particularly well-suited to taking over the world.
13. The Mona Lisa: Everyone’s seen the famous painting with its enigmatic smile. But unless you’ve seen it in person, few people know exactly how small it is.
14. Elephant Tail: Most of us probably think that the elephant has a thin, dainty tail, but the truth is far thornier. The bristles on the end are so thick that people can make bracelets out of them!
15. The Curiosity Rover: We’re used to getting updates and photos from the friendly little robot, currently collecting data for us on Mars. But a lot of us don’t realize that it’s not so little after all. Far from being something you could pick up and carry in your arms, the probe is far more likely to carry you!
16. The Emoji Movie: Or if you have, please let me stay in my little bubble of delusion where no one rewards the people who brought this awful movie into the world. On a planet filled with deep beauty and meaning, this is one thing that’s not worth experiencing in the flesh.