Unless you hold multiple PhDs across a variety of scientific fields, chances are that certain things in this world leave you scratching your head. Just take these mind-bending photos, which seem hell-bent on defying the laws of physics, or indeed Mother Nature herself. In fact, there’s no witchcraft or wizardry on display here. These brain-melting photos actually all have one thing in common – they’re all easily explained by science.
20. This photo of a single atom
See that tiny dot in the middle of this picture? That’s a single atom. Or rather, that’s the light that bounced off the atom during the time the camera’s sensor was exposed. In reality, a single atom would be somewhere in the region of 50 quintillion times smaller than this dot. Good luck wrapping your head around that one.
19. This split-color lobster
Contrary to what you might have seen in movies and TV shows, or even out at restaurants, lobsters aren’t all a shade of crimson. In fact, they’ve been known to sport all sorts of hues, like this split-colored variant. And while they do pop up fairly often, they’re still rare – just not the one-in-50-million figure you may have heard.
18. This snail shell
Despite what it may look like at first glance, this isn’t some kind of awesome geological phenomenon. Indeed, it’s actually what the shell of a snail looks like under a microscope. The topmost layer is the inside of the shell, which belongs to a common white-lipped garden snail.
17. This free-fall pit
If the thought of going underground terrifies you, then you’ll probably want to look away now. That’s because this is America’s deepest free-fall pit. Nicknamed Fantastic, it is located in Ellison’s Cave, Georgia. The pit sinks 586 feet into the ground, while the entire cave extends down to 1,063 vertical feet. Indeed, it boggles the mind just thinking about it.
16. This transparent tunicate
If you’ve never seen a salp before, don’t worry. After all, these planktonic tunicates must be pretty hard to spot, transparent as they are. But if you do see one, you’ll probably see a whole bunch. This is because they link together in chains that can number in the hundreds. As if its transparency wasn’t interesting enough already.
15. This electrical burn
No, this isn’t an awesome painted mural that’s somehow transcended its grass canvas. In fact, the reality is actually even cooler. It’s a natural pattern that’s been burned into the ground from a fallen electrical line. Yes, this thing is entirely a force of extreme nature. It doesn’t get much more mind-bending than that.
14. This two-tailed lizard
It’s no secret that lizards can regrow certain limbs – in particular, their tails. After all, that was the entire basis for Dr. Connors’ genetic experiments in the Spider-Man universe. But it looks like this particular reptile has somehow managed to regrow an extra tail in the process. Indeed, it’s a mind-bending marvel of Mother Nature.
13. The eyes of a scallop
Chances are, you’ve probably never looked closely at a scallop – at least beyond the part you eat. Well, around its shell, a whole scallop has an array of hundreds of simple blue eyes, allowing it to detect movement and shapes. Indeed, they have surprisingly good vision in comparison to other mollusks.
12. These rainbow trees
This may look like a vivid painting sprung straight from the imagination of an artist, but it’s actually a real-life scene crafted by Mother Nature herself. The Eucalyptus deglupta, or “rainbow gum,” has several layers of bark in various bright hues. When segments of the bark strip away over the course of the year, the result is an incredible mix of colors.
11. The Kondyor Massif
You don’t need a geography degree to understand what’s going on with the Kondyor Massif, but it would definitely help. Essentially, this is a naturally circular land formation. It is found in northeastern Russia, and contains all sorts of valuable minerals, including platinum. The formation extends deep below the ground and was once topped by a dome, which has eroded over time.
10. This electrified cube
What happens when you inject trillions of electrons into a clear acrylic cube, then discharge them? Well, this beautiful, natural phenomenon you see before you. It may look like something out of a science-fiction movie, but it’s actually totally legit. When the electricity is discharged, it leaves behind a “lightning bolt” footprint, known as a Lichtenberg figure.
9. This petri dish
If you’re wondering where this petri dish was left to get covered in so much gunk, the answer may surprise you. Indeed, this is simply the result of spending three minutes in a hand dryer. Before you freak out and vow never to use one again though, don’t worry, it’s mostly harmless fungi. And let’s be honest – when was the last time you held your hands under a dryer for three minutes?
8. This block of solid aluminum
There aren’t many things on Earth that can do this much damage to solid aluminum. It makes sense, then, that it was something out-of-this-world that caused this crater. Indeed, a mere half ounce of space debris traveling at 15,000 mph caused the damage you can see here, albeit in a simulated environment on Earth.
7. These sperm whales
There’s nothing unusual about these particular sperm whales – they’re just doing what all sperm whales do. Indeed, they’re basically the opposite of humans, in that they move around horizontally, but sleep vertically. And they spend most of their time awake, sleeping around seven percent of their day in small ten- to 15-minute intervals.
6. This deer’s mouth
Ever looked closely inside a deer’s mouth? Probably not. But if you had, you’d have seen these conical papillae, as they’re known, for yourself. They’re pretty terrifying to look at, but they’re there for protection while the animal eats tough food. And like your hair and nails, they’re very strong, because they’re made of the same material.
5. These stained trees
These trees may look very precisely painted, but it was actually a natural disaster that caused this intriguing pattern. Indeed, in 2010 a reservoir wall in Hungary ruptured, releasing massive amounts of toxic waste into the nearby surroundings. The result was this perfect cut-off point, which has since been captured by photographer Palíndromo Mészaros in a project called “The Line.”
4. This frozen pond
We can’t say we’d be too keen to break out the ice skates around this pond. Not because of any structural worries, but just because this ice looks way too beautiful to mess up by skating over it. Apparently, this may have happened because the temperature dropped particularly slowly, and the water froze gradually in turn – forming these awesome crystals.
3. These stacked coins
This may look like it defies all the laws of physics simultaneously, but it’s actually just an example of a cantilever on a smaller scale. Cantilevers are used in construction to build outcroppings that don’t require external bracing, such as in bridges. The coins on the table act as a counterweight for those off it.
2. This meteorite
Believe it or not, this slice of rock is thought to be older than the Earth itself. Indeed, the Fukang meteorite, discovered in China in 2000, is apparently around 4.5 billion years old. It’s also filled with olivine crystals, which appear to “glow” when the meteorite is held up to the sun.
1. This colorful metal
It’s hard to believe something as beautiful as this could occur naturally, but that’s exactly the case. This is a crystal of the metal bismuth, which has a silvery-white hue at its base. But thanks to the varying depth of its outer oxide layer, light refracts through it differently, giving the impression of an iridescent rainbow of color.