This world is stranger and far scarier than we often give it credit for. Some of the secrets of our planet will haunt your thoughts for years to come, while others are so bizarre that they’re impossible to believe. In honor of Halloween, one Twitter user asked others to send in their favorite gross, creepy, or outright terrifying science facts. Twitter rose to the challenge and responded with some truly haunting “fun” facts. Though Halloween has passed us by, there’s always time for a good scare.
You know the chestburster scene in Alien? The creeping dread of having a parasite in your body that could kill you at any moment is something many of us will never forget. Unfortunately, this situation is far more real than you might expect, though less gory. E. multilocularis hitch a ride inside wild foxes and then spread to dogs, cats, and even people, eventually killing them decades later. As if we didn’t have enough of a reason to fear the outdoors.
In the same vein of nature being absolutely terrifying, what if there was a plant that could hurt you months after you encountered it? The gympie-gympie is a perennial shrub with a sting that immediately causes severe burning, which continues to intensify and lasts for several days. Plus, the fine hairs responsible for this sting will stay in your body for up to a year. Touch, contact with water, or even temperature changes can release more toxins and trigger another severe attack. Before you even ask, of course, this plant is native to Australia.
That’s right; most experts believe that the human body produces over a liter of mucus every day. Some people might make even more. You might be thinking to yourself that a liter seems like way too much. After all, where does it go? Your stomach. You swallow snot constantly throughout the day, every single day.
The human body is simultaneously a wonder and a nightmare. Despite popular belief, the fallopian tubes are not fixed in place. We usually see models where the ovaries are far apart on either side of the uterus, but they’re usually much closer in reality. A single fallopian tube can easily wiggle and catch the egg from either ovary.
Texas is the summer home to the world's largest bat colony. Mexican free-tailed bats have amassed guano piles estimated to be up to 59 feet deep thanks to thousands of years of occupying Bracken Cave.
Sometimes the most horrifying fact is the one that you can’t do anything about. You can probably avoid a stinging tree or a parasite, but you’ll never be able to prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth. Plus, if that wasn’t bad enough, it would take around 90 minutes for an asteroid to remove our entire species from existence.
Taking a look at the history of medicine makes you wonder how we ever made it this far. As this tweet states, we did try to use malaria to treat syphilis. Malariotherapy had a 15% mortality rate, which was preferable to the near-certain death from syphilis. However, the horror doesn’t stop there. A doctor advocated malariotherapy for treating HIV and AIDS as recently as 1997 and tested his theory on patients without ethical or scientific review or approval.
This tweet is partially correct and partially incorrect, and the truth may seem far more disturbing. Rabies doesn’t actually cause a fear of water itself. Instead, it makes swallowing any liquid so incredibly painful that you begin to fear consuming anything. Keeping the mouth full of saliva ensures the virus has a high chance of infecting others. Combine that with the virus causing aggressive and violent behavior, and you’re not far off from an apocalypse of drooling zombies.
Let's get the scary bit out of the way first. Yes, you, like everyone else, are covered in mites. According to experts, roughly 1.5 million microscopic arachnids are living on your body right now. It gets worse before it gets better. The highest congregation of mites is in your nose, eyelashes, and eyebrows. No, you can't see them with the naked eye, and in truth, that's probably for the best because some of these critters are really important to your health. Demodex mites, for example, clear away bacteria from your face. For the record, to keep harmful mites away (bedbugs, lice, fleas, ticks, etc.), it's important to keep up with your hygiene. Wash your hands, and bathe regularly.
What this already terrifying tweet fails to mention is that the first symptoms of this condition tend to appear between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. You could easily have kids or grandchildren that have inherited this disease without even knowing that you had it yourself. To make things worse, the symptoms are similar to many other conditions, and death is usually a result of a heart attack or infection, so you may never get a diagnosis.
Existential horror is sometimes the most haunting. With 52 weeks in a year, the average human lifespan works out to just over 4000 weeks. However, it’s not like you’ll be able to spend all that time. We spend about a third of our lives sleeping, so you really only get about 2800 weeks of actual human consciousness.
The world might end with an asteroid, global heatwave, or massive solar explosion. Or it could end in a moment, thanks to false vacuum decay. This seemingly science fiction term refers to the idea that our universe exists in a different, less stable state than the rest of existence. False vacuum decay could involve super fun events like the erasure of fundamental forces, mass destruction of atoms, or complete and immediate gravitational collapse. And if that’s not horrific enough for you, some scientists suggest that we vastly underestimate the chances of this happening.