Does the Earth have a hidden second sun? Will we all become vampires?
It seems, as Einstein once said, “imagination is more important than knowledge” when it comes to science. So BBC Focus magazine looked at 10 of the most radical theories boffins are researching – and they read like science-fiction…
Mind-bending drugs are good
Researchers are testing for positive effects in many previously vilified drugs.
Of particular interest is the use of psychedelic drugs in treating mental illness. A team at Imperial College London has been studying how LSD can be used to combat depression.
And a single dose of psilocybin compound, from magic mushrooms, reduced anxiety and depression in cancer patients for six months.
Aliens sucking power from star
Tabby’s Star, which is 1,480 light years from Earth, dims and brightens in an odd pattern, unlike anything else.
No logical theories explain the star’s behaviour.
But researchers noted the signal was consistent with one wild idea – that an alien megastructure surrounds the star, harvesting its energies.
It may have been suggested half-jokingly but now scientists are starting to wonder…
One day we will all be vampires
The blood of the young can slow ageing, speed healing and treat decline in the brain, says Dr Tony Wyss-Coray.
For the record, he has only tried it with mice so far but reckons blood from a young mouse will rejuvenate the brain, muscles, pancreas, liver and heart of an older one.
The doctor, from Stanford University, California, plans trials on patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Humans appear out of thin air
This one is a bit out there… According to quantum mechanics, space is anything but empty. It is full of particles constantly flitting in and out of existence. This could give rise to collections of particles appearing from nowhere, such as a living being.
The chance is very small but it isn’t zero. Therefore, it is theoretically possible that, in an infinitely big universe, over an infinite period of time, it could occur.
6th sense idea’s not bird-brained
Geophysicist Joe Kirschvink reckons we can sense the Earth’s magnetic field like birds but have forgotten how to use that sixth sense.
His experiments at the California Institute of Technology found that people exposed to a strong anti-clockwise magnetic field, like the movement of the Earth, show a drop in brain alpha waves. That suggests they may subconsciously sense the magnetic field.
We could live to the age of 1,000
The first human to live to 1,000 is alive now, according to ageing expert Aubrey de Grey.
Two-thirds of all deaths are age-related and we are extending our lifespans by two years a decade.
But De Grey’s SENS Research Foundation has identified seven types of damage, such as cell loss and cancer causing mutations, and suggested at least one therapy for each.
Mr De Grey said the science had “proceeded very much along the path I had expected” and there is no upper limit to how long a human can live.
Memory passed on in our genes
It’s clear animals pass down knowledge in their genes. Newly hatched turtles, for example, automatically move towards the sea by instinct.
Some researchers believe learning can be transferred via our genes. US-based Dr Darold Treffert, who studies “genius” savants, believes they are proof of “genetic memory”.
He says: “There’s ample room on DNA to store phenomenal amounts of information.”
The Sun has a hidden twin
The universe is filled with star systems where planets rotate around more than one star.
And the solar system may have a second star. A theory says Earth has had mass extinctions every 26 million years due to comets sent by the Sun’s small twin, Nemesis.
We’ve never spotted it. But dwarf planet Sedna should not be where it is, in a distant orbit of the Sun. We have something wrong but don’t know what.
Freak mutation made us brainy
Human brains were much smaller 200,000 years ago. Then they suddenly grew by 30%. So what caused it?
Prof Colin Blakemore, of Oxford University, believes a spontaneous mutation in the brain of one person made us much more intelligent, and able to live through droughts and climate changes that would otherwise have killed us off.
Natural selection meant the smarter humans survived.
The universe? We created it
Dr Robert Lanza believes biology drives the universe, not the other way round.
He points to tests when electrons fired on to a screen appeared to behave differently if they “knew” they were being watched, a weird phenomenon physicists cannot explain. He concluded our thoughts controlled and created the electrons and reality we live in.
For more facts like this, see sciencefocus.com/qanda