Throughout the years man has always looked out for the unusual, for the wonderful, for mysteries at the heart of nature, challenging its fairy tales with his reasons. His curiosity gave birth to fire, took him to the moon. Today, science armored with logic might boast of having reasoned every phenomenon, decoded every puzzle. Thus, it comes out as a surprise when one finds out that there are not just one but millions of secrets still lying hidden to mankind. The extraterrestrials, the lost cities, coded cypertexts, mysterious murders. These are all unsolved questions that lie before us unanswered, haunting man’s ingenious capability. What great secrets might they hide?
Despite the efforts of the most revered historians, cleverest cryptographers and most determined treasure hunters, history is replete with riddles that continue to confound us today. 10 of the world’s most fascinating puzzles which have put doubts over man’s reasoning aptitude over years are listed here.
10. Nazca Geoglyphs
Drawn by Nazca people in Peru between 400 and 650 AD, Nazca Geoglyphs are shallow patterns made in ground with size over 200 meters across. Zoomed designs of monkeys, fishes, jaguars, giant spiders and human figures among others have puzzled witnesses for their exactness in wake of absence of an aerial vision. The reason for these engravings has also been a matter of astonishment for observers. Several theories, ranging from alien intervention to hot-air balloon flights have come up the surface, but the real reason is yet to be established. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, scientists have been working hard on protecting the Nazca lines from effects of pollution.
9. Voynich Manuscript
This one is a very famous case in the history of cypertexts. The Voynich Manuscript, dating back to the 15th century Italy is a manuscript about herbal plants, astronomy and biology among other topics. The only issue is that neither the meaning of the text nor the origin of the script has been deciphered till present day. Interestingly, the illustrations featuring in the book do not resemble any species that man has discovered till now. The book got its name from Wilfrid Voynich, the book dealer who purchased it in 1912. While some people have casted it off as nonsense random put together, others, including some researchers from University of Manchester and Barilroche Atomic Center claim to have discovered a semantic pattern in its writing. What secrets these symbols hold for us is right now, just a mystery.
An encrypted sculpture by American artist Jim Sanborn located on the grounds of the CIA in Langley, Virginia, Kryptos-meaning “hidden” in Greek, are one of the most famous unsolved codes in the world. Three of the four codes have been successfully deciphered, while the fourth one could not yet be divulged to the world. The first reading was decoded in 1999 to:
“BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION”
In spite of hints dropped by Sanborn in late 2010, even the CIA itself has been puzzled by the beautiful mystery of this text for years.
7. Tamam Shud case
Taman Shud case involves a very captivating murder mystery, where not only the murderer but the identity of the murdered victim is also unknown. In December 1948 during heightened tensions of the Cold War, body of an unknown man was discovered on Somerton beach in Adelaide, Australia. The case gained attention of international media and a meticulous search was carried out by the Government in consultation with other agencies, to identify the man. Mystery deepened when a tiny paper bearing words ‘Tamam Shud’ (Translating to “ended” or “finished”, and used on the last page of a collection of poems called “The Rubiyat” by Omar Khayyam) was found in the dead man’s pocket. The death was caused by the use of an undetectable poison found in man’s body. A suicidal attempt or a murder, the knotting truth is yet to be untangled.
6. Shugborough Inscription
Called as one of the world’s top uncracked cypertexts, the Shugborough inscription is a sequence of letters – O U O S V A V, between the letters D M – carved on the 18th-century Shepherd’s Monument in the grounds of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire, England. No satisfactory solution to this code has been proposed as of yet. Speculations range from love stories to dedication to a deceased wife. Dan Brown, in his famous novel, The Da Vinci code developed similar themes for his story; the real meaning though still lies untold.
5. The Wow! Signal
“I am yet to determine which is more frightening, the possibility that there may be other life in the universe, or the possibility that we are entirely alone.”
If there are advanced beings in planets around us, why haven’t they ever tried to contact us? Or maybe they have done. On a summer day of 1977 in Ohio, Jerry Ehman, working on a SETI project, received a possibly non-terrestrial signal from beyond the Solar System that lasted for 72 seconds. Astounded at how closely the signal matched the expected interstellar signal, Ehman scribbled ‘wow!’ at the side of the signal’s printout, hence its name. Researchers working on the project remarked that if the signal came from extraterrestrials, they are likely to be an extremely advanced civilization, as the signal would have required a 2.2-gigawatt transmitter, vastly more powerful than any on Earth.
4. Taos Hum
How would you feel if an eerie hum echoed all the time in your mind, remaining inaudible to most? What if that noise increased even more when you moved inside your house or as darkness closed in?
Straight out of science-fiction it seems, right. Well, not really. This is a true story as experienced by people in Taos, New Mexico. Interestingly, this hum is not detected by any sound detector, and has been known to drive people off their minds for over 20 years. Medically, the condition of hearing a droning sound continuously is called tinnitus, but the mystery of a number of people experiencing this disorder at the same time and same place is astounding. Theories bobbing around the surface range from a mysterious government project to flying saucer crash nearby, though precise explanations are yet to arrive.
3. Aluminum Wedge of Aiud
Probably the most intriguing mystery of all, this one might just end up reaffirming your belief of extraterrestrial visits to Earth. Aluminum as you might recall from 6th std Science Textbooks, is never found in free form in nature. Only in the latter part of 19th century was the technology to separate it out developed. Interesting and shocking it must have been, when a group of Romanian workers discovered an Aluminum wedge in its almost pure form 10 meters deep in lands of Aiud, Romania along with elephant bones dated 2.5 million years. Often speculate as the “proof” that aliens visited the planet, this mystery was surrounded with so many contemplations and controversies that even the Wikipedia page leading to it had to be removed.
2. The Bermuda Triangle
You might be residing at some other planet if you haven’t heard of this Devil’s triangle located in the mid western part of North Atlantic. Thousands of aircrafts and ships have disappeared in mysterious circumstances near this area. US Navy does not identify this region, compass starts behaving in unusual manner near it. Time wraps, violent weather, the presence of a sea monster have been the speculations surrounding the Bermuda triangle. While some stories might just be exaggerated accounts of reality, but the number of incidents accounted are unprecedented.
1. The Shroud of Turin
While some mysteries involve aliens or unidentified manuscripts, this is one involving Jesus himself. Believed to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, The Shroud of Turin bears faden lines forming the image of a crucified man. Several tests on the surface fibers of the linen cloth to explain the formation of image or to replicate similar lines have failed. Whether the cloth is a relic of the most important resurrection in the history of Universe or World’s greatest art forgery so far, is still a question.
We can only marvel if these mysteries would ever be answered or remain a mystery to man forever. At the end, it might only be right to remark, the mystery of life isn’t a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.