If you’re a parent, you’re intimately acquainted with one question that hatches an infinite number of them: Why?
If asking and investigating “why” is good enough for Nancy Drew, or the Scooby-Doo gang trawling for the truth in the Mystery Machine, that’s the only motivation we need.
From the time we’re little, we’re encouraged to be curious and seek answers to life’s puzzles. It’s the joy of discovery — and ultimately how we understand the world around us.
Often, we are rewarded with entirely unexpected answers that overturn assumptions — like the fact that Vikings weren’t the first to wear their trademark horned helmets.
Pick up your magnifying glass, and explore some of the solved mysteries and fascinating finds that delighted CNN’s space and science team this week.
A long time ago
The imprints of the once vast ancient Roman Empire have made their presence known in discoveries this week across Europe.
Construction of the future HS2 high-speed railway line in England unveiled the remains of a large Roman trading settlement that dates back to 50 AD.
Some of the recovered items include jewelry, pottery and a rare and “exquisite” wooden figure.
Separately, archaeologists were led to a hoard of more than 200 Roman coins that had been hidden in a cave in Spain for centuries — thanks to the burrowing habits of a persistent badger.
For years, scientists puzzled over Mesopotamian art showing majestic horse-like animals 4,500 years ago — mainly because domesticated horses didn’t reach the region until 4,000 years ago.
The mystery of this creature’s identity has finally been solved after DNA was collected from skeletons of the animals, which were buried alongside their elite owners in northern Syria.
Considered the bioengineers of their time, these Bronze Age people crossed a female donkey with a Syrian wild ass male, resulting in a kunga — the earliest known hybrid animal.
And it wasn’t the only equine surprise from researchers this week: The prized warhorses of medieval knights may not have been as towering as we imagine.
Beneath the ice-covered Weddell Sea in Antarctica, scientists have found a breeding colony of 60 million fish.
The ecosystem covers an area the size of Malta, or 93 square miles (241 square kilometers) and contains perfectly spaced nests.
In order to survive in such a frigid place, the fish have made some extreme adaptations — including an antifreeze protein to prevent ice crystals from growing in their blood.
But that’s not all — these fish also have a number of qualities that render parts of them practically invisible.
Things are heating up, and not in a good way, due to the warming created by fossil fuel emissions.
The year 2021 was the 45th in a row with a warmer-than-normal global temperature and the sixth warmest on record, according to two reports released this week.
A similar scenario is playing out in the world’s oceans with a long-term upward trend in water temperature. This temperature increase can supercharge weather patterns to create more powerful storms, hurricanes and intense rainfall, which can all lead to deadly flooding.
Reducing fossil fuel emissions will help, but oceans will be slower to respond to this shift, experts warn, urging leaders to plan for sea level rise.
Our galaxy is full of wonderfully weird planets, but if those worlds have any moons around them, they’ve remained well hidden — until now.
Astronomers have detected what they believe to be only the second candidate for an “exomoon,” or a moon outside of our solar system.
The giant object is more than twice the size of Earth, and it’s orbiting a massive Jupiter-like planet in a system more than 5,000 light-years away.
Meanwhile, scientists took a closer look at a planet that looks like a football — and it’s truly stranger than fiction.
These are worth a double take:
— The remains of a giant “sea dragon” have been uncovered in England. The 180 million-year-old fossil is the largest and most complete of its kind ever found in the UK.
— Psychedelic-laced beer may have helped this ancient South American empire rule the highlands of Peru between 600 and 1,000 AD, according to new evidence.
Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.
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