Do Lost People Really Walk in Circles? Apparently So.

Finally, something from the movies that actually jibes with science: when people are lost and have no landmarks for direction, they walk in circles.

There's only one sound scientific way to test this hypothesis: handing a bunch of people GPS trackers and dropping them off in the middle of nowhere. So that's what scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen did—deposited one group of subjects in the Sahara Desert, another in a German forest. 


If the sun or the moon was out, no problem; participants could keep to a more or less straight line. But with no heavenly bodies and no other recognizable landmarks to guide them, the study subjects simply wandered around aimlessly without realizing they were doing it.

So why do we do it? Is that we all favor one leg over the other and start veering off in that direction? The researchers thought this might be the case, and beyond the testing in the desert and the forest, they also blindfolded some subjects to see if they could stay straight.

However, rather than favoring only one direction, people would wander one way and then the other, and end up nowhere. The researchers hypothesize that the real cause of walking in circles is simply losing track of "straight ahead" and overcompensating.

So if you're hiking around in the desert—or planning to appear in a horror movie—please, take a compass. Your senses deceive you.

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Are we all multiple personalities of universal consciousness?

Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.

We’re all one mind in "idealism." (Credit: Alex Grey)
Mind & Brain

There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.

Keep reading Show less

New study reveals what time we burn the most calories

Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.

Photo: Victor Freitas / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
  • While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
  • Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
Keep reading Show less