A lot of things in life require careful planning and preparation. No one becomes an expert in anything all of a sudden, you need to put time and effort into learning skills to make things happen. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t happy accidents all the time. People win the lottery or narrowly miss getting hit by a car. For the most part we recognize a difference between these things, though. Skills and behaviors tend to develop over time, while things that happen spontaneously are often random and unpredictable. But every once in a while some wires get crossed and some amazing things can happen right out of the blue.
10. Richie Havens Spontaneously Composed Freedom on Stage at Woodstock
Songwriting is one of those things most people really have to work at to be successful. The Beatles weren’t freestyling their way through their career by any means. You have to work at making a hit song most of the time. But as Richie Havens proved, most of the time isn’t all the time.
Havens’ song “Freedom” is arguably his biggest hit. You might remember it from the movie Django Unchained if you’re not already familiar. He debuted the song in 1969 at Woodstock and there’s a hell of a story behind it. The video is amazing too, especially as you watch Havens, literally soaked in sweat, jamming on his guitar and dancing as the crowd get on their feet with him. All of this is more amazing when you realize he made it up on the spot.
Havens was out of songs to sing at this point in the show. He’d been on stage for three uninterrupted hours and had nothing left. He had to go to the theater after Woodstock to watch the footage of himself playing it so he could learn the song, music and lyrics, since he didn’t remember any of it. Since then he’s had to play it at almost every single show he’s ever done.
9. Wild Mice Run on Wheels
If you ever had a hamster or a gerbil as a pet, you probably had a wheel to go along with it that the little guy could run in. Mice and other rodents like these toys as well, and they’ll gladly run on them for ages with little to no prompting whatsoever. What you may not have considered was exactly how and why these animals do that. There’s nothing in nature like a wheel that these animals could run on out of instinct. So how do they learn it?
It turns out that mice spontaneously run on wheels for no real reason at all. Wild rodents have never been exposed to wheels, nor have their ancestors, which suggests it’s a learned behavior of domestication, and they’ll hop on and run their little hearts out. They do this without being offered any reward, even. They will also run for times that are equivalent to those of captive mice.
The ramifications of this aren’t world changing, but if you ever feared your pet was running because it was a bored captive with nothing else to do, worry not. It’d do it in the wild if it had the chance, too.
8. Nicaraguan Sign Language
Sign language has proven to be an invaluable communication tool for the deaf and hard of hearing, but not everyone is aware that there are over 300 different sign languages in use around the world. One of those was developed by children on a playground with no prompting or influence from adults. It’s the only spontaneously developed language that’s ever been recorded as it developed with no influence from any other languages at all.
When the language was developed in the 1970s, children from all over the country had come together but struggled with lip-reading in the school setting. So they began to communicate on their own with a language that is not a direct offshoot of Spanish. Scientists studying the language have even learned how language shapes our thoughts thanks to tests that show a marked difference in spatial awareness testing between those who developed those languages versus those who grew up with it and never knew anything else.
7. Spontaneous Facial Expressions
In addition to spoken language, humans have developed an ability to communicate through visual cues. Body language and facial expressions convey a lot of meaning. Something like a smile is obviously considered a sign of happiness, a frown one of sadness. A scowl can denote anger and a raised eyebrow may indicate curiosity or confusion. But how do we learn what facial expressions mean?
It seems likely that we learn facial expressions from seeing facial expressions but research has shown that the spontaneous expressions of people who cannot see at all and therefore could not have learned these expressions from others are innate.
Researchers studied the spontaneous expressions of athletes, some of whom were sighed, some of whom were born blind and others who lost their sight later in life. During matches, after wins or losses and during medal ceremonies, spontaneous expressions were basically the same across all three groups meaning that the way we express emotions like sadness, anger, disgust and joy on our face is not a learned behavior.
6. Pistachios Spontaneously Combust
Pistachios are some of the most popular nuts you can buy and with good reason, they’re pretty tasty. But unlike most other kinds of nuts, pistachios present a hidden danger that can strike at any time. Pistachios are known to spontaneously combust.
Pistachios are high fat and low moisture. They can be up to 55% fat. If you pack a lot of pistachios together in a high heat environment, that fat begins to decompose in the air and break down. Moisture and oxygen can cause them to start producing carbon dioxide through an enzymatic reaction that also produces considerable heat.
They need to be transported in cool, dry conditions to minimize the risk. Not only can they explode under these conditions, they can also suffocate you if you’re in an enclosed space with them due to the carbon dioxide they produce.
5. Ambien Can Temporarily and Spontaneously Reverse Neurological Damage
Ambien has been a fairly popular sleeping pill since it was developed in the late 1980s. Side effects range from pretty common things to sleepwalking, sleep eating and even sleep driving. But there’s another very rare side effect from Ambien that’s even more remarkable. In a handful of cases, Ambien has led to people with serious brain damage spontaneously regaining the ability to move or speak after years of being unable to do so.
In one case, a man who had not spoken or moved in 8 years after suffering a lack of oxygen to his brain after choking began to speak again after being given Ambien. He called his dad; he asked for fast food; he even walked around with help though he also had retrograde amnesia to three years before his accident.
The effects were unfortunately only temporary and each new dose gave him less time until finally it only worked with a few weeks in between doses.
4. A Lawyer’s Pants Spontaneously Caught Fire
Sometimes the world is just dripping with irony, and that seems to be the case with this story. Lawyers, for all the good they can do in the world, are much maligned people and the butt a lot of jokes. Lawyers are stereotyped as unscrupulous, as predatory and as deceitful. That last one is a biggie. Lawyers are thought to bend the truth a lot, if not outright lying to try to win their cases. True or not, it’s a reputation that they have.
With that in mind, the story of a lawyer’s pants catching on fire spontaneously in the middle of a trial is something that seems like it was scripted for a Hollywood movie. The whole “liar, liar pants on fire” thing is just too on the nose.
Adding another level of charm to the story, the Florida defense attorney was in the middle of an arson trial, defending his client, when his pants began to smoke. The man had stored some batteries for his e-cigarette in his pocket earlier and they began to overheat.
A quick run to the bathroom where he tossed the battery in some water saved him from serious harm and he even went back to work with slightly damaged pants.
3. Google’s Artificial Brain Spontaneously Taught Itself to Recognize Cats
People have been making morbid jokes about artificial intelligence for years. Thanks to movies like The Matrix and the Terminator, we’ve all been made aware of the idea that intelligent machines may one day rise up and either destroy us or enslave us. But not all AI is pure doom and gloom and we can look to Google for proof of that.
Back in 2012, Google was trying out a neural network that connected 16,000 computer processors with a billion connections between them constituting an artificial brain. They did what anyone in the modern world with a computer brain would do and let it watch YouTube.
You may or may not be surprised to learn that the brain spent three days on YouTube and had experienced 10 million images in that time. Though the machine had never been told what a cat was or what a cat looked like, it began identifying cat videos all on its own, proving what many of us learned years ago that the internet is just a repository for cat videos and then ancillary materials.
It began to identify faces without being taught what faces were or how it should identify them, and cat faces were right there alongside human faces. The programmers behind it never gave it any cat information, so the brain taught itself the entire concept of cat.
2. Corpses Can Spontaneously Open Their Eyes
It’s long been believed that a person’s hair and fingernails continue to grow after death, which isn’t actually true. But that doesn’t mean a human body won’t spontaneously do some pretty unsettling things after it’s shuffled off this mortal coil. Far more disturbing than potential hair growth, a human corpse may open and close its eyes.
Known as cadaveric spasms, muscles in use at the time of death may be stiff and rigid and then later relax, giving the impression of the body moving or adjusting. Rigor mortis will set in later, stiffening the whole body, and then a secondary relaxation occurs which can make a corpse appear to shift and adjust its muscles more than once after death.
1. Hawaii’s Spontaneous Orgasm Mushroom
This entry is a little iffy because there is very little evidence to support it but, by the same token, there is nothing to disprove it yet, either. It stems from a single study done in the year 2001 about a kind of mushroom found in Hawaii. The study, conducted by a pair of medical students, suggests that the smell of the mushroom can cause women to experience spontaneous orgasms.
The claim is so far unproven because people were obviously skeptical of the claim but, because it’s not really at the cutting edge of pressing science concerns, no one has gone out of their way to debunk it fully.
According to the study, the mushrooms grow in recent lava flows. Men who smelled the mushroom thought it was disgusting but about half of the women had the spontaneous reaction. There were only 16 women included so the sample size was not big to begin with and the actual species of mushroom was never named.