The world is full of unnatural things that humans have created for better or worse reasons. We make plastic; we make Pepsi; we make poisons. Some of the unnatural substances we create make the world a better place, like medicines. Others, like your average chemical or nuclear weapon, are devastating. Good or bad, however, there are a number of things that it really seems like humans made on their own which actually do occur in nature without our help at all, even if it’s pretty rare.
10. The Drug GHB Is Made In Your Brain
GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, has been a fairly well known party drug for some years now. It produces a sense of euphoria and overall good feelings, at least with careful dosing. It’s also used to treat conditions like narcolepsy and even alcoholism. That said, one of the biggest dangers with GHB is that it can also cause extreme drowsiness, memory loss, unconsciousness and muscle control problems. For those reasons it has also been nefariously used as a date rape drug.
Despite all the effects and dangers associated with GHB, it can also be lethal in high enough doses, it’s not just some lab creation from a mad scientist. Your body naturally produces GHB in small amounts. It’s produced in your brain through the synthesis of the neurotransmitter GABA. You can find it in your hypothalamus, thalamus and other portions of the brain where it still works as a depressant, just a natural one.
9. MSG Occurs Naturally in Many Foods
For many years, no food additive was more maligned than monosodium glutamate. Most frequently associated with Chinese food, there was a long campaign against the flavor enhancers as being a dangerous, processed additive that could cause terrible health problems which included headaches and cancer.
There’s no actual evidence that MSG causes any significant health issues. A lot of the MSG backlash may have actually been based on little more than racism, especially since there was even something called “Chinese restaurant syndrome” which allegedly gave people issues after eating foods prepared with MSG in Asian restaurants.
What many people lamenting MSG likely never realized was that, despite the chemical-sounding name, it was still a natural product. MSG is found naturally in many foods ranging from cheese to tomatoes. It was initially derived from seaweed.
The FDA lists MSG as generally safe to eat and has pointed out that, even with people who label themselves as sensitive to MSG, in clinical testing there are no differences between those who consume MSG and those who have a placebo.
8. Carbonated Water Occurs In Some Springs
SodaStream hit the market a few years ago, giving people the option to make carbonated drinks right at home with just a bottle of water and whatever flavoring they wanted. They’ve also tried to push the idea that their product is healthy because it can give you plain, calorie-free sparkling water just as easily, no need for sugar or chemical flavorings.
The average American drinks just under 43 gallons of soda per year, so there’s clearly a love of carbonated beverages out there. And while Coca-Cola and Pepsi are making a killing off of what they sell, carbonated water is by no means a product that was just concocted to make drinks more of a novelty. It happens in nature all on its own.
Carbonated water is what you get when you manage to combine CO2 and water. Out in the wild, when volcanic gasses dissolve naturally in water it creates the same fizz you’d get if you forced those gasses into the water with your SodaStream. The major difference is that, a naturally carbonated spring, would likely be very mineral rich as well.
7. Nuclear Fission Reactors Can Occur in Nature
Of all the things that man has done in the world, it seems like splitting the atom and creating a fission reactor would have to be one of the most unnatural, and yet here we are. Make no mistake, this is incredibly rare and significantly different from what humans can do with a controlled reaction in a planned out nuclear power plant. That said, when you look at the nuts and bolts of it, a nuclear fission reaction can play out in the wild in a similar way to what happens in a reactor.
Gabon, Africa is famous for once being home to naturally occurring fission reactors some two billion years ago. There were 17 of them in Gabon and their output was very small compared to a modern reactor, around 100 kilowatts. The conditions that allowed the reaction to occur were incredibly rare and precise and required uranium of the right kind to allow for spontaneous fission, plus precise conditions to hold but not interfere with such a reaction, and a moderator to slow down the neutrons. Despite the odds against all of those conditions being met, Gabon proved to have everything in the right place at the right time. The reactors likely ran for a million years, and the waste material managed to be safely stored in the earth.
6. Asphalt Forms Naturally in Tar Pits
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about paving? The US produces about 350 million metric tons of asphalt every year. Over 94% of America’s 2.6 million miles of road are paved, so there’s lots of need for the stuff. And, as luck would have it, it doesn’t need to be produced in a factory. Asphalt is produced in nature and people have been using it as far back as ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Places like Pitch Lake in Trinidad are natural lakes full of asphalt and tar. Ten million tons of the stuff have been mined from the lake since 1867. The asphalt is used all around the world for paving but mining has greatly decreased. This is due, in part, because asphalt is the most recycled product in America. Nearly 70 million tons of it was reclaimed in 2013 alone and almost all of it was recycled and reused.
5. Antimatter is Made in Bananas
Few things sound more like science fiction than the concept of antimatter. It’s matter, but somehow the opposite, and if matter and antimatter collide, then both will be destroyed. Yes, the science is a lot more complex, but that’s pretty crazy stuff no matter how you slice it. And even more crazy is that antimatter is being on Earth, right this second, and maybe sometimes you even eat it because it’s made by bananas.
Bananas are known for being a good source of potassium but not all potassium is created equal. Potassium-40, an unstable isotope, degrades slowly over time and part of that degradation involves releasing antimatter in the form of positrons. A single banana will release a positron every 75 minutes, more or less.
The positrons emitted are likely destroyed almost instantaneously when they hit a random electron, but there’s a chance that means they’re emitting photos as well, so there could be tiny, technically visible antimatter explosions around your banana bowl all the time. The numbers are extremely low, in case you’re worried, and can’t pose a threat.
4. ElectroMagnetic Fields Occur in Oil Pipelines
We know that the Earth has a magnetic field and so do, you know, magnets. So the idea of a natural magnetic field on its own isn’t unusual or unexpected. That said, a natural electromagnetic field and electrical currents forming in oil pipelines does sound unusual. Despite that, it’s a natural phenomenon and sometimes an unintended consequence of how oil pipelines are made and laid out.
Some companies currently offer solutions to demagnetize pipeline as the problem can make welding nearly impossible. But already produced pipelines also have a problem of becoming magnetized and carrying current thanks to conditions like auroral electrojet in the ionosphere, a current that flows above the North Polar region. There’s an electrojet at the South Pole and around the equator, as well. During periods of moderate electromagnetic activity, a current of 50 amps was measured in the Alaskan pipeline.
3. Eternal Flames Occur Naturally All Over the World
The concept of a universal flame is actually very common. They exist in countries all over the world, usually built and lit as a tribute or monument to something. In Canada, the Flame of Hope was lit in 1989 by Queen Elizabeth with the intention of burning until diabetes is cured. In 1993, Bill Clinton lit one at the United States Holocaust Museum. Belarus has one that was lit back in 1961.
While many of these flames have actually gone out accidentally or, sometimes, been snuffed out intentionally, they were all designed to keep burning so long as someone pays the gas bill. But nature has its own set of eternal flames all around the world that occur thanks to natural gas deposits.
Erie County, New York has a famous eternal flame at Eternal Flame Falls. To be fair, the flame does go out sometimes since it’s right under a waterfall and people do need to relight it now and then. It’s also a bit of a mystery how that particular eternal flame even exists as the rock in the area isn’t hot enough to have produced the conditions needed, at least as far as we understand how these things work, which means something else produced the gas deposit somehow.
2. Mechanical Gears Exist in Insects
A gear seems like a simple and utterly fabricated thing. We can trace gears back to the third century in Europe and even earlier in China and the innovation has allowed for some amazing inventions up to the present day including clocks and mills and far more complicated machines.
As remarkable yet seemingly simple as a gear it, it does seem wholly manufactured. You need to cut pieces to fit together in a way that allows for movement and function. It was surprising to learn that nature has created its own gears, something scientists reported in 2013.
A tiny insect called Issus coleoptratus is just three millimeters long and gets around by hopping about. The mechanism that allows them to jump is not the same as what you’d find in a grasshopper, though. Instead, the rear legs of this remarkable creature have naturally formed mechanical gears that allow the legs to lock and rotate as one, then propel the little creature forward.
To succeed at jumping, the action needs to be precisely coordinated between both legs. The insect is able to launch both legs within 30 microseconds, or 30 millionths of a second. The bug’s brain is not even advanced enough to do that, so instead its skeleton does it automatically, providing the gears to make it happen as it needs to happen.
1. Benzos/Valium Occur Naturally in Many Staple Crops
Benzodiazepine, sometimes called benzos, are depressant drugs used as sedatives. They can be used as sleeping pills or sedatives and sometimes they are prescribed for anxiety disorders as well. The drugs were hugely popular and, by 1977, benzodiazepines were the most prescribed drugs in the world. People were using them to treat alcohol withdrawal, as a surgical preparation, and for muscle spasms.
The drugs were gradually replaced with more modern medications that were considered less harmful, at least at the time. Not that benzos no longer exist, they’re just far less popular. But you can also get a natural hit of the drugs and research indicates mammalian brains contain natural amounts of the drugs.
Turns out, potatoes and wheat both produce substances that are extremely similar, chemically speaking, to benzos as well as others like diazepam, better known as Valium, and lorazepam, better known as Ativan.