Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Katie. Katie Wonders, “What is an enigma” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Katie!
What is an enigma? Maybe you’ve heard that word used to describe Amelia Earhart. Perhaps you know it’s somehow connected to Oak Island or Cleopatra. It’s true, people see these topics as enigmas. But what does that mean?
An enigma is a mystery. People use the word in a few different ways. Sometimes, it describes something that’s just difficult to understand. Think about the most difficult topic you’ve ever learned about. Was it the Big Bang Theory? Perhaps the Fibonacci Sequence? Many people would describe these concepts as enigmas.
People themselves can also be enigmas. Have you ever met someone you thought was mysterious? Maybe they were a spy or a fortune teller. They may have been secretive, unpredictable, or just hard to understand. Any of these qualities can make a person an enigma.
An enigma can also be an unexplained event or an unanswerable question. There are many of these types of enigmas in the world! Unsolved mysteries exist throughout history. Would you like to take a crack at a few of them?
One enigma many still puzzle over is the Dancing Plague of 1518. Like many plagues, it spread quickly to many people in the affected region. Unlike other plagues, it didn’t cause sickness. Instead, it caused those who caught it to break out in dance!
What caused the Dancing Plague? That’s the enigma—no one knows. It started with a woman named Frau Troffea who lived in Strasbourg, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. One day, she walked out of her house and began dancing uncontrollably. She couldn’t stop! Frau Troffea danced and danced until she collapsed from exhaustion. Then, after some sleep, she got up and danced some more! Soon, the mysterious condition spread to over 400 people. It eventually died off, but the cause remains a mystery today.
Plenty of enigmas occur in modern times, too. One example is the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (MH 370). On March 8, the airplane departed Kuala Lumpur. It was bound for Beijing, China. But 39 minutes after takeoff, it disappeared.
What happened? No one is quite sure. Records revealed that MH 370 turned sharply off course before dropping out of radar range. Unless important evidence like the plane’s black box is found, this will remain an enigma for years to come.
Can you think of any other uses for the term “enigma”? Would you use it to describe the Loch Ness Monster or the Bermuda Triangle? Is there a person you would call an enigma? How about a very complex topic you’ve learned about in school? As you can see, this word has many applications!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2