Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fly Like A Bee

I have heard many places over the years from people with wide eyes and confounding reverence for the mysteries of nature that bumblebees are, by physical laws, unable to fly-but do anyway! This comes from the simple calculations that those small wings of theirs just do not have the power to lift them off the ground. It seemed quite believable to me the first time I heard it; all aircraft have wings proportionately large to their bulk, why would those flimsy little things carry a bee around? Nature has been confounding scientists for decades, how exciting that bee flight might cripple the entire community. I found out, however, that there is more to flight than just a size-to-weight ratio. Apparently there are angles to be considered, as well as speed and lengths of wing components. It’s really quite fascinating, though in no way simple. It is explained in mathematical terms here: This little conversation also explains that the origin for the myth is, in fact, quite human. Rudimentary calculation done on the fly for the purposes of dinner brought about the confounding lack of satisfactory mathematical proof, and it was very exciting to all involved. So much so that they ran and told all of their friends. Later on, once the people with dedication and scientific prowess I could never dream of had come up with a more extensive and adequate explanation the word was already out, and it wasn't nearly as exciting that bees can fly, so it simply remained a myth. I imagine it will continue to do so since I have yet found a person who did not, upon hearing it, come to the same logical conclusions I did. Yet I imagine the bees will go on with business as usual.

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