Thursday, March 10, 2005

NJ: Ignorant People

Tell me if you've heard this one:
"According to the theory of aero-dynamics, and as can readily be proven by wind tunnel experiments, the Bumble Bee is unable to fly. This is because the size of its wings in relation to the size of its body makes flying impossible. But the Bumble Bee, being unacquainted with these scientific truths, goes ahead and flies anyway and gathers a little honey every day."
I've heard it far, far too often.

Of COURSE a bumblebee can fly. We've SEEN bumblebees fly. You have to really REALLY wonder about the reasoning capability of someone who believes this, who repeats it.

There are lots of stories of the origin of this urban myth. Here's one from 'Ask Dr. Galapagos':
"Once upon a time some scientists and engineers or college professors (different versions have different names and specialties) were at a dinner party. The subject of bee flight came up and the aerodynamic engineer that just happened to be present decided to do a quick calculation on bee aerodymics. He used a conventional stiff airfoil-shaped wing, with steady state, or partially steady state, air flow analysis techniques, and lo and behold, the calculations did not work for the bee. Someone jokingly said, "I guess that proves bees can't fly", and they all had a good laugh. But, of course, they all knew it just proved that bee flight is too complicated to analyse with conventional airplane aerodynamic methods."
One of my favorite quotes from that same page is: "Mysteries don't prove science is bunk. They are the reason for science."

There are several other pages that also debunk this legend:Yet it seems to me that this annoying falsehood will continue to spread. I got 143,000 hits on the Google search "impossible bee fly" How many of those recount the myth, and how many debunk it?

Sigh. What a world we live in.


  1. Actually, if you consider these two simple facts: 1) Aerodynamics says a bee cannot fly, 2) The bee obviously can fly, as is easily observed.

    Given these two facts, we're faced with one simple conclusion, aerodynamics (or more approriately the physics involved) isn't complete. We're missing something.

    Not a terribly difficult concept to grasp, but then again, I've often found myself pounding my head against the perverbial wall in frustration at seeing things that I found to be quite obvious, while those around me continually didn't get it.

  2. Ah, but let's not forget the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the role it would undoubtedly play on this whole debacle. -)