Bee not FlyingScience Proves!
Bees Can't Fly!


Some people seriously do not believe in science, apparently because their alleged faith in an alleged God is so weak that science threatens their capacity for Faith. By definition, faith requires no proof; whereas science does require proof. In this modern era, it appears people of faith have very little actual faith, as they do require proof, at least, that Science isn't real.

The following amusing exchange occurred on UseNet between a young woman named Heidi who seriously believed magic trumps science, with snappy come-backs from Scot:

Heidi: Science has its place but it's not within nature.

Scot: Eh?

Heidi: But then that's my opinion.

Scot: And is it also your opinion that the moon is a cheese?

Heidi: A bee flies. Ask a scientist why, & they cant tell you, because its against the laws of physics. A bumble bee should technically not be allowed to fly, but it does.

Scot: Where do you get your science? The National Enquirer?
Good ol' Paghat just had to join in this exchange. It's a wonderful old piece of urban folklore that the flight of the bee is impossible by the laws of physics.

But this bit of folklore is actually a test of individual human capacity to reason. You tell them, "The flight of the bee is aerodynamically impossible by the laws of physics, how do you explain that?" If they say they can't explain it, or they explain it as being because God & magic rather than physics govern the universe, then you know you're dealing with someone with very little capacity to reason.

If on the other hand they say they seriously doubt bees would be flying if the statement were true, then you know they're capable of reasoning. If they actually know the origin of, & how to debunk this easily debunked piece of folklore, that may even be evidence they are able to reason intelligently.

The "science has proved that bees can't fly" urban myth originated in a 1934 book by entomologist Antoine Magnan, who discussed a mathematical equation by Andre Sainte-Lague, an engineer. The equation proved that the maximum lift for an aircraft's wings could not be achieved at equivalent speeds of a bee. I.e., an airplane the size of a bee, moving as slowly as a bee, could not fly. Although this did not mean a bee can't fly (which after all does not have stationary wings like the posited teency aircraft), nevertheless the idea that Magnan's book said bees oughtn't be able to fly began to spread.

It spread at first as a joke in European universities, at Sainte-Lague's & Magnan's expense. But later it became a "fact" among the gullible or the uneducated not smart enough to get the joke. Later still it became a "fun" experiment to develop complex mathematical theories both to explain how insects fly, or why they can't -- scientific intellectual sophism.

It has remained popular to this day, among the kinds of people who believe there were never dinosaurs because the devil made fossils to fool us, because the fact is that the world is only 6,000 years old & God made it in seven days. Alleged "loopholes" in physics are lit upon as evidence that the supernatural, & not physics, informs the nature of the universe. Whether that supernatural agent is God, astrology, the Good Fairies, or homeopathy, physics must first be shown to be the primary delusion so that wild impossibilities can be embraced as greater truth.

The simple way to debunk the moronic assertion is this: The aerodynamic equations that explain airplane flight are based on steady-wing & not moble-wing function. That a steady-wing airplane the size & shape of a bee will not fly has no baring whatsoever or the vastly more complicated moble-wing functions of insects.

And wow, doesn't it seem like even someone of highly limited intellectual capacity might've lit on that with even a third-grader's science education?? Never underestimate human capacity for ignorance.

Though the folklore began as a joke about a steady-wing flight equation foolishly applied to moble-wing, as often seems inevitable of folklore, the joke took on its own separate life. Silly reasoning evolved, building falacy upon falacy: Bees can't fly because it takes rear-wings to steady the flight, & they have no rear wings so they should tumble through the air ass-over-teakettle. No, that's not it, bee's can't possibly fly because it is physically impossible for wings to beat as fast as bee's wings beat. No wait, bees can't fly because the texture of their wings is too flat, unlike a bird or an airplane designed like airfoil. Oh! No! Wait! Though bees can fly (because we've seen 'em do it) & it does follow physics, nevertheless science can't explain it, so there!

Well, actually, Navier-Stokes flight equations are applicable to bees, & were developed in the early 1800s. So all that is really true is this: most of us couldn't follow Navier-Stokes theories of motion even if a professor tried to make it simple for us, so we still have to make an emotional decision to embrace the strong probability that physics do govern the universe, or that physics have no applicability because God & magic rules the universe.

Heidi: It won't be the first time scientists have been wrong either.

Scot: Just for the record, to not be able to explain something on the basis of present evidence is not the same as being wrong.
Well yes; even if a creationist or a superstitious dweeb did light upon one of the many things science has not yet figured out, that would not mean the explanation is ipso facto supernatural. But if one wants to believe, as in Scot's cute example, that the moon is made of cheese, one has to be able to reason very poorly. But in the case of bee flight, it is not one of science's great mysteries.


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