Monday, October 30, 2006

Issue 390 - Can Bumble Bees Fly?

I hope everything is ok where you are.

I saw a great quote the other day at the forum.
It goes like this...

The bumble bee is aerodynamically incapable of flight, but because no-one told it, it persists in flying anyway.

What a great thought, think of the motivational follow ons - don't let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do, keep going to overcome the odds, etc, etc.
It's the kind of thing you expect to see on a poster.

There's just one problem...

It's not true.
It's complete baloney.
In fact, it might even be a non sequitur, if I was 100% sure what non sequitur meant. (Good word though)

So let's investigate this story.
Apart from the obvious fact that bumble bees clearly *can* fly, where did the story originate?

I did some research, and the story is easy to find on the web, there have been books and poems using it for a title.

Blimey, I knew my upbringing was sheltered, but as I turn 40 I still discover just how sheltered it must have been, I had never heard the story before.

Anyhoo, the most common story is that in the 1930s an aerodynamisist and a biologist were having the discussion, and the aerodynamisist did a quick calculation on his knapkin, and came to the conclusion that the wings were too small to prived the required lift for the body weight.

The story then took hold, and despite the clear falsehood of the story, it entered the world of the urban myth.

The calculation was wrong because it was based on aircraft with a smooth fixed wing.

Insects actually create upward thrust by forcing the air downwards when they flap, which causes an updraft into the space vacated by the wing - apparently!

So, it's a mutli-tiered affair, this story.
First you get the original story, which is great for a motivational goal achievement twist, and then you get another important point which is that you shouldn't trust everything just because someone says so.

There is a difference in science between theory and practice, and it's the same in life - people may come up with theories, but nothing beats getting out and doing it yourself!

Ok, that's it for this week, I'm off to see if I can work the story into my Rock & Roll Town song, and remember next time you see a bumble bee fly, to remind yourself that they can't/can/can't!

Have a good week.
'Til Next Time,
Health and Happiness,
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