Bumblebees Can Fly!

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Bumblebees Can Fly!

Postby Sisyphus on March 24th, 2008, 11:02 am 

I just learned, in the PCF section, that some people still believe the whole "science says bumblebees can't fly" myth. Here's part of an article from The New England Skeptical Society...

Robert Novella wrote:When I was in High School we had school meetings every Friday during which we would discuss current events, see movies, listen to speakers etc. One morning we listened to an accomplished disabled man who started his speech by describing how science has proven that bumblebees cannot fly. He continued by saying that the bumblebee did not know this, however, and therefore is able to fly. His point was, of course, that disabled people could transcend the limitations and expectations society places on them by hard work and perseverance. I wholeheartedly agree with this attitude but the bumblebee example he used is not only erroneous, it illustrates one of the pervasive myths in our culture that are accepted without much scrutiny and rarely questioned.


Here's part of the Wikipedia article on bumblebees and the aerodynamics involved in their flight...
Wikipedia wrote:It is believed that the calculations which purported to show that bumblebees cannot fly are based upon a simplified linear treatment of oscillating aerofoils. The method assumes small amplitude oscillations without flow separation. This ignores the effect of dynamic stall, an airflow separation inducing a large vortex above the wing, which briefly produces several times the lift of the aerofoil in regular flight. More sophisticated aerodynamic analysis shows that the bumblebee can fly because its wings encounter dynamic stall in every oscillation cycle.


What I also learned about this myth is, as it was used in PCF, that...
Robert Novella wrote:Often this bumblebee story is used to discredit scientific conclusions about the impossible nature of supernatural events or feats.


Here's a couple more articles on the myth...

Flight of the Bumblebee

Insect flight obeys the principles of aerodynamics, CU physicist proves
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Postby Schmungles on March 24th, 2008, 12:50 pm 

Sisyphus,

I wasn't aware this was a myth, but maybe that's because I've seen bumblebees fly and always assumed that everyone knew that they did. In any event, it's interesting to understand the physics of why they can fly.
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Postby Deftil on March 24th, 2008, 1:21 pm 

disabled people everywhere weep!

lol sorry bad joke

But yea I think it's fair to say bees aren't able to fly through the sheer strength of their will alone. Still those wings are pretty small for the size of their bodies.
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Postby Sisyphus on March 24th, 2008, 1:52 pm 

Schmungles wrote:I wasn't aware this was a myth, but maybe that's because I've seen bumblebees fly and always assumed that everyone knew that they did.

Well, the myth isn't that they don't fly. The myth is that science doesn't know how they are able to fly.
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Postby BioWizard on March 24th, 2008, 1:54 pm 

There's nothing wrong with starting with a so-so model (theory/hypothesis), and continuously and iteratively improving it (or otherwise falsifying and dumping it), via experimentation and reasoning, until it achieves the highest level of predictive and explanatory power, and in doing so becomes the accepted model.

The cool thing about science is that when reality doesn't match the prediction, we review and try to correct the model, rather than skew reality to fit the model. That's what makes research great, and everything else self righteous idiocy.

That being said, I have no idea how that myth would discredit science, even if it were in the manner presented by those who want to discredit it.

It's just another strawman, man.
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Postby Sisyphus on March 24th, 2008, 2:19 pm 

BioWizard wrote:That being said, I have no idea how that myth would discredit science, even if it were in the manner presented by those who want to discredit it.

Right, it's only effectively used to discredit science when used on people who don't know much about science. I just saw it used today to discredit science, but the person it was used on was an entomologist. So I thought that was pretty funny.
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Postby easlern on April 16th, 2008, 11:15 am 

Bumblebees can fly because they know THE SECRET.
http://www.thesecret.tv/behind-the-secret.html
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Postby RidetheWalrus on April 16th, 2008, 3:25 pm 

But can science explain why bumblebess will actively chase you down the street, even when fought off?
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Postby Mac on April 17th, 2008, 8:39 am 

RidetheWalrus wrote:But can science explain why bumblebess will actively chase you down the street, even when fought off?


Sort of reminds me of the sport back on the farm. I and two older brothers used to go near a bumblebees nest and standing back to back each having a ping pong paddle, stir up the nest and try to keep them off.

Once one got through the defenses and was inbetween us then it was everybody for himself.

I didn't realize until many years latter that they enjoyed the sport more than me because they were bigger and could run faster, then watch me trying to escape - ha.
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Postby Krustychick on April 17th, 2008, 9:14 am 

RidetheWalrus wrote:But can science explain why bumblebess will actively chase you down the street, even when fought off?



haha....that really made me chuckle
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Re: Bumblebees Can Fly!

Postby clyde on January 5th, 2011, 3:39 am 

Yeah, that also interests me very much, of why bumblebees are having fun of chasing people. But I think that's a defense mechanism thing.
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