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Bumblebee argument

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The "bumblebee argument", in pseudoscience, states that the laws of aerodynamics prove that the bumblebee can't fly, as it does not have the required capacity (in terms of wing area or flapping speed). Consequently, therefore, science can be shown to be in error, providing a loophole for pseudoscientific "explanations". Arguments like these are occasionally used by creationists to claim that it's impossible for bees to be a product of evolution, though they're quite common in more general anti-science circles that like to cry "look at science, it knows nothing!"

Unfortunately (for the pseudoscientists), the laws of physics do not in any way forbid bumblebee flight; there are no papers that deny bumblebee flight, and no scientist has done so in a lecture, except, perhaps, ironically. To put it simply, it is possible to "prove" that a bumblebee cannot fly if you perform an extremely crude calculation (like forgetting to take into account things like the rate of flapping, the rotation of the wing, or the action of vortices), but a full aerodynamic calculation (to say nothing of getting all empirical and watching a bumblebee fly) will show that the bumblebee's flight works perfectly well.

Contents

[edit] Origin

The origin of the statement is lost in the mists of time, but one version says that it was made by French entomologist August Magnan in 1934, based on calculations by his assistant, an engineer.[1] Other versions suggest that the bumblebee could not fly according to the principles of fixed-wing aerodynamics; that is to say, it must flap its wings. In fact, bumblebees simply flap harder than other insects, increasing the amplitude of their wing strokes to achieve more lift, and use a figure-of-eight wing motion to create low-pressure vortices to pull them up.

[edit] The kangaroo argument

There is a similar concept to the idea that a kangaroo can't exist because jumping would consume more energy than it could possibly get from eating. Like the bumblebee argument, it is possible to "prove" that a kangaroo can't jump if you leave out a few key variables. If you assume that a kangaroo is simply an 80 kg weight that is lifted up and dropped repeatedly, then your calculation will show that the "kangaroo" can't jump. The missing variable is that a kangaroo's leg muscles and tendons act as springs, transferring the energy from landing into the next jump.

[edit] Mike Huckabee and the bumblebee

While campaigning for the 2008 presidential nomination Mike Huckabee demonstrated the "depth" of his scientific knowledge when he said:[2]

It's scientifically impossible for the bumblebee to fly; but the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyway.

[edit] Mary Kay

Multilevel marketing makeup magnate Mary Kay has been a major propagator of this bit of modern folklore, using it to encourage its low-ranking sellers to continue pushing their products despite their own inability to function in a badly structured marketing environment. The story implies that you can beat marketing inexperience and a low customer base with willpower and trust in God. The quote is often attributed to Mary Kay Founder Mary Kay Ash herself.[3]

So prevalent is the Bumblebee argument in the Mary Kay Cosmetics that successful and high ranking distributors are awarded lapel pins and pinkie rings with bee designs on them.

[edit] See also

[edit] External Links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Bumblebee flight explained by Lindsay Beyerstein (January 22, 2006).
  2. Huckabee, the bumblebee, rises to the top on a wing and a prayer: The latest standard-bearer of the right plays the evangelic Christian card — and polishes his stand-up routine by Suzanne Goldenberg (Thursday 6 December 2007 02.50 EST) The Guardian.
  3. The Reason Why the Bumblebee Story is True by Raisinberry (May 21, 2015) Pink Truth: Facts, opinions and the real story behind Mary Kay Cosmetics.
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