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Re: Bumblebees are the best bees Was: Re: Orcas are homosexual!

On Thu, 25 Feb 1999, Britton Kerin wrote:

> It has the interesting property of having wings which entymologists say
> should no way allow them to fly.  The bumble bee's stubborn persistence
> in doing so was last I checked as item of interest to NASA, the
> airforce, and others who have a stake in such matters. 

Minor point, but the first bit there is an urban legend (but wait, there's
a real Debian tie-in at the bottom of the message!). IIRC, though I can't
find the original source, an entomologist and an aerodynamicist were at a
party (Germany? 1920's, maybe?). 

The entomologist asked the aerodynamicist about how bees fly.  After some
quick-and-dirty cocktail napkin calculations using very rough
approximations of bee mass and wing area, plus some unrealistic
assumptions (bumblebee wings are not rigid during flight, for example, so
they can't be analyzed like regular airplane wings), the aerodynamicist
said that his calculations indicated that the bumblebee was too heavy for
its wing size. 

The entomologist latched onto this finding like a starving squirrel to the
last nut on earth, so to speak.  He declared that Nature could do things
that human science found impossible.  And this legend has propagated
throughout the years, even though more detailed studies have verified both
the aerodynamicist's results (if you lacquer a dead bee's wings into a
rigid position and throw it, it won't glide. Contrast this to
similarly-tested birds, which will), and the externally verifiable fact
that bumblebees do, in fact, fly, and that they need to beat their wings
really fast in order to do so.

Ok, so I've ranted enough on this bit -- time to get back on topic.
One or several bumblebees would make a decent mascot, not because their
flight defies science, but because the inner details of their flight
process gives them abilities beyond that of many flying creatures.

Debian tie-in: you wouldn't think you could get 400+ volunteers to produce
a distribution that will "fly", but due to some unique internal processes,
we (hell, *you*, I'm actually just a user/advocate) defy the conventional
wisdom and make it happen. 

Mike Renfro  / Instructor, Basic Engineering Program
931 372-3601 / renfro@tntech.edu

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