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January 22, 2006

Bumblebee flight explained

In 1934 the French entomologist August Magnan argued that, according to the known laws of physics, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly.

Virtually all insects flap their wings through a wide arc, about 165 degrees. Frequency generally varies with size: The larger the insect, the slower the wings beat. Mosquitoes, for example, beat their wings about 400 times per second, fruit flies about 200. Birds beat their wings much more slowly — about 50 times per second for hummingbirds.

But bees, which are 80 times as large as fruit flies, flap their wings 230 times per second through an arc of about 90 degrees. And although most insects produce the majority of lift about halfway through the stroke, when the wing is moving fastest, bees get an equally large contribution at the beginning and end of the stroke from the rotation of the wing.

Now, a research team at the California Institute of Technology has solved the beeflight puzzle by observing the insects in helium-enriched atmospheres:

The bees made up for the extra work by stretching out their wing stroke amplitude but did not adjust wingbeat frequency.

"They work like racing cars," Altshuler said. "Racing cars can reach higher revolutions per minute but enable the driver to go faster in higher gear. But like honeybees, they are inefficient." [LiveScience]

Via Collision Detection.


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Interersting. Makes sense. Thanks.

Altshuler might know bees, but he doesn't know jack about race car engineering.

Modern race cars reach higher RPMs to maximize power output, and they do that through innovative valvetrain design.

Gearing only exists to maximize putting a given amount of power to the ground in a given rev range.

And as far as race cars being inefficient, again, Altshuler doesn't know what he's talking about. Race cars, for the amount of performance they generate offer an incredible amount of efficiency.

At a speed in excess of 200 MPH, a modern race car gets around 2.5 MPG, under yellow flag conditions, it gets around 18 - 20 ( which is minivan MPG). Race cars have to operate under a much wider and tougher set of circumstances than everyday vehicles.

Besides, look at it this way, the more gas you need, forces you into doing one of two things:

1 - either carrying more gas (which means more weight, which means less performance), or

2 - make more pitstops, which means your stopped, rather than going, which means you are, on balance, slower than your competition.

Either of these options mean that you spend less time going fast, which is the opposite of what you want to do. So you want a race car to be as efficient as you can within its performance parameters, not performance at the sake of everything else.

In short, Altshuler offers a very BAD analogy.

Wow, that yahoo article sucked. I think it made baby Heisenberg cry.

The whole "modern physics can't explain bumblebee flight" is Creationist BULLSHIT.

Bumblebee flight was reasonably-well photographed and described at least 10 years ago. Probably longer. If memory serves, the bee's "trick" is generating lift on both fore and back stroke. I'm guess this is unlike birds, which would then be where the fallacy originated.

What this research group appears to be studying is simply how the bee adapts to increasing performance requirements. They could have also glued tiny weights to the bee's ankles.

I notice the NYT Magazine has an article on the personalities of octopuses and other things you may not want to eat.

Do bees have ankles?

I still think Jesus makes me allergic to bee stings.

We thought that bees had these bags of gas, like the Baron Harkonnen, and the wings just propelled. The wings are way too small for the body mass anyway.

The so called "laws of physics" that say that bumblebees can't fly are not "laws" but simplified versions of the equations of motion. These simplifications allow the equations to be solved (they can't be solved in general) for specific cases like airplane wings. They are meanlingless when applied to an insect wing which not only generates lift in a different manner, but is on a very different scale.

The "bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly" claim always infuriated me. It's one of those lines that people dredge up when they're losing an argument.

The original 1934 statement sounds profound until you think about it. It just meant that (as of 1934) the physics of bumblebee flight weren't understood (at least not by that particular entomologist).

Bees' ankles, now? I never knew what "She's the bees' knees" meant.

who is the fool that raved on about racing cars for so long...this blog is on Bees, why don't you find a place where you behind the wheel of your hotted up Gemini.

ha. I totally agree with Luke! The car guy is a dick! :)

Anyways, after my outburst about the loser carguy I have this to offer in terms of your blog.

The apocryphal story about bees not being able to fly arose because the roughness and flexibility of their wings was neglected in a quick calculation. The wings of a bumblebee bend to create vortices that provide lift on both the upward and downward strokes, and a full analysis of the bee's flight involves many factors: wing angle, wing deformation, aerodynamic and inertial forces on the wing, and so on. All of these parameters are expressed in terms of 'body vector' - that is, the exact orientation of the insect's body.

Existing methods for measuring the body vectors of insects in free flight assume that the wings act symmetrically, but this only happens if the insect is flying in a straight line. To measure body vector more accurately, Zeng and colleagues developed technique that accounts for more realistic curved flight paths.

The team glued a sliver of glass weighing just 0.8 milligrams to the top of a bumblebee's body, between its wings. The bumblebee was then allowed to fly freely inside a small clear box, illuminated from above by an array of 49 lasers. As the bumblebee changed direction and orientation, the laser beams bounced off the glass onto a trapezoidal screen suspended above the box.

Synchronized cameras above and at the side of the box monitored the position of the bumblebee and this allowed the team to calculate the angle of reflection of the laser light and then the body vector. Coupled with velocity and acceleration data provided by the cameras, the technique should allow biologists to model insect flight much more precisely. Using the new method, Zeng's team found that the bumblebee's body vector varied considerably, even as it flew in their small experimental chamber.

I have tethered many bumblebees myself, just put them in the fridge for a half hour first, so you don't get stung. The carguy also needs to be tethered, because he is a raving lunatic.

re: Gotham

In other news, we've finally found the NASCAR fan that reads the comic books to the rest of them.

oops, make that TB

The "mule" aka jack ass, shows he knows how to copy and paste from Wikipedia. Next time, give your source some credit, instead of trying to make readers think you know what your talking about. The car guy has the right to defend his interest when posters put out bad information concerning it. Scientist would love everyone to accept that what ever they say is impossible, must be, because they said it is. However, just because we can't explain something, does not mean it is impossible. There are many things beyond our knowledge. What we think we know, we make "laws" about, as if that is the end of discussion. Once a law is named after the person that thought of it, we are damned if we challenge it. Everyone in this world enjoys the products of inventors. Inventors today are faced with changing the future of generations to come. We all had a generation very different from the one before us. Inventions will continue to change lives and challenge laws made long ago. One day someone may harness antigravity and challenge newton. I hope so anyway. I think all laws of physics should be constantly challenged. It is amazing to hear smart people say something is impossible because it violates one of the laws of physics. that is a closed minded person. And probably resembles a scholastic sheep. Oops this post is not about bees. But it is about the minds that think things such as bees not being able to fly is impossible because it violates some law that man made. We even try to explain the infamous black wholes. Which I think is outstanding, because it shows we don't know everything. Actually we know alot compared to our ancestors of 200 years ago, and we know very little compared to our ancestors of 200 years into the future. When I was a child, I was nieve enough to think when I was older, I would be driving something that resembled the a concept car. But as with computers, built in obsolesence has robbed us of progress. Or it could be the fear of running out of good ideas. We have even gone backwards and designed cars like the old ones. Of course they are made of plastic instead of metal. The real progress is not within our reach. The governments of today must keep the edge over the competition to rule the world. They have the real advancements in technology. Is it any wonder why they would not give up a UFO if one happened to crash. Of course they would keep it secret to gain the edge of technology. Those of you out there fighting the UFO secret war, are not going to win. Believe what you want, your probably right anyway, but if your waiting for your Government to confess, don't hold your breath. Well, I have said enough to get some really interesting responces. So much for just talking about bees.

just one thing to say to bartonman,
200 years into the future would make them our descendants, not our ancestors.

...and don't try and justify your ravings by suggesting you're doing it for the "interesting responses". After spouting all that drivel about "black HOLES" and your childhood (relevant to bees how, exactly?) nobody's gonna believe you just did it for the fun of the debate.

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