May 21, 2022


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Summer buzz isn't it?  The popular legend goes back about 100 years

Summer buzz isn’t it? The popular legend goes back about 100 years

| silly things

A bumblebee shouldn’t fly, but it doesn’t know it, and it fliesAnd A bumblebee’s flight is against the laws of physics. Hundreds of thousands of hits in search engines, enthusiastic commentators and conspiracy theories using this myth show how Some false beliefs can be very persistent. After all, almost all of us have heard that according to the laws of physics, a bumblebee should not fly, and each of us saw that it does fly. Obviously, scientists are hiding something from us or something is wrong with physics. Or maybe there is something wrong with thinking that a bee can’t fly?

At present, it is difficult to know the source of this legend. However, we can certainly say that the French entomologist Antoine Magnan contributed to its creation. In the introduction to his book movement in animals. The first is the escape of insects In 1934, he wrote: Encouraged by what was going on in aviation, the laws of air resistance were applied to insects, and we concluded with Mr. Saint-Lagh that insect flight was impossible. André Sainte-Lagu, mentioned here, was a mathematician and did the calculations for Magnan. It is worth mentioning here that Magnan writes about the impossibility of flying all insects. How did the popular myth abandon insects and leave only bumblebees?

According to some sources, the story of a bee breaking the laws of physics circulated in the 1930s among students of German technical universities, including among students of Ludwig Prandtl, a physicist who was very distinguished in research in fluid physics and aerodynamics. Also mentioned was the “mistake” of Jacob Ackert, a Swiss aeronautical engineer, one of the greatest aviation experts of the 20th century. One of Akert’s famous students was Wernher von Braun.

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No matter how the myth developed, it must be admitted that Magnan would be right if a bumblebee was flying. However, a bumblebee does not fly, and its flight does not contradict any physical laws. To justify outstanding scientists, we can add that for almost 100 years they used extremely simplified models of the wing and functioning of an insect. The traditional laws of aerodynamics, as applied to fixed-wing aircraft, are not actually sufficient to explain insect flight. More so because Sainte-Laguë adopted a simplified insect wing model. Meanwhile, its wings are neither flat nor smooth, and have no airfoil shape. Our knowledge of insect flight has increased dramatically in the past 50 years, mainly due to the development of high-speed photographic and computational techniques. We have learned the details of the flight of bumblebees in recent decades, and this does not mean, however, that it was not previously known that a bee flies according to the laws of physics.

From work published in 2005 High-frequency, short-amplitude wing strokes determine the aerodynamics of honeybee flight By scientists from Caltech and the University of Nevada, we learned that most insects likely fly because swirls form at the leading edge of their wings. They remain “clinging” to the wings, and generate lift force for flight. In those species whose flight could be studied, the amplitude of the wing strokes was large and most of the lift was created in the middle of the stroke.

But in the case of bees, and bumblebees are bees, it looks a little different. The authors of the study showed that honeybees are characterized by a relatively small amplitude, but a high frequency of wing flaps. There are up to 230 blows per second.In addition, the bee does not flap its wings up and down. Its wings move as if its limbs paint an infinity symbol. This rapid rotation of the wing generates additional lift that compensates the bees for the reduced amplitude of wing movement.

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The method of flight chosen by the bees does not appear to be very effective. They must beat their wings at a high rate compared to their body size. If we look at birds, we see that, in general, smaller birds flap their wings more than large birds. Meanwhile, bees, with a frequency of 230 beats per second, have to wave over much smaller fruit flies, beating their wings “only” 200 times per second. However, the amplitude of the wing movement of the fruit body is much larger than that of the bee wing movement. So it has to work less to fly.

The bees seem to “know” the benefits of high-amplitude wing motion. When the scientists replaced standard air (about 20% oxygen, about 80% nitrogen) with a thinner mixture of about 20% oxygen and about 80% helium, which requires greater lift force to fly, the bees maintained the frequency of their wing motion, but greatly increased amplitude.

Scientists from Caltech and the University of Nevada admit that they do not know the ecological, physiological, and ecological significance of the emergence of low-amplitude wing motion in bees. They hypothesize that it may have something to do with specializing in the direction of flying with a heavy load – remember bees can carry a lot of pollen – or with physiological limitations in building their muscles. There are also voices in the scientific world about sacrificing flight efficiency for maneuverability and accuracy.

Whatever we don’t know yet, we know for sure that bees – including bumblebees – fly according to the laws of physics, and the myth of the alleged collapse goes back nearly 100 years, and it’s time to put it that way. break.

Bumblebee legend of flight physics