1186: Bumblebees

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Did you know sociologists can't explain why people keep repeating that urban legend about bumblebees not being able to fly!?
Title text: Did you know sociologists can't explain why people keep repeating that urban legend about bumblebees not being able to fly!?


This is the first comic using a fact that is not a Fun fact. Instead it is a Science Fact.

There is an often repeated legend that according to the laws of aerodynamics, bumblebees cannot fly. No theories of aerodynamics or mechanics have ever claimed such a thing, and the legend likely originates from a mathematical error that appeared in a 1934 book, written by a scientist who acknowledged that the conclusion was probably wrong.

Here, Randall makes fun of the urban legend with some wordplay. "Fly" in English can refer to both flying under one's own power and the act of piloting a flying vehicle. The comic puts a bumblebee on top of a control column inside of an airplane and lets it fly the entire plane. But physicists are still confused and don't know how the bees are able accomplish this.

The strip also creates a fallacy that when experts can't explain something, they must not be able to understand it. In this particular case, experts are unable to explain why bees can fly airplanes because they can't fly airplanes.[citation needed]

This strip could be a reference to Bee Movie, in which the main character, Barry B. Benson, enlists the help of other bees to land a plane with the last reserves of pollen on Earth. The opening quote of the movie repeats the Bumblebee legend, followed by saying, "The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don't care what humans think is impossible."

The title text mentions that sociologists are also unable to explain why many people repeat this obviously wrong urban legend.


[Caption above the panel:]
Science fact:
[A black and yellow bumblebee sits on the control column in the cockpit of an airplane. With lots of instruments and buttons in front of it. There is a caption below the panel:]
Physicists still can't explain how bumblebees can fly airplanes.

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Bumblebee#Flight 05:49, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

Amazing that this urban legend is still going. I seem to remember reading that the aerodynamicist who came to this conclusion sobered up and withdrew his comments within a day or two, 80 years ago. DD (talk) 09:22, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

In Richard Hammonds Invisible Worlds (Great Series) they shows slow motion footage of a bee's flight through smoke, revealing that the be TWISTS ITS WINGS in order to swing downwards twice in one flap of its wings, doubling its lift and removing the up-flaps negative lift. Here is the link, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p007vs8p. 10:37, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

I also saw this comic as a reference to the movie "A Bee Movie" where Jerry Seinfeld's bee character is helping the human land the plane. I realize the human is actually flying the plane in that situation, but the bees were helping her. -- User:Mattsinc (talk) 12:31, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Bumblebees DO fly planes. <Can't believe what I'm about to say...> Ask an economist <Forces self to overcomes retching impulse>. Bumblebee#Agricultural_use #TIL about Buzz pollination. 14:44, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

The alt-text also plays with this urban legend. Claiming that sociologists cannot explain why people like to claim that bumblebees can't fly is exactly like claiming that scientists cannot explain bumblebee flight, to the extent that the motivation for people to cite the myth about bumblebees is actually quite easily explained by the desire to discredit science as a way to avoid having to consider the implications of your own beliefs being contradictory to science (e.g. young-earth creationism). 03:47, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

Correct, at least in my experience. I was raised as a Baptist, and I vividly remember my Sunday School teachers telling me this "fact" about bees. They were trying to do exactly what you said: discredit science and justify their beliefs. Diszy (talk) 17:46, 6 January 2015 (UTC)

Does the explanation actually say that not all mechanics of bumblebee flight are understood? Because it's actually been completely understood for years. 07:34, 12 November 2013 (UTC)

Nah, its just saying that one interpretation is that it is an alternate universe where physicist are just scrambling to try to come up with an answer to the claim that bumblebees can't fly airplanes. --Lackadaisical (talk) 21:21, 12 November 2013 (UTC)

Of course bumblebees can't fly. Our bumblebee overlords just brainwash humans with the illusion that they can, as well as forgetting that our bumblebee overlords exist. Just some random derp 17:23, 2 May 2015 (UTC)

I get quite annoyed when people say that bumblebees can't fly. I was at my grandpas watch Joel Osteen and he said that bumblebess shouldn't be able to fly and then I died a little inside. 19:35, 7 May 2015 (UTC)

Am i the only one who, until i read the explanation, thought it was a bumblebee on top of a robot panicking (presumably because there's a bumblebee on its head)? The two things on the sides are its arms and hands (it even has thumbs), the neck is somewhat craned, the white dots are the eyes and the small rectange under them is the wide open screaming mouth.

Can't... unsee it... --mezimm 14:35, 23 March 2022 (UTC)

This reminds me of a Danish comic from WULFFMORGENTHALER: Can Penguins fly. Translation.

I did not think Penguins could fly...
It seems like it is going very well...

Not at all the same but along the same lines. Penguins cannot fly, but this one flies a plane. Bumblebees can fly, but could not fly a plane. Well Penguins could not either, but at least they might reach the control panel ;-) --Kynde (talk) 08:44, 6 January 2022 (UTC)