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How Bee's Fly Thumbnail

How Bee's Fly

Dear Valued Client,

I'd like to tell you a fable that makes a true point.

Once upon a time, some eminent scientists developed an interest in the bumblebee.  (Let’s make them actual rocket scientists, at NASA.)  They hoped the tiny insect held some secrets of flight that could be applied to shuttles re-entering the atmosphere.

But the wings didn’t seem able to generate enough lift for the relatively large torso.  Certainly the round, hairy body was not well streamlined.

You probably know the punch line:  After weeks of study, the NASA scientists unanimously concluded that bumblebees can’t fly.  But since no one told the bumble­bee, the foolish creature has gone right on believing that it can.

The moral to this story is that you need to believe in yourself and your capacity to succeed, no matter what the so-called experts say.  And that moral is true!—even though the story isn’t.

Oddly enough, the facts behind the fable support the same moral.

For the first part, we aren’t entirely sure about who, when, or where.  But some sources claim that at a dinner party in the 1930s, a biolo­gist asked an aerodynamics engineer about the flight of bumblebees.  A simple calculation, assuming rigid smooth wings (which bees don’t have), showed insufficient lift.  Without waiting for the engineer to come up with a better model, the biologist took this as evidence of Nature’s engineering superiority to mankind’s and spread the word:  Aerodynamics proves bumblebees can’t fly; silly engineers!

What is certain, however, is that when aerodynamics perseveres and considers the actual bee-wing, the calculations come out right after all.  Taking into account torque and vortices—or vortexes—and other elements that non-engineers have trouble spelling, mathematical models show bumblebees not only flying but also hovering and flying back­wards, as in real life.

In fact, bumble­bees are now being studied by the designers of tiny unmanned flying machines.  (See www.howstuffworks.com/news-item223.htm.)

So we can learn a lot from bumblebees and/or aerodynamicists.  As automobile manufacturer Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

So always think, “I can!”


David M. Gallagher

Wealth Manager