Stop for a moment and ponder the awesome complexity of the world in which we live.
Still pondering? Good. It’s complex. Really complex. Quit thinking about your own bodies for a moment and think big picture — really big! Global. Weather patterns over the Sahara change fishing conditions in Louisiana. Fish spawning in Oregon affect whaling traffic in Norway. Now think small…smaller than you…think bees.
Ever hear of a bee’s nectar dance? Pretty crazy stuff, really. Back in 1960, a crazy German named Karl von Frisch (I swear I’m not making this up!) proposed something really truly nuts: the waggle that a bee does upon return to the hive is actually a form of very complex communication with the other bees. That’s right. Bees talk, according to some wacky German zoologist. Unfortunately for me, you, and the rest of the world, the wacky German zoologist wasn’t so wacky. In fact, he was a Nobel laureate and as such, was saying to the world that bees talk — and saying so through the very large microphone of Nobel statesmanship.
Everyone thought he was crazy, or at least a bit misguided. After all, couldn’t that crazy dancing bee simply be spreading the scent of the flower in which he found the nectar? The other bees are then gathering around not to *watch* but to smell and thus find the nectar.
That was the generally accepted consensus of bee-obsessed zoologists for over forty years. Enter today, though, and someone thought to attach *radar* to the backs of bees.
The BBC is featuring an article on this study, which proves decisively that the bees are, in fact, using complex communications to convey the locations of nectar stashes.
I write all of this simply to point out that most major scientific achievments are at first considered cracked-pot theories of the half-insane. Imagine what kind of world we would live in today had Einstein not been taken seriously. If we listened more to crazy scientists and less to crazy politicians, we’d have cheap, universal energy sources, be traveling the stars in a starship, and zipping around the oceans talking to whales. Instead, we’re coming off of the bloodiest century in the history of humanity and entering what promises to be a terrific sequel to it. (Remember the rule of sequels, my friends: the body count has to be double the original, or it sucks.)
So…the next time you’re sitting in a coffee shop and two geeks are debating the veracity of a quantum computing theory, buy stock in their company and send them on their merry way. And if a politician tells you that he will vote for a research project because it is good science, remember that ‘good science’ in politics translates to ‘powerful weapon.’