What if bees were individualists? What would happen to the symmetry of the hive as we know it if bees were “free” to “do their own thing” as the saying goes?
By now you know that I’m an individualist. I’m the poster boy for that T-shirt that says: I’ve never been great on committees, assembly lines cause my eyes to glaze over, and large corporations are my idea of premature death. It’s just me; I respect others who do what I can’t — in fact I admire them. I’m totally ill equipped to cope. Had there been no accommodation for conscientious objectors when I was young I probably would have ended up in some military prison as a non-conformist. So, I really do admire those who can function in that way.
But I wonder sometimes, whether there’s room in the world for people with creativity within highly defined organizations? For example what would happen if ONE bee decided tht instead of hexagons he was going to make square cells in his hive? Or how about round ones? If you’ll notice, in the hive image above there are round and oblong cells! But in the bee world at large, it’s not a common thing to find rogue shaped cells. The bees are remarkably consistent in their construction.
There’s a good reason for hexagonal cells in a bee hive. A recent article on Slate dot come talked about them.
“…Why do honeycombs have a hexagonal structure? Pappus of Alexandria declared that bees “possessed a divine sense of symmetry,” and Charles Darwin described the honeycomb as a masterpiece of engineering that is absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax.” A mathematical rationale was given by the Polish polymath Jan Brożek (1585–1652): The hexagon tiles the plane with minimal boundary. Stated another way, Brożek conjectured that the optimal way to cover a large region with shapes of the same area while minimizing the boundary is to use the hexagonal structure. This problem resisted a solution for centuries but was finally positively settled by Thomas Hales in 1998.
Make the cells hexagon because it’s the most efficient shape! It took humans 400 years to prove it, but it turns out that the hexagonal structure is the most efficent use of space and wax. Who would have thought that bees were that smart?
We’ve all seen hives maintained by beekeepers. They are built within the rectangular frames provided by the beekeeper and the bees are very orderly about working within the confines afforded them by the human keeper of the hives. But what of hives when no human is constraining them?
Hives of beens when not constrained by convenience are quite different.
These little critters can be quite ingenious and creative. Except for cells distorted by their position in some of these free form hives, the hexagon seems to hold absolute sway.
I have always been thankful that I didn’t have to do one of those mind-numbing jobs. I’ve been fortunate — I know that. I appreciate the work of those who have had more defined positions, or where the process or product was strictly regulated. Certainly I wouldn’t want to take medicines formulated by a free thinking chemist. An automobile made by free thinking workers for Ford or Mercedes might not last 100,000 miles. It might even look like that car Johnny Cash sang about!
I’m astounded at what humans can do when they work together. One of the treats of my life was standing at the end of the Viaduct of Milau France. It’s the highest bridge in the world. It’s absolutely unbelieveable.
There’s no room for freelancing here. The top of one of those masts sits 1125 feet above the base. Everything had to fit precisely, and all the parts had to meet precise standards. It’s a weird feeling to drive over that bridge — so far above the valley below. It’s almost like flying. Yet, this is no greater an achievement than the pyramids were in their day, or perhaps the discovery of the salk vaccine for polio back in the days of my youth. Humans working together can accomplish grand things.
Of course grandiosity is dangerous. Those with grandiose dreams easily fall prey to that ancient human frailty: hubris
Hubris (/ˈhjuːbrɪs/, also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις)
describes a personality quality of extreme or foolish pride
or dangerous over-confidence. In its ancient Greek context,
it typically describes behavior that defies the norms of
behavior or challenges the gods, and which in turn brings
about the downfall, or nemesis, of the perpetrator of hubris.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons I have preferred working alone or at least in small groups. The bright lights never appealed to me. Glory isn’t anything I’m interested in. Maybe I’m afraid of hubris.
I’m glad for large organizations. They accomplish things I could never do alone. The accomplish things I’d never want to do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the end result. It’s a big world and there’s room for all sorts of folks — the worker bee and the queen, the army ant, the solitary humpback whale, the lion and his pride, the political party and the unruly mob.
There’s room for all sorts, but each in their own world. A hive with 1,000 different shaped cells would be a mess. The freelance automobile might not move at all. There are times when we all need to give up our independence to accomplish a group goal. Unless of course we aren’t part of the goup.
Stop by tomorrow and see what’s up. I’ll be here…