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In this visually dazzling talk, Jonathan Drori shows the extraordinary ways flowering plants — over a quarter million species — have evolved to attract insects to spread their pollen: growing 'landing-strips' to guide the insects in, shining in ultraviolet, building elaborate traps, and even mimicking other insects in heat.
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Solved! A bee-buzzing, honey-licking 2,000-year-old mystery that begins here, with this beehive. Look at the honeycomb in the photo and ask yourself: (I know you've been wondering this all your life, but have been too shy to ask out loud ... ) Why is every cell in this honeycomb a hexagon?
Well, this is a very old question. More than 2,000 years ago, in 36 B.C., a Roman soldier/scholar/writer, Marcus Terentius Varro, proposed an answer, which ever since has been called "The Honeybee Conjecture." Varro thought there might be a deep reason for this bee behavior. Maybe a honeycomb built of hexagons can hold more honey. Maybe hexagons require less building wax. Maybe there's a hidden logic here. I like this idea — that below the flux, the chaos of everyday life there might be elegant reasons for what we see. "The Honeybee Conjecture" is an example of mathematics unlocking a mystery of nature, so here, with help from physicist/writer Alan Lightman, (who recently wrote about this in Orion Magazine) is Varro's hunch.
The Essential Honeycomb
Honeycombs, we all know, store honey. Honey is obviously valuable to bees. It feeds their young. It sustains the hive. It makes the wax that holds the honeycomb together. It takes thousands and thousands of bee hours, tens of thousands of flights across the meadow, to gather nectar from flower after flower after flower, so it's reasonable to suppose that back at the hive, bees want a tight, secure storage structure that is as simple to build as possible.
So how to build it? Well, suppose you start your honeycomb with a cell like this ... a totally random shape, no equal sides, just a squiggle ...
Source: May 14, 2013: Robert Krulwich/NPR
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