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The Flight of the European Bumblebee

WASHINGTON, DC – In July 2012, while addressing bankers in London, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi likened the euro to the bumblebee. “This is a mystery of nature, because it shouldn’t fly but instead it does. So the euro was a bumblebee that flew very well for several years.” But “something must have changed.” So the “bumblebee would have to graduate to a real bee. And that’s what it’s doing.”

Actually, for scientists, there has never been any mystery about how bumblebees can fly: they beat their wings about 200 times per second. They cannot possibly do this by flexing their muscles, but only by vibrating them. Think of the forces generated by a waving wand, and contrast them with those generated by a vibrating fork. The subtler force is much stronger.