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Chicken or Egg?

Entry 337, on 2006-05-27 at 16:24:53 (Rating 1, Science)

Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Its an old question and we finally have a definitive answer: it was the egg. The reason is that an individual's genetic composition doesn't change during their life (individual cells can, but that doesn't change the genetic makeup for future generations). So a new individual (and a new species, for example the first chicken) only occurs in the egg. OK, now that problem's out of the way!

Now I'm sure that scientists understood this all along, and the chicken and egg question is really a form of rhetoric, and not a serious question. But at least we can now act really smart and give *the* answer next time someone asks it!

So now for another significant scientific question. We all know that science has proved that bumblebees can't fly, and yet they do. What's going on there. Is science wrong?

There are various accounts of the origin of this story. One occurs in Germany in the 1930s with a dinner conversation between a biologist and an engineer. The engineer scribbled a quick calculation on the back of a napkin using various starting assumptions, and showed that they couldn't fly. A proper analysis would require better starting parameters and techniques, and that was understood, but the biologist, of course, took the opportunity to take it as proof of the inferiority of engineering!

Another story involves French entomologist, Antoine Magnan, in 1934. He based his comment on a quick calculation done by an assistant, who was an engineer. So it seems that an element of competition between the life and physical sciences might have been involved again.

More recent modelling and calculation on this topic has shown that science understands bumblebee flight well. The problem was that the initial models were just an approximation to reality, and that approximation wasn't good enough. But we now know that bumblebees can fly, and we know how. So that problem's out of the way now too. The next time anyone tries to ridicule science or engineering by quoting this story we can safely explain the reality of the situation.

There are plenty of other science related urban myths and hoaxes. The Moon hoax is a good one, for example. Many people seem to think the Apollo missions of the late 60s and 70s were faked by NASA. This is total nonsense. I have a thorough explanation of the supposed anomalies in the official story on my web site. If you're interested in looking at this, go to the link on this page.

Link at: http://owen2.otago.ac.nz/Owen/XuOtherOpinions/MoonHoax.html

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Comment 1 (317) by Sara on 2007-01-29 at 10:45:01:

The chicken came first, it says so in the Bible that God created all animals. It doesnt say that he created an egg. He created the first chicken and it layed the egg. So boo ya!

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Comment 2 (318) by OJB on 2007-01-29 at 16:39:26:

OK. I don't think you are being serious here, right? It does illustrate one of the attractions of religion though. Instead of having to think and do the hard work of using logic and observation to figure out the truth, with religion all you need to do is find out what some old book says. Its much easier, really. Maybe religious people are just really lazy!

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