In his ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’, René Descartes tried to answer that very question, demolishing all of his preconceived notions and opinions to begin again from the foundations.
Sure, you have your senses. But your senses often deceive you. Maybe the body you perceive yourself to have isn’t really there. Maybe all of reality, even its abstract concepts like time, shape, color, and numbers are false.
And, who’s to say you’re not dreaming? When you’re awake, you know you’re awake. But, when you’re not, do you know you’re not? How do we know that this right here is not a dream? What if you’ve been tricked into believing that reality is real? The world, your perceptions of it, your very body – you can’t disprove that they’re all just made up. And how could you exist without them? You couldn’t, so – you don’t.
Life is but a dream, and I bet you aren’t row-row-rowing the boat merrily at all. You’re rowing it wearily. Like the duped, non-existent doof you are/aren’t.
Don’t buy it? Good. Have you been persuaded? Even better. Because by being persuaded, you would prove that you are a persuaded being. You can’t be nothing if you think you’re something, even if that something…is nothing. Because no matter what you think, you’re a thinking thing.
Or, as Descartes put it, “I think, therefore I am.”
Let’s hear it for the bees! (Let’s give the bees a ha-aa-aa-aaand!)
Spring is (supposedly) on its way, so we want to send a little love and appreciation to all the bees out there, making our everyday possible. Join us in celebrating these 8 reasons to celebrate our tiny, but mighty friends.
1. Bees make our surroundings beeee-autiful. In addition to pollinating our crops, bees are responsible for pollinating all of the things that make spring sing. And they’re no novices – they’ve been producing honey from flowering trees (fruit trees, nut trees, and bee-yond) for 10-20 million years! From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees – Emma Bryce
2. Bees are social insects. Honey bees live together in large, well-organized family groups and engage in a variety of complex tasks not practiced by solitary insects. Communication, complex nest construction, environmental control, defense, and division of the labor are just some of the behaviors that honey bees have developed to exist successfully in social colonies. And they are not the least bit lazy: one single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees – Emma Bryce
3. Bees are above words. They communicate through ‘dance’ and pheromones. By performing what’s referred to as the ‘waggle dance’, bees can share information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water sources, or to new nest-site locations. From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do honeybees love hexagons? – Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson
4. Bees make great wingmen. Bees are very busy little matchmakers. The bees’ side of the whole “birds and the bees” business is to help plants find mates and reproduce. Today, around 170,000 plant species receive pollination services from more than 200,000 pollinator species, a good many of which are bees! In return, flowering plants are an abundant and diverse food source for pollinators. For instance, fossil records suggest that bees may have evolved from wasps that gave up hunting after they acquired a taste for nectar. From the TED-Ed Lesson How bees help plants have sex – Fernanda S. Valdovinos
5.Bees put food on our tables. Bees pollinate our crops on an industrial scale, generating over one-third of U.S. food production. Their work alone has contributed an estimated $15-20 billion of value to the U.S. agricultural business. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees – Emma Bryce
6. Bees can totally pack up a car better than you. Honeybees are some of nature’s finest mathematicians. Not only can they calculate angles and comprehend the roundness of the earth, these smart insects build and live in one of the most mathematically efficient architectural designs around: the beehive. Charles Darwin himself wrote that the honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering. It is “absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax.” From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do honeybees love hexagons? – Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson
7. Bees are hooked on coffee, too. When bees pollinate coffee plants, they consume low doses of caffeine from the coffee flower nectar, which means that bees are **BUZZZZZING** from a caffeine high just like us, AND helping us to get our coffee fix on the daily! From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees – Emma Bryce
8. Honeybees are disappearing at astonishing rates. Not to be a **buzzkill**, but here’s a not-so-fun fact. In the past decade, the U.S. honeybee population has been decreasing at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Bee mortality rates in commercial production have more than doubled in the last decade, and in 2015, 40% of bee colonies were reported lost in just a single year. There are a variety of factors causing Colony Collapse Disorder, and scientists everywhere are working to prevent further loss of bees. Keep reading to see how you can help. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees – Emma Bryce
Before the creation of humanity, the Greek gods won a great battle against a race of giants called the Titans. Most Titans were destroyed or driven to the eternal hell of Tartarus. But the Titan Prometheus, whose name means foresight, persuaded his brother Epimetheus to fight with him on the side of the gods.
As thanks, Zeus entrusted the brothers with the task of creating all living things. Epimetheus was to distribute the gifts of the gods among the creatures. To some, he gave flight; to others, the ability to move through water or race through grass. He gave the beasts glittering scales, soft fur, and sharp claws.
Meanwhile, Prometheus shaped the first humans out of mud. He formed them in the image of the gods, but Zeus decreed they were too remain mortal and worship the inhabitants of Mount Olympus from below. Zeus deemed humans subservient creatures vulnerable to the elements and dependent on the gods for protection. However, Prometheus envisioned his crude creations with a greater purpose. So when Zeus asked him to decide how sacrifices would be made, the wily Prometheus planned a trick that would give humans some advantage. He killed a bull and divided it into two parts to present to Zeus. On one side, he concealed the succulent flesh and skin under the unappealing belly of the animal. On the other, he hid the bones under a thick layer of fat. When Zeus chose the seemingly best portion for himself, he was outraged at Prometheus’s deception.
Fuming, Zeus forbade the use of fire on Earth, whether to cook meat or for any other purpose. But Prometheus refused to see his creations denied this resource. And so, he scaled Mount Olympus to steal fire from the workshop of Hephaestus and Athena. He hid the flames in a hollow fennel stalk and brought it safely down to the people. This gave them the power to harness nature for their own benefit and ultimately dominate the natural order.
With fire, humans could care for themselves with food and warmth. But they could also forge weapons and wage war. Prometheus’s flames acted as a catalyst for the rapid progression of civilization. When Zeus looked down at this scene, he realized what had happened. Prometheus had once again wounded his pride and subverted his authority.
Furious, Zeus imposed a brutal punishment. Prometheus was to be chained to a cliff for eternity. Each day, he would be visited by a vulture who would tear out his liver and each night his liver would grow back to be attacked again in the morning. Although Prometheus remained in perpetual agony, he never expressed regret at his act of rebellion. His resilience in the face of oppression made him a beloved figure in mythology. He was also celebrated for his mischievous and inquisitive spirit, and for the knowledge, progress, and power he brought to human hands.
He’s also a recurring figure in art and literature. In Percy Bysshe Shelley’s lyrical drama “Prometheus Unbound,” the author imagines Prometheus as a romantic hero who escapes and continues to spread empathy and knowledge. Of his protagonist, Shelley wrote, “Prometheus is the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and the truest motives to the best and noblest ends.” His wife Mary envisaged Prometheus as a more cautionary figure and subtitled her novel “Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus.” This suggests the damage of corrupting the natural order and remains relevant to the ethical questions surrounding science and technology today. As hero, rebel, or trickster, Prometheus remains a symbol of our capacity to capture the powers of nature, and ultimately, he reminds us of the potential of individual acts to ignite the world.
You may take them for granted, but your teeth are a marvel. They break up all your food over the course of your life, while being strong enough to withstand breakage themselves. And they’re formed using only the raw materials from the food they grind down in the first place. What’s behind their impressive strength?
Teeth rely on an ingenious structure that makes them both hard and tough. Hardness can be thought of as the ability to resist a crack from starting, while toughness is what stops the crack from spreading.
Very few materials have both properties. For instance, glass is hard but not tough while leather is tough but not hard. Teeth manage both by having two layers: a hard external cap of enamel, made up almost entirely of a calcium phosphate, and beneath it, a tougher layer of dentin, partly formed from organic fibers that make it flexible.
Today, the ability to consume diverse forms of food enables mammals to survive in habitats ranging from mountain peaks and ocean depths to rainforests and deserts. So the success of our biological class is due in no small measure to the remarkable strength and adaptability of the humble mammalian molar.
Despite the differences in teeth across the mammalian order, the underlying process of tooth growth is the same, whether it’s for lions, kangaroos, elephants, or us. What changes is how nature sculpts the shape of the tooth, altering the folding and growth patterns to suit the distinct diets of different species. Cows have flat molar teeth with parallel ridges for grinding tough grasses. Cats have sharp crested molars, like blades, for shearing meat and sinew. Pigs have blunt, thick ones, useful for crushing hard roots and seeds.
When many individual organisms, like locusts, bacteria, anchovies, or bats, come together and move as one coordinated entity, that’s a swarm. From a handful of birds to billions of insects, swarms can be almost any size. Gigantic swarms can host millions of insects and travel thousands of miles, devastating vegetation and crops. They stay close to each other, but not too close, or they might get eaten by their hungry neighbors.
What all swarms have in common is that there’s no leader. Members of the swarm interact only with their nearest neighbors or through indirect cues. Each individual follows simple rules: Travel in the same direction as those around you, stay close, and avoid collisions. There are many benefits to traveling in a group like this. Small prey may fool predators by assembling into a swarm that looks like a much bigger organism. And congregating in a large group reduces the chance that any single individual will be captured. Moving in the same direction as your neighbors saves energy by sharing the effort of fighting wind or water resistance. It may even be easier to find a mate in a swarm. Swarming can also allow groups of animals to accomplish tasks they couldn’t do individually. When hundreds or millions or organisms follow the same simple rules, sophisticated behavior called swarm intelligence may arise.