Scientific Studies

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Scientific Studies


"The bulk of the world’s knowledge is an imaginary construction."--Helen Keller
"It will be readily appreciated that in the course of many years and daily contact with bees, the professional bee-keeper will of necessity gain a knowledge and insight into the mysterious ways of the honeybee, usually denied to the scientist in the laboratory and the amateur in possession of a few colonies. Indeed, a limited practical experience will inevitably lead to views and conclusions, which are often completely at variance to the findings of a wide practical nature. The professional bee-keeper is at all times compelled to assess things realistically and to keep an open mind in regard to every problem he may be confronted with. He is also forced to base his methods of management on concrete results and must sharply differentiate between essentials and inessentials."--Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."--Mark Twain
"Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it."--Bruce Lee
"One does not divine the ways of nature, it lays out methods that confound our science, and it is only by studying it carefully that we may succeed in unveiling some of its mysteries."--Francis Huber, New Observations on Bees Volume II

I love scientific studies. I have read many of them on many subjects from cover to cover. There is much to be learned by them. I often disagree with the conclusions drawn by the researchers though.

"Post hoc ergo proptor hoc" (After this therefore because of this) is the primary error in logic and is a trap fallen into by humans and animals alike. The big temptation of this error is that "Post hoc ergo proptor hoc" is a good basis for a theory. The error isn't using it for a theory it's using it as proof.

Let's examine the error of this, first. Every morning at my house, the roosters crow. Every morning after the roosters crow, the sun comes up. Does this mean that the roosters cause the sun to come up? Because we can't see any mechanism to connect them other than the sequence of events, most of us would assume that the roosters are not the cause.

Every culture I know of has folk tales and or jokes to make fun of this error. One in our culture is "pull my finger". Because you pull the finger and immediately afterwards something happens, your brain makes a connection and for a second you fall prey to this error. Then after a second or two your brain catches up with it's processing and the absurdity of that connection hits you and you laugh. The Africans often tell the "roosters causing the sun to come up" story and the Lakota tell it as the horses whinnying. Foolish anthropologists often record these stories as if the people telling them believe this connection, but my experience with primitive cultures is that they tell these stories to teach the error of that way of thinking. Of course they watch to see if the anthropologists believe the foolish conclusion and after watching them diligently write it down without so much as a comment, or a chuckle the natives shake their heads at the foolishness.

I have done things while driving that were immediately followed by some noise. My first conclusion is that I caused the noise and I'm wondering what it is I've caused. After trying a couple of more times and the noise does not follow it, I find out it was one of my children making the noise. It was mere coincidence that they happened simultaneously.

Any "statistical proof" really constitutes no proof. As I collect a larger and larger sample it becomes more and more likely that what I'm seeing statistically is an actual connection and not a coincidence, but it never constitutes analytical proof. Unless I have a mechanism and can prove that mechanism is the cause, by some means other than simple statistics, then I only have an increasing likelihood.

I can prove this to anyone who understands basic probability. What are the odds that if I flip this quarter it will land on heads? 50/50. So I flip it and it comes up heads. What are the odds if I flip this quarter again that it will come up heads again? 50/50 same as before. So I flip it and it comes up heads. I personally have flipped a quarter 27 times in a row and got heads every time. Does this prove that the odds are not 50/50? No it proves my sample was too small to be statistically valid. How many times do I have to flip it before my results are an absolute fact? No matter how many times I do it, I only get closer and closer to the actual answer. It is not a matter of absolute proof but a matter of accumulating large enough sample. The larger the sample the closer I get to the answer, but it's like the old math problem of going half way and half the remaining way and half of that and so on. When will I get to the end? Never. I can only get closer and closer.

This was just trying to prove that flipping a quarter has odds of 50/50. The life cycle of any organism is infinitely more complex than flipping a quarter and affected by more things than we can know. If I do a certain thing and get a certain result how many times will it take to prove absolutely that what I did contributed to that result? If I have a very large sample and I have a very large success rate compared to a very large control group with a very small success rate, it is very likely that my theory is correct. The smaller the sample, the smaller the difference in success rate and the more other variables that could contribute to success or failure, or even worse, the more skewed those variables are in favor of either group, the less valid my results are.

"The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble." --Blaise Pascal

This is all assuming a lack of prejudice on the part of the researcher. As one of my teachers (he was a carpenter with a lot of wisdom, not a professor) once said, "everyone thinks their idea is better because they thought of it". This seems intuitively obvious, but it is important. I have a natural prejudice to my ideas because they fit my way of thinking. If they didn't, I wouldn't have thought of them! This is why in the scientific community it is important to be able to reproduce the results. Reproducibility is a good test, especially if someone else is doing the second or third study than did the first. It may eliminate some of the prejudice and also it may change some of the other unmeasured and unaccounted for variables.

The second problem with research is the motivation for doing it. The motivation for doing research is almost (but not always) personal gain. A few actual altruistic people have a love of some fellow creature, or some fellow humans and are actually involved because they want to reduce suffering or solve someone's problems. Unfortunately these people are not well funded and their research is usually not well received.

A lot of research is funded by and prejudiced by some entity that has an agenda to prove their solution and that solution has to be something they can market and sell, preferable with a patent or copyright or some other protection to provide them with a monopoly. There is no profit in, and therefore no money for, research into simple common solutions to problems.

I'm sure some will disagree with me, but I think some entities, such as the USDA, have their own agenda that has been revealed by observing them over time. The big agenda of any government agency is to get more money, more power and try to appear that they are serving the purpose they were put there for. In the case of the USDA, it's obvious they have favored chemicals over natural solutions. They favor anything that appears to help the economy of agribusiness. This doesn't mean just the small farmer/beekeeper etc. but the whole of agribusiness. They seem to like to see money changing hands because it helps the economy.

Just because research was done on a subject and the researchers came to some conclusion, does not make that conclusion the truth.

Now, while we are talking about facts, let's talk about one of the reasons some people do not like science and prefer their own opinions. I covered one above, which is that we always like our own ideas because they fit our way of thinking, but the other is that people are fond of saying that something has not been proven scientifically as if that means it is NOT true because it has NOT been proven. Anything we have not proven is simply something that has not been proven. Because I have not proven it true does not make it false.

In 1847 Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelwis instituted the practice of hand washing before delivering babies. He came to this conclusion simply by the statistical evidence that mothers and babies who were attended by doctors who washed had less mortality than ones attended by doctors who did not wash. This was "Post hoc ergo proptor hoc" . The doctors washed and less mothers and babies died. This is not scientific proof and therefore his colleagues did not consider it scientific proof. Why? Because he could not provide a mechanism to explain it nor an experiment to prove that mechanism. Because he was a proponent of something he could not prove absolutely, he was driven out of the medical community as a quack. This is an example of something that had not been proven scientifically.

In the 1850's when Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch created the science of microbiology and the "germ theory" of disease Dr Semmelwis's theory finally was proven scientifically. Now there was a mechanism and they were able to create experiments to prove that mechanism. My point is, that it was true before they proved it and it was true after they proved it. The truth did not change because they proved it. There was, previous to this proof, evidence that would lead to the practice of hand washing, but not proof.

We live our lives and make decisions all the time based on our view of the world. This view is not truth, but it is based on our experience and our learning. Sometimes something comes along to change that view and we accept it because the evidence is strong enough. To ignore evidence that fits the pattern of what we see around us because it has not been proven is foolish. To ignorantly hang on to things that are proven to not be true is equally foolish. But just because the majority believe something to be proven does not mean has been. Just because the majority of people believe something is true does not make it true.

I would say, read research with a grain of salt. Look at their methods. Think about the contributing issues that they have overlooked. Pay attention to anything that would skew the population they are studying or the population of the control group. Look into whether or not the study has been duplicated and were the results similar or contrary. What was the size of the population? What was the difference in success? If there is only a small difference it may not be statistically important. Even if there is a large difference, was it duplicated at that large a difference? Also what might be the prejudices of the people doing the research?

Not Proven Scientifically.

I often hear this quoted as if it proves something is not true: "it has not been proven scientifically" or some variation. This is often quoted as if lack of proof of something proves it wrong. Apparently they have not been paying much attention to history. What is “known” today and what is “not proven” today changes on a day by day basis. A “known fact” today is tomorrows “folly”. A “folly” today is tomorrow's “known fact”. I find it more useful to make my own observations and draw my own conclusions. But let's try one little glimpse of history and “waiting for scientific proof”:

1604 "A Counterblaste to Tobacco" is written by King James I of England and he complains about passive smoking and warns of dangers to the lungs. There is, of course, no scientific basis for his beliefs.

1623-1640 Murad IV, sultan of the Ottoman Empire attempts to ban smoking by claiming it was a threat to public health. There is, of course, no scientific evidence. Just his observation.

1798 Physician (and Declaration of Independence signatory) Benjamin Rush claims tobacco use negatively impacts one's health, including causing cancer based merely on his personal observation and, of course, no scientific studies to support it.

1929 Fritz Lickint of Dresden, Germany, published a formal document showing statistical evidence of a lung cancer-tobacco link but this, of course, is merely a statistical correlation and not considered scientific proof as it's merely "post hoc ergo proptor hoc".

1948 British physiologist Richard Doll published the first major studies that "proved" that smoking could cause serious health damage. Of course the tobacco industry insists that it is not proof by the "scientific method" because there is no mechanism presented as to how it could cause it.

1950 Journal of the American Medical Association publishes its first major study definitively linking smoking to lung cancer. It is, of course, still only a statistical link but it is a statistically significant number.

1953 Dr. Ernst L. Wynder uncovers the first definitive biological link between smoking and cancer.

1957 Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney issues "Joint Report of Study Group on Smoking and Health," the first official statement on smoking by the Public Health Service.

1965 Congress passes the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act requiring the surgeon general's warnings on cigarette packages.

At what point would you have stopped smoking?

Differences in observations in general and in specific, differences in cell size observations.

"Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth." --Blaise Pascal
"People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found by others."--Blaise Pascal

I've always been a bit amazed and amused that everyone always seems to think that on any issue one person is wrong and the other is right. Especially when that difference is based on each person's observations, and most especially when it relates to something as complex as bees. I'd be far more surprised if everyone's observations always agreed.

Bees are complex animals and what they do depends not only on the bees themselves but the stage of development the bee themselves are in and the stage of development the hive is in and the stage of development that the seasons are in and the stages of development that the surrounding vegetation is in. In other words, in almost anything related to beekeeping the results of almost any measurement or any manipulation will depend on everything else. There may be some generalizations you can make but it's amazing how often when you think you have one that's a sure thing it doesn't apply in circumstances that differ. What happens in a spring build up, a flow, a fall wind down, a dearth, a hive with brood, without brood, with a laying queen, a virgin queen, no queen etc. varies greatly. I'm not saying I can explain any difference in observation myself, but I have no doubt that the people involved have no motivation to lie to me on the matter.

Of course if we want to compare observations we need to try to equalize some of these things as well as making sure we are measuring the same thing. For instance, if we are measuring cell size are we averaging in anything smaller than a drone cell? Or are we averaging in anything that actually has brood in it? Or are we just measuring the core of the brood nest? Are we trying to establish a range? Or a mean? Are we measuring in the same manner, i.e. are we measuring across the flats or across the points? But still we have differences in observations.

In the case of cell size of natural drawn comb we have Dee Lusby's observation that the worker comb is very uniform in size, and Dennis Murrel's observation that they follow a pattern of small in the center and larger on the edges, with the largest along the top. We have mine, which is similar, but not identical to Dennis's. We have Tom Seeley who says:

"The basic nest organization is honey storage above, brood nest below, and pollen storage in between. Associated with this arrangement are differences in comb structure. Compared to combs used for honey storage, combs of the brood nest are generally darker and more uniform in width and in cell form. Drone comb is located on the brood nest's periphery."

The nest of the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.), T. D. Seeley and R. A. Morse

Which sounds very similar to Dennis and my observations. That there are honey storage cells and they are not the same as the brood cells.

Langstroth said:

"The size of the cells in which the workers are reared never varies"

Does this mean that Dee is mistaken? Dishonest? I think not. I've gone to AZ and looked at the comb from cutouts she's done with the bees still on the comb and the comb in "swarm ketching frames" and the sizes are very uniform. So why are her's different? I have no idea. But my point is that she is reporting accurately what she sees. Dennis has had, in the past, the pictures and maps of measurements and cells sizes on his web site, so either he's quite a wiz at manufacturing pictures or he's honestly sharing what he's seen. Since it is more similar to what I see, and since I know him to be a straightforward guy, I believe it's just what he's seeing. I ask people doing cutouts, all the time, to report what they find as far as cell size and we see a lot of it in the area of 5.2mm and a lot of it in the area of 4.9mm. Is one of them wrong and one of them right? I don't think so. I think they are reporting what they find.

As far as varying cell size:

"...a continuous range of behaviors and cell size measurements was noted between colonies considered "strongly European" and "strongly Africanized". "
"Due to the high degree of variation within and among feral and managed populations of Africanized bees, it is emphasized that the most effective solution to the Africanized "problem", in areas where Africanized bees have established permanent populations, is to consistently select for the most gentle and productive colonies among the existing honey bee population"--Marla Spivak

Identification and relative success of Africanized and European honey bees in Costa Rica. Spivak, M

Do measurements of worker cell size reliably distinguish Africanized from European honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)?. Spivak, M; Erickson, E.H., Jr.

Discounting scientific studies

"'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own." --Alexander Pope
"When we wish to correct with advantage and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true." --Blaise Pascal
"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of fact."--Mark Twain

Seems like there are many who accuse people of simply trying to discount a study because they don't agree with it. Maybe for someone who has done nothing in the realm of trying to measure the thing that was in the study, this might be a valid accusation. However, I find that EVERYONE does this in matters where the study disagrees with their personal experiences. AS THEY SHOULD!

Even the "Scientifically minded" among us seem to discount more studies than they will accept in any given argument. Either they think the conclusion was unwarranted, the numbers were insignificant or the experiment just poorly designed, most will discount any study when its results are contrary to their own experience. The fact is your own experience was in a context of your actual application (i.e. your climate, your beeyard, your race of bees, your system of beekeeping) where the study was an attempt to control everything possible and probably was done either in a climate different from yours or some other circumstance different that yours. So your honest, and sincere response to this is to try to find that difference and point it out in order to explain the differences in outcome.

If anyone has paid any attention to scientific studies over the last few years, let alone the last few decades, let alone the last few centuries, you'll see that the results often vacillate between two opposite conclusions every other year or so. How many medications have been proven safe in a scientific study only to be pulled off the market after less than a year of use in the field? How many times has caffeine been proven good for you, bad for you and good for you again? Or chocolate? Anyone remember when doctors almost uniformly advised against eating it? Now it's an antioxidant that, according to a scientific study in Holland, will halve the chances of an over 50 male dying.

Only the foolish follow the results of scientific studies without question. The prudent hold them up against personal experience and common sense.


Since World View has a lot to do with this, I'll share a little more about my view of the world.

I think the world is too complex for anyone to ever grasp. It's why we create our own "view of the world". It gives us a basic framework within which to make decisions and solve problems. None of us can comprehend the whole thing, so all of us have, at best a very incomplete world view and at worse a very erroneous worldview.

Empirical Vs Statistical

I am much in favor of the "scientific method". Especially if it is actually followed. There was a time in the "scientific world" that anything less than empirical truth was ignored. But, partly because of the previously mentioned faux paux where doctors ran off a brilliant doctor for proposing something based on statistical evidence (washing hands before delivering babies or performing surgery), the current trend in science and medicine is to actually give some credence to statistical evidence. Sometimes to a degree that is not entirely reasonable.

As I mentioned in the "flipping a quarter" illustration, sometimes the statistics we have gathered are skewed by simple random chance. Sometimes the results are skewed by other factors also. It is one of the reasons that scientists in the past discounted statistical evidence and insisted on empirical evidence.

In the case of some statistical issues, the sample is large (sometimes an entire country or continent) the other factors are well averaged out and the differences in the results are large. For instance, women who smoke are twelve times more likely to die of lung cancer than women who don't smoke. This is not an insignificant number. If it were twice as many it would be pretty significant, but twelve times as many is very significant. When these numbers are from a very large sampling it becomes even more significant.

On the other hand this is not empirical evidence. If all we did was collect the statistics then we only have a "post hoc ergo proptor hoc" situation. Still it's too big to ignore. But then there are studies as to how the constituents of tobacco smoke cause cellular changes and eventually cancer. This study has more empirical evidence by the fact that we can expose cells to the substances in tobacco and see the changes. And we have studied it to the point of knowing how some of those chemicals cause some of those changes.

There is not time in my lifetime to do as extensive of experimentation as the cancer studies on every aspect of everything I'm involved in. In fact there probably isn't even time to read every study that's already been done. What I (and everyone else) have done as I process my experiences I have, is look for patterns. The patterns are the trail that leads us down paths of experimentation. They are how a scientist comes up with a theory. We see a pattern that this is the general way most things work and come up with a theory based on the pattern continuing into the realm we are studying. Sometimes the difference between one course of action and another are insignificant enough not to warrant too much work and investigation. Sometimes, especially when difficulties arise, it is worth trying to discover the cause of the difficulties. This is the time to study something and apply scientific methods to discovering a solution.

Let's try this from a simple personal view. If I touch some glowing hot metal and my finger hurts and gets a blister, is that empirical evidence that touching glowing hot metal burns my finger? If all I know is "I touched that metal and my finger hurt" then no, it does not. But I have some other things to consider. One is that I know a bit about the metal. I know that it had been heated and know that I could feel heat coming off of it. Also I know that when I apply heat to other things they combust or they melt or they are damaged in other ways. Therefore, it is reasonable for me to believe that the metal caused the burn because I not only have a chronological connection (one followed the other) but a mechanism. I have observed other things burning when they are hot, so it's reasonable to assume it is the heat (not the metal) that caused my pain. It would be reasonable for me not to touch the metal again when it is hot. On the other hand, if I'm not paying attention to the details and I come to the erroneous conclusion that touching metal burns my finger and don't take into account the mechanism (the heat in the metal) I might go through my life never touching metal again. This may seem silly, but other situations are often much more complex than the metal and finger situation and a significant aspect of this other situation goes unnoticed and we go through life with an erroneous belief.

Often there is not time to really be scientific. When your bees are dying, for instance, you may, out of desperation, try several things at the same time and they may get well. If you do, you will never know for sure what, if any of those several things made any difference. Even if you try only one thing, you won't really know if it made a difference or they would have recovered anyway.

A woman I know is fond of saying "the method of potty training you tried just before your child succeeds is the one you'll swear by". Her point is they would have gotten potty trained with or without your help, but you will be certain your method was the cause ("post hoc"). When you go to the doctor and get medicine and then you get well, you'll probably think it was the medicine. Statistically there was, with or without the medicine, a 99% chance you would get well, but you will credit what you did just before as the cause of your recovery. Conversely if you take the medicine and get worse you will blame the medicine. Statistically this is more likely. According to a recent study from the National Academy Institute of Medicine, each year more people die from medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), or AIDS (16,516). So odds are it WAS the medicine. But it is not a known fact unless we do far more research. These kinds of simple conclusions, not based on enough evidence to be scientific, are often what we live by because we never have the time, the energy or the opportunity to do a large enough sample to come to any significant conclusions. These conclusions are not scientific, and are sometimes wrong, but they are quite often correct conclusions also.

Natural Things

I admit to being prejudiced toward things that are natural. This is not just some fanatical belief with no basis, it is based on my experience and observation. It is one of the patterns I have observed. Over time I have seen many nonnatural solutions to problems fail miserably. Sometimes with catastrophic consequences.

When I was young, science was going to solve all of our problems. Cure all of the diseases, give us vaccinations for everything. They were going to eradicate (does this word sound familiar?) flies, mosquitoes, mice, rats and prairie dogs. Humans had been pretty successful at eradicating things like bears and wolves (of course it wasn't science it was 14 year old kids collecting bounties for the ears). The result of this thinking was DDT being sprayed everywhere, rat poison spread extensively and the near annihilation of every raptor on the continent, not to mention all of the predators of the prairie dogs. Of course there wasn't even a significant dent in the mosquitoes, rats, mice or flies. This is but one in a series of many "scientific" fiascoes.

I have found that not only are doctors and scientists often mistaken they are often doing the opposite of what should be done. I realize this will open another can of worms, but I am a Lakota Sundancer. Going for four days and nights with no food and no water dancing from sunup to sundown in weather that is often well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I have seen many cases of heat exhaustion, and have had a severe case of it on two occasions myself. These are people with hot dry skin, nauseated, vomiting, and confused. There is only one cure that I've seen work and I've never seen it fail. This is on people who still don't get anything to drink and turn around and dance for two more days. These are people who quit sweating at least a day ago because there wasn't anything left to sweat. If I took any of these people to a medical doctor they would immediately try to cool them down. When you have heat stroke your body gets confused and can't decide what to do. The body starts heating you up because it's not sure which way to go. The intuitively obvious thing to do is cool them down. This fails quite often. When doctors use the "cooling down" treatment people often die. Literally hundreds of people die in one large city in one heat wave and these people have access to water, access to medical care and their bodies have enough moisture to sweat. The first time I had heat exhaustion I sat in the Niobrara river for some time with no relief at all.

The treatment that I have never seen fail, is to put the person in a very hot, very wet, very short sweat. This means you take them in a small hut with red hot rocks, close it up and pour the water on the rocks, making lots of steam, until the place is so hot you can't stand it. The effects on the body are immediate. First the body immediately realizes that it is hot. How could it be confused when the air is approaching the boiling point? The second thing that happens is the skin is covered with condensation. When they get out, the body is now convinced to accept the cooling and the water is there to help do the job. I do not think I will ever hear of a scientific study as to the efficacy of this treatment, because it goes against their view of the world.

Doctors have the view that whatever the body is doing that they don't want, they will try to force it to stop. I have the view that whatever my body is trying to do I will help it do it until it decides to stop. When I have a fever I either get in as hot a tub of water as I can stand or a sweat or a sauna. If the body wants a fever I help it have one. I do not take aspirin or anything else unless the fever persists after the sweat or sauna, which, in my case, it has not done.

Following nature and working with it is my view of the world. It is based on my experiences. It's true that sometimes our experiences lead us in the wrong direction and lead us to erroneous conclusions, but more often they help us learn about the patterns of what is around us.


"All models are wrong, but some are useful" --George E.P. Box

Part of the problem with all this is that any model we have is incomplete. A new word has crept into our language. It has probably been there for awhile, but now it is moving into the mainstream. We computer programmers use it a lot. It is "paradigm" (pronounced para dime usually and sometimes para dim). To put it simply, a paradigm is a point of view, a model, a simplified way of looking at a particular problem that allows us to solve it.

An example would be Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics is a set of mathematical rules that allows us to predict things like the path of a bullet, the amount of energy in a car wreck or the motion of the planets. In short, it solves most problems to do with motion and energy at speeds well below the speed of light. It is a useful paradigm. It is still used daily and taught in High School and College, because of its usefulness.

The problem with it is that it isn't true. For years it was accepted as indisputable truth, until some evidence turned up, to contradict it. The evidence was usually at the atomic level, and at close to light speed, but it was hard to refute. These atomic level and light speed problems remained insolvable until Einstein, a mathematician (who flunked math in school), with no degree in physics, threw out the Newtonian paradigm and proposed the Relativity paradigm. This then stood as truth (in spite of the fact that most problems were still much easier to solve by the Newtonian paradigm and are still being solved that way) until other contradictions forced another shift and a new paradigm, Quantum physics.

Einstein took a lot of flack for throwing out Newtonian physics. It was accepted as absolute truth and he questioned it. But no one could solve these light speed problems until they threw out the old paradigm and found a new one that worked.

This method of problem solving is called a paradigm shift. The biggest block to the next paradigm is holding on, too tightly, to the last. Paul Mace, author of "Mace Utilities" said "What we need to discover is often effectively blocked by what we know already." This is the purpose of the paradigm shift. To throw out (at least temporarily) what we know already so it won't block us off from what we need to discover.

The classic paradigm for our relationship to the sun is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This paradigm is quite useful for figuring out what direction I'm walking and what direction to face my barn, house, beehives or tipi. In fact most anything that is terrestrial it works fine. However it fails miserably when trying to explain what is happening in our solar system.

For that we tend to rely instead on Galileo's paradigm, Copernicanism, which says that the sun is the center of the solar system and that it is fixed and we circle around it and spin. It's our spinning that causes the illusion that the sun comes up in the east and goes down in the west. Of course it doesn't really, and yet we will often state it as an absolute fact that it does come up in the east. You see from our point of view, here on the earth, it does.

So is the classic model that the sun comes up in the east true? No. Is it useful? Yes. Is Galileo's model true? No. The sun isn't fixed, it's actually hurtling through space, but from our solar system's point of view it appears to be true and when dealing with things only within our solar system it's a pretty useful model.

Our view of the world is a series of paradigms that we have adopted. We often confuse this worldview and these paradigms with truth. But in order to be true it would have to be the universe itself. The whole point of the paradigm is to make a simple, abstract model. To isolate the essential elements to make a solution possible to grasp. So by its nature a paradigm will never be the whole truth, because the whole truth is infinite, and we would be overwhelmed.

The danger of paradigms is that we confuse them with truth. They aren't. When the paradigm we have doesn't work it's time for a paradigm shift. Borrow another worldview. Make one up from scratch, but be willing to put aside the one that doesn't work.

One paradigm (made up of many smaller ones) is philosophy. It's great for the "Big Questions" like "Why am I here?" "Where am I going?", but it's lousy for fixing your car.

Another paradigm is the "Scientific Method." Great for fixing your car, worthless for building relationships.

Scientific numerics in complex systems

It's not that simple

I realize everyone would like to think what they are measuring is scientific. Things like weight, temperature, volume are simple to quantify and therefore seem very scientific when trying to prove something one way or the other. The problem is that even fairly simple systems are more complicated than just a simple measurement. We often express these more complex things with vague statements such as "it's not heavy, it's just awkward". This is a way of expressing that although we know (from a scientific point of view) that if we put this item on a scale it will not say that it weighs much more than objects that we can easily lift, this object is very difficult to lift. We feel that weight should translate into how difficult it is to lift, but we also know that the reality is that it doesn't.

Weight as an example

Weight is only one aspect of how difficult something is to lift. Any object where we end up with a lot of weight a long ways from our body is "awkward". The leverage of the weight is against us in such a way as to put far more stress on our backs than the weight of the object would seem to indicate. That's because how difficult something is to lift or move, is not just about weight. It's about leverage and mechanical advantage and disadvantage. It's also about how quickly we can set the object down or how gently we have to set the object down.

Moving fifty pound bags of grain where I can drop them or throw them into a pile, is much easier than fifty pound boxes of bees and honey that need to be set down gently. It's also about how far we have to bend over to get to it and how far we have to bend over to set it down. Weight is only one small aspect of the whole issue.

An eight frame box is much easier to handle than its weight would indicate. True it weighs less than a ten frame box of otherwise equal circumstances (full of honey, same depth etc.), but the weight you eliminated was the two frames furthest from your body, meaning that the mechanical disadvantage of those two frames was much greater than the rest of them. So looking at it from one simple measurement (weight) is misleading. We need to take into account many other things. These are things that probably can be quantified, but doing so is much more complex. Trying to figure out the "mechanical weight" (meaning the weight times the mechanical advantage or disadvantage) is much more complicated than just putting it on a scale and weighing it.

Overwintering as another example

I bring this up, not just to talk about boxes, but about things in general and about other things like the thermodynamics of a wintering hive. I am not attempting here to explain the answer to the thermodynamics of a hive, but merely to try to outline the question and show that the metrics are more complicated than they first appear. Let's see how many significant aspects of the thermodynamics of a wintering hive we can list:

o Temperature. This is the simple one. It's easy to measure temperature by putting a thermometer where you want to measure it. Measure the temperature of the distant points in the hive and in the cluster and on the edge of the cluster and outside the hive. These are the "facts" usually used to try to explain the thermodynamics of a winter hive. These facts are one very small piece of the whole picture.

o Heat production. The cluster is producing heat. You can argue all day that they don't heat the hive, and obviously that is not their intent, but they do produce heat in the hive and that heat dissipates into the hive and, depending on other factors, into the outside, at some rate. This is a "thermostatically" controlled source of heat in that the bees will produce more heat as the temperatures decline to make up for heat loss, or less as it warms up. The temperature in your house is the same with the back door open or closed, but that doesn't mean that leaving it open doesn't matter. A thermostatically controlled environment can be misleading when we try to measure it in temperature and don't take into account heat loss.

o Respiration. There is a change in humidity in the hive caused by the metabolic processes of the bees. This water is put into the air by respiration. It is warm and moist air. This changes the humidity and the humidity changes other aspects.

o Humidity. The moisture in the air changes many other aspects of the thermodynamics as it causes more heat transfer by convection, more heat that is stored by the air, more condensation and less evaporation. We express this difference when referring to the weather in things like "it was hot but it was a dry heat" or "it wasn't the cold, it was the dampness".

o Condensation. Condensation of water gives off heat. There is water condensing on the cold sides and lid of the hive all through the winter and this affects the temperature. Condensation is caused by a temperature difference between a surface and the air contacting that surface. It occurs when the humidity of the air is high enough that when the air is cooled on the surface, the air (now cooler) can no longer hold that amount of humidity.

o Evaporation. Water that has condensed and run down the sides to the bottom or dripped on the bees, evaporates. This absorbs heat as it evaporates. Wet bees have to burn up a huge amount of energy to evaporate water that has dripped on them. Puddles of water on the bottom continue to absorb heat until they evaporate.

o Thermal Mass. The mass of all of the honey in the hive holds heat and dissipates heat over time. It changes the time period over which changes in temperatures occur. It holds a lot of the heat that is in the hive. A lot of cold honey can keep a hive cold even when it's warm out. A lot of warm honey can keep a hive warmer even when it's cold out. It moderates the effects of temperature changes and it holds and gives off heat. This is more related to the amount of heat in the system than the temperature. A large mass of moderate temperature may actually hold more heat than a small mass of higher temperature.

o Air Exchange. I am splitting this out from convection, although convection is involved, because I am differentiating an exchange of air with the outside as opposed to convection taking place within the hive. Outside air coming into the hive is essential to the bees having enough oxygen for aerobic metabolism, but the more of it there is the more it affects the temperatures in the hive. If this is minimized during winter, the temperature in the hive will exceed the temperature outside the hive. If it is too minimized the bees will suffocate. If it is too maximized the bees will have to work much harder to maintain the heat of the cluster. Even if you were to increase this gradually to the point of the inside and outside temperatures being indistinguishable, more air exchange from that point would not change the temperatures, inside, outside or of the cluster but WILL cause more heat loss to the cluster thereby causing them to make more heat to compensate. If you rely only on measuring temperature you will not see this difference.

o Convection within the hive. Convection is how an object with some thermal mass and therefore some kinetic heat, loses its heat to the air. The air on the surface either picks up or gives off heat (depending on the direction of the heat difference) and if the air heats up it rises bringing more cool air into its place. If it cools it sinks bringing more warm air into its place. Things that block air or divide it into layers will add to warmth. That's how things like blankets and quilts work. They create dead space where the air can't move so easily. A vacuum thermos works on the principle that if there is no air, it can't carry away the heat by convection. The more open space there is in the hive, the more convection can take place. The more you limit things to layers the less convection takes place. We sometimes refer to an excess of convection in our houses as "it was 70 degrees in the house but it was drafty".

o Conduction. Conduction is how the heat moves through an object. Take the outside wall of a hive. At night if it's colder outside, it absorbs heat from the inside that comes from convection (warmer air against its surface) and heat from radiation (heat radiating from the cluster) and that heat warms the wood. The rate at which that heat moves through the wood to the outside is its conductivity. The heat is conducted to the outside where convection carries off the heat from the surface. On a sunny day on the South side, the sun will heat the wall, the heat will move by conduction through the wall to the inside where convection will transfer the heat to the air. Insulation or Styrofoam hives will slow down conduction.

o Radiation. Radiation is the process in which energy is emitted by one body, transmitted through an intervening medium or space without significantly affecting the temperature of the medium, and absorbed by another body. A heat lamp or heat from a fire are tangible examples of this. In the case of a wintering hive the two main sources of radiant heat are the cluster and the sun. During a sunny day the radiant heat of the sun hits the side of the hive and turns into kinetic heat and is transferred by conduction to the inside of the hive. The radiant heat from the cluster hits the surrounding combs of honey and walls, cover and bottom. Some is absorbed by the honey and walls, and some is reflected back. The amount is dependent on how close the cluster is and how reflective the surface is. Real life experience of radiant heat would be being in the sun on an otherwise cool day or putting a thermometer in the sun and getting a dramatically different reading than one in the shade.

o Temperature differences. The amount of the difference in temperatures between the cluster and the outside is a significant factor. If your outside temperatures in winter average say 32 F and your lows are rarely 0 F the significance of some of these things may be minimal. On the other hand if your winters often have subzero temperatures of -20 to -40 F for long periods then these issues are much more significant.

The real question is, "How do all of these interact in a wintering hive?"

One clue to understand some of it is by watching the bees. They adjust based on what they are experiencing as far as heat loss, rather than what it says on the thermometer. The cluster is drawn to the place where they lose less heat. This should be a clue to us on where and how they are losing heat.

My point is, if you look at most things they are much more complicated than a simple measurement and yet we have a tendency to try to reduce them to that.

Michael Bush

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Copyright 2007 by Michael Bush

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