Silent Spring, Stephen Hawking-style

March 31, 2007

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.
No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

– Albert Einstein

Speculation continues into Colony Collapse Disorder (previously covered in the Hive Mind blog here and here).  Today, an intriguing piece from Synchronizm, which I will do my very best to summarize here.  After that, I will go soak my brain in ice water, because it hurts.

It all begins, apparently, with Barbara Shipman, a mathematician (and, through lucky coincidence, daughter of a bee researcher) who noticed that the patterns in the “waggle dance” that bees use to communicate where flowers are to one another (i.e., to give navigational information) map very closely to shapes one sees when one projects the residents of a six-dimensional flag manifold into two dimensions.

No, I’m not joking, and now you see why I need to soak my brain in ice water.

Not only that, there is research that suggests that bees have quantum mechanical sensitivities:

One study exposed bees to short bursts of a high-intensity magnetic field and concluded that the bees’ response could be better explained as a sensitivity to an effect known as nuclear magnetic resonance…nmr occurs when an electromagnetic wave impinges on the nuclei of atoms and flips their orientation. nmr is considered a quantum mechanical effect because it takes place only if each atom absorbs a particular size packet, or quantum, of electromagnetic energy.

If this were not enough, the results imply that bees can perceive quarks, thereby interacting with the quantum world without disturbing it in the ways both observed and predicted by quantum theory. And this perception would have to extend to the perception of quarks not as coherent structures, but as fields. In other words, bees may be able to perceive the unobserved quantum fields of zero-point energy, the much-debated property from which all of the phenomenal world may emerge in the eternal quantum moment.

You with me so far?  Never mind, just hurry along, we’re not there yet.

Spin is a property of quantum ‘particles’ that can be manipulated, and is a fundamental component of both NMR and quantum computers. Spin is complex conceptually, especially given the fact that the most simple description of the spin of Fermions (the ‘particles’ that make up matter as we know it) is 1/2. This means that if you could hold one of these ‘particles’ and mark a spot on it with a Sharpie, you would have to turn it 720 degrees around in your hand to see the mark once again. Quarks, the ‘particle’ bees may interact with, also have spin 1/2.

Something’s spinning alright, and it’s not just the quarks.

The concept of spherical harmonics is used to visualize the effects of spin. Using spherical harmonics, the sun can also be visualized as a six-dimensional body with three rotational components. In another simple visualization, a two-dimensional flatlander would have a great deal of difficulty explaining an eight-ball intersecting her space while rotating both horizontally and vertically. It would seem to her that the disc she observed (the portion of the eight-ball intersecting with her plane) had a spin of 1/2.

Let me take a moment here, because I actually understood a part of this, so I want to revel in it.  When I was in 9th grade or so, I got bored in math class, so my teacher made me Flatland, a satirical novella that helped teach some principles of multi-dimensional geometry in understandable terms.

In a nutshell, imagine that you were a two-dimensional being living in a plane.  Not only couldn’t you look up or down, you had no concept of “up” or “down”.  When you looked at a circle in your plane, it would appear as a line (because you would be looking at it edge on, not from above or below.  If you had binocular vision, you might be able to tell that line bent away from you, but that’s all.

Now, imagine what a sphere would look like to you.  As the sphere passed through you plane, it would look at first like a point (where the sphere lay tangent to the plane), then as a growing and then shrinking line (i.e., an enlarging and shrinking “circle” to you conceptually). 

Now, imagine how an eight-ball intersectiong two dimensional space while rotating both horizontally and vertically would look.  Obvioulsly, it would seem to be a disc with a spin of 1/2.  I say “obviously”, because the Synchronizm guy says it, but I actually have no idea how eight-balls came into this, so we’ll just keep on plodding through the explanation and hope that part doesn’t turn up on the final exam.

Anyway, to the right, we see the sun rotating in six dimensions,

the magnetic component (poles) waxing, waning and switching on a 22-year cycle (magnetic flux and the Hale cycle), the 11-year “butterfly pattern” (the Schwabe cycle, the Omega effect accounting for the stretching in actual observation).

The red and blue parts of the image above correspond with the “real” component of the wave function described by the spherical harmonic (sunspots and solar wind), while the yellow and green describe the “imaginary” component. Could this “imaginary” component correspond to an effect similar to the solar wind that interacts with the “unobserved quantum field”?

Could it? How could it NOT?

And this, Synchronizm argues, leads to the “smoking gun”:

The solar probe Ulysses’ circumpolar orbit took it below the south pole of the sun this past winter. While there, sunspot 938 put on the most energetic performance of any sunspot in four years, ejecting a particle storm that would have been a “ground-level event” (penetrating the entire atmosphere) had it been directed at earth…

If we consider such a particle stream to be a secondary stream to the “imaginary” component of the solar field that would be dominant during a solar minimum, then the quantum field to which the bees may be sensitive could have been disturbed. Or, the bees could have lost navigation, possibly abandoning the hive as one of the directional components of either the quantum field or local terrestrial magnetic variations moved drastically closer to the sun. They may have flown skyward, attempting to keep up with the rapidly moving target of home in six dimensions. Or, hyperdimensional bee-eaters could have emerged from the sunspot, phasing the bees out of existence on contact (given the evidence, anything is possible, and equally strange. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider this to be very likely to say the least).

The similarity to my alien zombie superbee theory is striking.  There, I’ve struck it!

Similar events could have happened 50 years ago when geomagnetic events preceded the most active solar cycle recorded. Bee disappearances were reported across the southern United States in the time preceding the increased activity…Enough anecdotal evidence and coincidence combined with solid observation also exists to link the disappearance of the bees with changes in the sun…

I am in awe.  Do I believe it?  With a nod to, Life of Pi, I’ll say yes.  A world in which quark smelling bees are misdirected to the heavens to be consumed by hyperdimensional bee eaters is just so much cooler than a world in which pesticides kill them off.

Off to get aluminum foil for hats.

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