Bee Colonies & Columnar Basalt

The universe is lazy; it will always seek out the simplest solution. This can be witnessed in a number of natural phenomena, but this week is about… HEXAGONS.

Hexagons are six-sided polygons in which all six walls meet at a 120 degree angle. And hexagons are the reason bees, despite the recent Colony Collapse Disorder plaguing them, are some of the most successful and complex social insects on the planet.

Honeycomb is created in a repeating hexagonal pattern, all pieces fitting perfectly together. The comb is made of beeswax, a labor-intensive building material; a bee would have to fly around the Earth 12 times to make a single pound of it. Because of this, bees must be especially efficient, using the least amount of wax to create storage units with the most amount of space. Bees all over the world use this tessellation of hexagons, utilizing their bodies as rulers; larger bees make larger honeycomb cells, and vice versa.

If one is looking to create a storage container of repeating shapes that all fit together without any gaps, there are actually few options. You could use equilateral triangles, squares, or hexagons. Triangles would have used more wax than any other configuration, with squares coming as the second most wasteful. Only hexagons can work for these needs.

And now for something completely different… ROCKS.

The Giant’s Causeway, Ireland

The Hexagonal Pool, Israel

Hexagons can be found in columnar basalt formations all over the world. These gorgeous, natural, geological phenomena are caused by lava cooling and cracking. The cracks, looking for the easiest path through the medium, naturally form hexagons.

Not every piece of the columnar basalt puzzle is a perfect hexagon; nature’s not perfect—but it is lazy. Remember? Remember how I said that in the beginning? Yeah.

Now, in traditional S.T.E.A.M. fashion, I will make this science about art, albeit in a somewhat roundabout manner. One might even call it “cheating.” But the photographs I’ve found in my brief search for images for this post have proven how simply capturing the natural beauty of the world becomes art.

I am a failed studio artist who picked up a camera when she was unable to communicate with charcoal and paint, and I seek out wondrous places with my camera. It’s been a long-time dream of mine to go to Iceland because of all their marvelous geological formations created through eons of volcanic activity. I have no doubt that, if I ever make it there, I will find some hexagons worth aiming my lens at.

Svartifoss Falls, Iceland

Blogger’s Note: Please, please, PLEASE excuse that last line; I abhorr sentences ended in prepositions, but honestly couldn’t think of a better way to communicate my point that didn’t begin to sound ridiculous. I think it was Churchill who said, in response to someone criticizing his use of prepositions at the end of his sentences, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

There’s debate whether Winston ever actually said this, but that’s not entirely the point. My point is to express that I know my final sentence is grammatically incorrect, but I am forced to acknowledge that saying, “I will find some hexagons at which it will be worth aiming my lens” is incredibly awkward. *sigh* friends…

(I’m sorry, couldn’t find a more appropriate place for this video, but I’m a huge fan of Kurzgesagt, [German for “in a nutshell”] and wanted to share this).


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