A Louder Buzz

What's the buzz?The alleged Einstein quote concerning the disappearance of bees and the resulting demise of the human race certainly isn't news anymore. It's been floating around since at least '94, but has been recently resurrected for use in connection with the disturbing news that honey bees are being victimized by an unknown killer. According to one of the Urban Legends Reference Pages at snopes.com, the only sure bet is that Einstein may or may not have said anything about beesno one has been able to definitively attribute the quote to him, nor to anyone else for that matter.

. . . even though Einstein died in 1955, assiduous searching of a variety of databases of historical printed material (e.g., books, newspapers, magazines) has so far failed to turn up any mention of this quote (attributed to Einstein or anyone else) antedating 1994, when it suddenly started popping up in newspaper articles reporting on a protest in Brussels staged by beekeepers . . .

This time around, the misattributed quote again appeared in more than one reputable publication, but the high-speed, global circulation apparatus known as the Internet allowed it a more widespread grip on the popular consciousness.

If nothing else, the situation may live in infamy as an example of what can happen when normally respectable sources neglect their fact-checking, even for a moment. The speed at which the Net propagates the buzz—reliable or not—sometimes creates the impression of authority, even though it may actually be little more than an increase in volume.



  1. Anonymous5:26 AM UTC

    Great post, and fun wordplay on "buzz"! Another well-circulated and tenacious falsehood: Eskimos have hundreds of words for "snow." Let's pray that Eskimos at least have a big reserve of bees, if their numbers are truly dwindling. I for one have been seeing many fewer bees, though there's a healthy wasp nest just outside my front door.

  2. Anonymous6:00 AM UTC

    The way things are going, I hope there's still a need for words like "snow" (or "glacier") in the future. And "bee," of course. The members of the wasp colony I watch from my kitchen window seem smaller than normal, and fewer in number. Probably too early to call it a trend, but it creeps me out just the same.