Do Butterflies Know Physics?

By A. O.


These butterflies have certainly not been trained in physics or any other field.

Do Butterflies Know Physics?

The appearance of butterflies is admirable. These creatures, which with their colorful wings and elegant flight are like living ornaments, are some of the sources of beauty that Allah creates for us. However, a marvelous appearance is certainly not the only feature of butterflies.

These short-lived creatures sometimes do calculations such as a specialist would do. For example, like the moths, the body heat of a butterfly has to be at a certain temperature in order for it to fly. Let us see what butterflies do to solve this problem.

The colias butterfly cannot fly when its body temperature is below 28oC (83oF). In such cases, the butterfly opens its wings to expose its upper side to the sun and to soak up the sun’s rays at the correct angle. If its body temperature rises as high as 40oC (104oF), it rotates by 90 degrees and thus receives the sun’s rays horizontally. With this behavior, the butterfly absorbs as little heat through the wings as possible and its body temperature decreases.

Besides, this butterfly species has small dark spots on its wings. These spots, the function of which is to maintain a higher body temperature, are not located just anywhere. They are close to the points that most need to be warm. As a result of this particular creation, heat transmission from these spots, which warm up quickly, to other parts of the body is facilitated since the distance that needs to be covered to transmit heat is shortened.


The pieris butterfly species

Another butterfly species employs a similar method to increase its body temperature. You all know what a lens is. Some are used to produce enlarged images whereas some others are used to produce smaller images of objects. For example, glasses consist of a pair of lenses.

Besides this function, a lens angled correctly toward the sun can concentrate the sun’s rays on a certain spot. Using this method, it is possible even to light a fire. The pieris, another butterfly species, angles its wings toward the sun so that all rays are concentrated on certain parts of its body that most need to be warm, in a similar way as a lens functions.

These butterflies have certainly not been trained in physics or any other field. They cannot know about the features of a lens. They do not know which angle would receive the greatest amount of heat. Allah, Who watches over and protects all things, inspires in butterflies what they should do to regulate their body temperature. As Allah reminds us in the Qur’an:

“… Allah is watchful over all things.” (Al-Ahzab: 52)


– A Note by the Editor:

Allah the Almighty says in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an what means,

“Say: ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?’ Say: ‘Allah.’ Say: ‘So why have you taken protectors apart from Him who possess no power to help or harm themselves?’ Say: ‘Are the blind and seeing equal? Or are darkness and light the same? Or have they assigned partners to Allah Who create as He creates so that all creating seems the same to them?’ Say: ‘Allah is the Creator of everything. He is the One, the All-Conquering.’” (Al-Ra`d: 16)


“He [Allah] hath created the heavens without supports that ye can see and hath cast into the earth firm hills, so that it quake not with you; and He hath dispersed therein all kinds of beasts. And We send down water from the sky and We cause (plants) of every goodly kind to grow therein. This is the Creation of Allah. Now show me that which those (ye worship) beside Him have created. Nay, but the wrongdoers are in error manifest!” (Luqman 31: 10-11)


“We shall show them Our portents on the horizons and within themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth. Doth not thy Lord suffice since He is Witness over all things? How! Are they still in doubt about the meeting with their Lord? Lo! Is not He surrounding all things?” (Fussilat 41: 53-54)



A. O. is a Turkish writer and author.



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