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Are you confounded by one of life’s perpetual mysteries? Do you have a burning question unrelated to your coursework? How many stars are in the sky? Why was Stonehenge built? What is the origin of the word “Hoosier?” ASK THE SEEKER! Read more about what The Seeker provides.

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I had a hornet's nest in a tree and was going to remove it during the winter months.  Before it could be removed we noticed a second nest.  Over the next few months the original nest started disappearing.  Is it normal for hornet's to disassemble a nest?  The original nest is now gone.


Dear Hassled By Hornets,

The Seeker regrets to hear that one hornets’ nest near your home petered out only to be replaced by another, but is relieved that you won’t have to deal with two active nests at the same time.

To be clear, hornets are large social wasps belonging to the genus vespa. The European Hornet, Vespa crabro, is the only true hornet species in North America (Jacobs, 2010), though several of its cousins – notably yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets – are also called hornets. Alarmed humans sometimes find their nests hanging from trees, eaves, and other protected places, though the bugs are also known to build in hollow tree trunks.

European hornets gather rotten wood, inner tree bark, and grains of soil and sand for construction materials. Other social wasps include different sources, generally other sorts of plant matter (Spradbery, 1973). They chew the gathered wood and mix it with their saliva to make a pulp, which is then added to the nest, where it dries and hardens (Edwards, 1980). Despite consulting many sources, The Seeker was unable to find any mention of hornets or other wasps recycling material from an old, abandoned nest to build a new one. Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology notes old nests can be destroyed by wildlife or weather (“Preserving and displaying a hornet’s [sic] nest,” 2005). Perhaps this is what happened to the older nest near your home.

The desire to bid rid of hornets is easy to understand: They sting! Justin Schmidt, an entomologist who studies stinging insects, created a scale to rate the pain packed by the dozens of insect species that have bitten and stung him. Yellow jackets – “hot and smoky” – and bald-faced hornets – “similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door” – both score 2 out of a potential 4. Slightly worse is the European Hornet – “like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.” At least none of them are the pepsis wasp: “A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath” (as cited in ableiman, 2008).

Many people consider hornets and wasps useful predators because they prey on other pests, a fact often noted mere seconds after you smack one with a rolled up magazine. The Seeker isn’t one to judge though, and will leave it to you to decide whether to appreciate, tolerate, or evict your winged, buzzing neighbors. 


ableiman. (2008, January 29). The Schmidt Sting Pain Index [web log comment]. Retrieved from

Edwards, R. (1980). Social wasps: Their biology and control. East Grinstead, UK: Rentokil. 

Jacobs, S. (2010, January). European Hornet. Retrieved from 

Preserving and displaying a hornet’s [sic] nest.” (2005, July 14). Retrieved from 

Spradbery, J.P. (1973). Wasps: An account of the biology and natural history of solitary and social wasps. London, UK: Sidgwick & Jackson.

Answered on 2014-12-29 10:23:53


What is Inner beauty?


Dear Beholder, 

A literal definition of inner beauty is not so hard to formulate. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary defines beauty as “the quality … that gives intense aesthetic pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind or senses,” and inner as “situated within” and “not obvious; hidden or obscure” (1995). Inner beauty, therefore, is beauty that arises from within a person or thing, as opposed to from visible, outward characteristics.

When discussing the inner beauty of people, we often talk about admirable character traits, which might also be called virtues. The qualities that constitute virtue are somewhat hard to pin down, having changed over time and been shaped by the dispositions of various thinkers. Plato believed virtue to be an inner state sustained and enhanced by right and just actions (Slote, 2005). Aristotle described the ideal of the “great-souled man,” whose attributes included “a proper sense of his own worth … the desire to be honoured for his virtues by his equals (coupled with indifference to the opinion of inferiors) and in self-conscious dignity of demeanor (verging on pomposity to the modern eye)" (Taylor, 2005). Other ancients specifically identified temperance, justice, courage, and wisdom as important virtues (Slote, 2005) while later Christian philosophers elevated humility, patience, charity, and chastity (Blackburn, 2008).

Inner beauty, like all beauty, remains in the eye of the beholder, so it is perhaps up to you to fashion your own definition. If you wish to consult the wisdom of ancient or modern philosophers in your pursuit, you can find books by or about a specific philosopher by using his or her name as a search term in CardCat. For recent philosophical commentaries, you might try searching for “beauty” or “virtue” in an article database like Philosopher’s Index. And if you encounter unfamiliar terms or ideas, you can turn to a reference resource like The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy or the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy for explanation.


Blackburn, S. (2008). Virtue. In The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd Rev. Ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

Random House Webster's College Dictionary (1995). New York, NY: Random House. 

Slote, M. (2005). Virtues. In The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2nd Ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

Taylor, C.C.W. (2005). Great-souled man. In The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2nd Ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved from 

Answered on 2014-12-08 08:52:55


Is it true the Bermuda triangle's mysterious disappearances could be due to an experiment gone wrong of an artifcial Merkaba that was attempted? 


Dear Mystical Mariner, 

Like the last ruins of a collapsed civilization, your brief question represents something far larger: an immense body of religious esotericism and paranormal lore, encompassing not just Hebrew mysticism and tales of the Bermuda Triangle, but also the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis.

As described in the Book of Ezekiel, the merkaba was a heavenly chariot comprised of three types of angels, from which God spoke to the prophet (Ezek. 1:1-3:11, New Jerusalem Bible). Ancient Jews closely associated it with kabod, or the glory of God, (Schubert, 2006), and considered esoteric contemplation of either to be dangerous (M. Hagigah 2:1, trans. 1933).

What does this have to do with the Bermuda Triangle, let alone Atlantis? The Triangle has long been speculated to be the former site of Atlantis. A more recent addition to the lore, shared online, posits that Martians visited Atlantis in a synthetic merkaba, but the merkaba failed and resulted in a calamity that sent the civilization crashing into the sea.

Atlantis is usually described as a very ancient but technologically advanced civilization on a now-lost continent in the Atlantic. Plato gave the first known account of it, telling of a war between Atlantis and Athens. According to his sources Atlantis perished around 9,600 B.C., and here is a problem: there would be no Athens to fight until roughly 8,000 years later. Aristotle, a student of Plato’s, believed his teacher made up Atlantis to illustrate certain political ideas. Some modern writers however suggest Plato confused the date of the disaster (Bacon, 1995). 

As for the plausibility of the artificial merkaba, Ezekiel’s vision inspired a branch of ancient Jewish mysticism whose practitioners sought to take visionary journeys to Heaven. This, again, was considered very perilous (Greer, 2003). Insofar as such mediation could be considered “creating” a merkaba, the Seeker allows there is a long-standing religious basis for the belief and the potential for disaster. However, the Seeker is very skeptical that the culprits were Martians.

The relatively recent stories of the Bermuda Triangle might be the most easily refuted aspect of the question. The tales describe an area bounded by Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico where ships and planes disappear without trace or explanation from clear skies and calm seas. But one study of the Triangle’s noted mysteries found much the opposite: that ships and planes rather disappeared under less than unexplainable circumstances, often during raging storms and in some cases hundreds of miles from the Triangle (Kusche, 1995). 

It is, however, difficult to conclusively prove a thing does not exist. The Seeker will therefore close by saying the creation of the Bermuda Triangle by a wrecked merkaba may not be impossible, but it is also not very likely. 


Bacon, E. (1995). Atlantis. In Man, myth & magic: The illustrated encyclopedia of mythology, religion and the unknown (pp. 156-159). New York: Marshall Cavendish.

Greer, J.M. (2003). Ma’aseh Merkabah. In The new encyclopedia of the occult (pp. 285). St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn.

Kusche, L. (1995). The Bermuda Triangle mystery solved. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. 

Schubert, K. (2006). Gnosticism, Jewish. In New Catholic Encyclopedia (pp. 261-267). Retrieved from

Answered on 2014-08-15 13:33:00

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