Way back in 2009, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and fireflies were able to embrace humans without squishing themselves, Adam Young from Owl City released a song that would become extremely famous. Painfully famous, even. “Fireflies” peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for two non-consecutive weeks and we all heard it in malls across America for years after. (Here I will admit that I actually do find “Fireflies” to be super catchy even though it’s really just Diet Postal Service. I love the Postal Service. Moving on.) There’s a line in “Fireflies” that goes like this: “‘Cause I’d get a thousand hugs/ From 10,000 lightning bugs/ As they tried to teach me how to dance.” You can hear this lyric around the 1:08 mark:
OK, time for some math. If you receive one hug each from 10,000 lightning bugs, wouldn’t you receive 10,000 hugs? Not just “a thousand” as Young states in this lyric? I’m no expert, and neither is the Twitter user @pryce_d, who took to the internet to ask Young exactly how he calculated the number of hugs he received from those 10,000 lightning bugs. “Does each firefly hug you 1,000 times or do only 1/10th of the bugs give you a hug?” @pryce_d implored. Dee Lockett at Vulture points out that Young responded to this tweet in excruciating detail. Here’s what he said in a Facebook post, which was excerpted and shared on Twitter:
Pryce — great question. I was the recipient of 1,000 hugs from 10,000 lightning bugs for a grand total of 10,000,000 hugs. As the lyrics of the song clearly state, the average layperson would not believe their eyes if 10,000,000 fireflies were to illuminate planet Earth, nor would the average person conclude by natural instinct that 10,000 lightning bugs, acting as a collective group, are capable of embracing a human being 1,000 times without difficulty. By the same token, a gathering of lightning bugs in such vast numbers form a sort of “swarm,” and a swarm can collectively surround a human and deliver a “hug” that a single firefly, acting according to the dictates of his own conscience, simply cannot. Consequently, I was embraced 1,000 times by 10,000 luminescent insects.
This may seem inconceivable due to the firefly’s soft-shelled body, which is common among all winged beetles within the Lampyridae insect family. Members of the scientific community may be tempted to cast doubt upon the possibility of this exchange due to the immobility of the prothorax and pterothorax, in addition to the elytra protruding outward while a firefly is engaged in mid-flight. However, I can testify to the accuracy of this exchange. I can furthermore add that while each individual hug took place, each firefly participated in the chemical reaction commonly known as bioluminescence in which the enzymes within the firefly, in the presence of oxygen, magnesium ions and ATP, emitted a chemically produced light or “glow” because they were happy to be hugging me.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any further questions. Stream “Fireflies” on Apple Music and Spotify.
Young is definitely the kind of dude who bullshit his way to an A in school, and tbh, I commend him. Buy “Fireflies” on iTunes!!!!!