Saturday, July 16, 2005

Why is it so hard to swat a fly?

Apparently, it's because flies jump as well as, well... fly. According to this LiveScience article (via GeekPress), researchers at the California Institute of Technology have been hard at work studying how flies' nerve impulses allow them to escape those incoming swats. They've determined that when flies sense the incoming objects, their brains trigger a reaction in both their wings and legs. In essence, they jump out of the way.

What with the warm weather here and the near constant door openings and closings as the kids and I traipse in and out of the house, we have plenty of flies. And they're not always easy to catch. But I thought that had more to do with the wild antics of a shrieking 3-year old armed with his bright orange flyswatter, rather than jumping nerve impulses. No fly in it's right mind would sit still when my son is on the hunt (even his big sister gets out of the way).

Anyway, what the heck are scientists doing studying the mysteries of fly brains, anyway? Believe it or not, it may help in the development of "autonomously navigating robots." Who woulda thunk?

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