Jul 12 2010
July 12, 2010:
The other day a Buick-sized fly buzzed around the room and banged against my office window. They always show up when the loading dock door stays open for a long delivery.
I don’t know why we get such enormous house flies but after they wander indoors they get lost in the dark hallways and fly up to the light. Eventually they make it to my office.
I try to swat them and fail. Am I uncoordinated?
No. Flies are masters at avoiding swats.
Back in 2008 researchers at Caltech used high speed, high definition video to record the movements of fruit flies to see how they avoided a swat threat. Amazingly, the flies positioned themselves for escape within 100 milliseconds of noticing the approaching swatter. It didn’t matter if they were eating, resting or walking, they shifted their weight and were ready to escape with a mere flex of their legs.
The researchers concluded that fruit flies have fast-acting brains and the ability to plan ahead. Who knew! Flies plan ahead!
So how to swat one? According to Michael Dickson of Caltech, we should creep up on it slowly because it doesn’t register slow movement, then “aim a bit forward of its location and try and anticipate where the fly will jump when it first sees your swatter.”
In other words, we’re supposed to plan ahead of the fly. 😉
(photo of a house fly by Alvesgaspar from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original.)