Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nature 3, Man 0: Fruit Flies


Recent experiments have revealed that when perturbed in flight, a fruit fly can recover its heading to within 2 degrees in less than a tenth of a second. Here’s how the researchers describe the results:
Just as the Wright brothers implemented controls to achieve stable airplane flight, flying insects have evolved behavioral strategies that ensure recovery from flight disturbances.
This is yet another example of evolutionary euphemism. Recovery from flight disturbances is a complex, fine-tuned capability integrating sensors, algorithms and actuators. Not the stuff of random mutations. So the evolutionary euphemism compares it with the Wright brothers and their flying machines. -- Cornelius Hunter
Regular readers of the Ball Bounces will know that I am an avid fan of the Wright brothers and how they solved the problem of flight by focusing on the problem of control rather than thrust. What has taken the best, creative, wilful minds of man to accomplish, blind, dead, dumb, nature did without even trying -- and embedded its technology in an object the size of a, er, fruit fly.

I'm scoring this one for nature.

Score is now Nature 3, Man 0.

(To read all the articles in this series, select the Nature vs. Man keyword on the left side of the blog).
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. I'm not so sure that's a win for nature. How long does it take a moth to regain it's aim of beating it's brains out on a light bulb after it ricochets off it's surface? A tenth of a second?
How do you determine a fruit flys heading?
Paging Davy of many Mansions and a dwindling hope of enviromental disaster relief funds. I understand he did his best work by dying them different colours.

Joe said...

As an old glider guider it always amazed me to watch birds soar. My little glider would seemingly hurtle to earth as I frantically searched for a thermal or wave that would cause the little green bead to pop up and show me that I was going up and not down. As I frantically searched I would look out the canopy and maybe watch a hawk or eagle float silently and effortlessly upward without the aid of technology or little green beads.

RkBall said...

The Wrights got their start by being given a toy glider. They specifically observed birds, and detected the control they exerted to stay afloat. In other words, they mimicked nature.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"