Hugh Pickens writes: "For a creature with a brain hardly deserving of the name, the fly is a marvel of calculating ability. A team led by Michael Dickinson of the California Institute of Technology, have learned how the fly brain calculates the location of the looming swatter, formulates an escape plan and plants its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way all within about 100 milliseconds of spotting the swatter. Using high-resolution, high-speed imaging of flies in action, the scientists report that the fly, with 360-degree field of view that can see behind itself, begins a series of postural adjustments approximately 200 ms before takeoff that determine the direction of the fly's escape. "When the fly makes planning movements prior to takeoff, it takes into account its body position at the time it first sees the threat," says Dickinson. "The fly somehow 'knows' whether it needs to make large or small postural changes to reach the correct preflight posture." The bottom line: the best way to swat a fly is "not to swat at the fly's starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter.""
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