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Science

Flies See the World In Slo-Mo, Say Researchers 176

Posted by timothy
from the sure-passes-quickly-as-the-decades-pass dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'The smaller an animal is, and the faster its metabolic rate, the slower time passes for it, scientists found. This means that across a wide range of species, time perception is directly related to size, with animals smaller than us seeing the world in slow motion.' No wonder it took so long to grow up!" Here's the original paper.
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Flies See the World In Slo-Mo, Say Researchers

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  • Makes complete sense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:06PM (#44873831)

    I remember as a kid watching a sparrow fly through a chain link fence and thinking that kind of reaction time was impossible. Plus, when you look at the reaction time of smaller animals to a perceived threat (you trying to sneak up on one), we can't come close at our size.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:08PM (#44873861) Homepage Journal

    This isn't exactly news. The speed at which they sample the world leads to time perception difference. Big surprise that when compared to our sampling speed it seems 'slow' but really it just means they sample faster -- their time perception of the passage of time is of HIGHER fidelity/resolution than ours is all this really means.

    you left out why I think they made the assumption. it's not just sampling rate, it's the possible sampling rate: less distance to travel in the brain since the brain is smaller..

  • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:29PM (#44875011)
    You joke, but I really think there is something to this.

    When I was in first or second grade (1970s), the U.S. was in the middle of its metric conversion program. We were taught the size of a cm vs an inch, the weight of a gram vs. an ounce, etc. I came up with some equivalencies on my own to help me remember everything. A cm was about the width of my thumb at the time. An inch was the length of of my folded middle finger. A foot was about the length of of my fist to my elbow... (Obviously none of these work anymore because I was a lot smaller back then.)

    Then we got to time. How long is a second? I tried counting "one one-thousand, two one-thousand" in my head like my teacher had suggested. It was too fast. I eventually came up with a "one (pause) and a two (pause) and a..." chant which (for me) accurately measured out each second.

    I'm in my 40s now and if I try my old timing chant, it's too slow. Each second I count takes nearly 2 seconds real-time. The "one one-thousand, two one-thousand" mnemonic now works for me. This also matches my memories of staring at the second hand on the clock in class, waiting for the time to pass so school would end. I watch a clock (with a second hand) today and it seems to move almost twice as fast as I remember it moving back then.

    My timing hasn't changed. I started playing piano in second grade. When I listen to old tape recordings of songs I still play, my tempo hasn't changed. The only explanation I can come up with is that my verbal and visual processing has slowed down with age. My piano playing has had the tempo reinforced every time I hear a recording of a piece, so it gradually (to my brain) sped up over the years to keep pace with my slower processing.
  • by amaurea (2900163) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @05:09PM (#44877669) Homepage

    I skimmed through the paper itself, and it seems like flies are only mentioned in passing. The paper mainly concerns itself with vertebrates, and their new result is that they have tested the hypothesis that smallness of body and high metabolism correlate with the flicker fusion frequency of the visual system, i.e. how fast a light has to flash before the flashing becomes invisible. They find the hypothesis to hold (like your teacher suspected).

    The fact that flies have a very high flicker fusion frequency (270 Hz vs. 60 for humans under ideal lighting), has, however, been known for a long time, and is not a new result from this paper. In fact, houseflies have 2.5 times higher flicker fusion frequency than even the smallest and most active vertebrates tested in this study (actually, looking at their graphs, it seems like the housefly would be a huge outlier if they had included it).

    The flicker fusion frequency is related to, but not the same thing, as how often an image needs to change in order to be percieved as motion. This difference is why 50-60 Hz CRT screens are annoyingly flashy to many, while 25 fps movies look fine. In the latter case, each image only changes slightly.

    For a fly, watching a 25 fps movie would probably be similar to watching an 8 fps movie for a human.

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