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Flies That Do Calculus With Their Wings 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the show-your-work dept.
DudeTheMath (522264) writes "Cornell University scientists studied how fruit flies respond to flight disturbances (instead of wind gusts, they used carefully controlled magnetic pulses) and found that the flies recover in as little as three wing beats (at 250 per second) by doing some kind of calculus in a little 'integrated circuit' of neurons that control the wings directly. The pitch and yaw results are already published, and the roll study is forthcoming."
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Flies That Do Calculus With Their Wings

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  • Re:Calculus? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arth1 (260657) on Friday March 21, 2014 @07:12AM (#46542083) Homepage Journal

    Indeed. This is more like the smart bomb sights or artillery computers from WWII. Analogue all the way, and because of that, incredibly fast.

    A dog catching a hubcap-like plastic object is a more complex operation, and the brain is involved, running an evolved trajectory program that isn't very fast, nor very accurate, and tends to freeze when run in parallel. But it's fast enough and accurate enough that the dog catches the thing most of the time.
    Presumably, some far distant ancestor caught falling fruit or jumping fish, or catching tidbits flying from your parents ferocious eating, and the ability to just do slightly better than your peers meant greater chance of survival for you and your offspring.
    These days, the genes might be favored again, because we like dogs to play with us.

    Well, that's how it works outside Oklahoma and Alabama, anyhow.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.