Flies are like little ninjas, dodging even the most skillfully wielded rolled-up magazine. Michael Dickinson, a neurobiologist at the University of Washington, wanted to know how they pull this off. He got flies to climb through a tiny tube ending at a 5-millimeter-wide stage. Over it loomed a black disc that would descend from various angles when triggered. Meanwhile, a video camera recorded the encounter at thousands of frames per second. The flies, which have a nearly 360-degree field of view, are always on guard, and within 200 milliseconds of spotting a threat, they began a series of postural adjustments in advance of, well, flying. You can’t beat that speed. So to crush flies professionally, you have to predict their moves. —Judy Dutton
From the front
If the crushing blow approaches head-on, the fly shifts its middle legs forward so it can push backward. Anticipate the backward jump by angling the swatter to arc over and then behind the fly.
Perceiving a threat coming from behind, the fly moves its middle legs backward in preparation to launch forward. To land the swat, you have to lead the fly “like a quarterback leading a receiver,” Dickinson says.
Turn that crap down! Playing your favorite music in the background may make it harder to study or acquire a new skill.
(Applied Cognitive Psychology)
Get in Shape
We could all use a little exercise. The question is, just how little? A recent study at the Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, found that everyday movements can contribute significantly to healthy heart function. So do a little more housework. Instead of sending emails to coworkers, get up and walk over to their desks. Take the stairs. Or just stand up and sit down a lot. There. You’ve worked out. —Erin Biba