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News Picks : How do fruit flies maintain stable flight?

By: Physics Today
20 March 2014
New York Times: To study how fruit flies are able to recover instantaneously from air disturbances while flying, researchers at Cornell University have been using computers and tiny magnets. Itai Cohen and colleagues snipped pieces of metal bristle off a brush, glued them to the flies’ backs, and applied a magnetic pulse to disturb the insects' pitch, yaw, and roll. By carefully controlling the magnetic pulse and recording the flies’ movements with video cameras, the researchers were able to determine the complex computations performed by neurons in the flies' wings. What the researchers learn could prove useful in such fields as neuroscience and robotics.

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