Friday, 29 August 2008

The Fly's Guide To Rider Safety

Well, I bet you never thought you'd be taking riding lessons from a house fly . . .

But recent research has shown that they do exactly the . . . well, perhaps not 'exactly', the things that riders need to consider.

Part of the recent set of 5 posts about the "Z Line" on the approach to junctions discussed the idea of being ready for problems to develop - being aware of the likely problem ('hazard' or 'danger', if you prefer) and getting ready to take action.

The actions for you, of course, might be covering the brakes, or getting ready to swerve.

And it's not just at junctions - be prepared for action wherever you can predict the possibility. Approaching a blind bend you might want to get ready for it to tighten, or for a change of line to avoid surface changes, or even do an emergency stop mid-corner if necessary.

So why does a fly reinforce this 'preparedness' message?

Ever tried to swat one?

Over to BBC News!

Researchers in the US say that they have solved the mystery of why flies are so hard to swat.

They think the fly's ability to dodge being hit is due to its fast acting brain and an ability to plan ahead.

High speed, high resolution video recordings revealed the insects quickly work out where a threat is coming from and prepare an escape route.

Most people will have experienced the curiously frustrating sensation of carefully attempting to swat a fly, only to swing and miss while the intrepid insect buzzes off to safety.

But scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) say it is down to quick-fire intelligence and good planning.

They filmed a series of experiments with fruit flies and a looming swatter.

The researchers discovered that long before the fly leaps it calculates the location of the threat and comes up with an escape plan.

Flies put their bodies into pre-flight mode very rapidly - Within 100 milliseconds of spotting the swatter they can position their centre of mass in the right way so that a simple extension of their legs propels them away from any threat.

The scientists found that flies were able to put themselves into this rapid reaction position no matter whether they were grooming, feeding or simply walking.


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