Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Michael Dickinson: How a fly flies

An insect's ability to fly is perhaps one of the greatest feats of evolution. Michael Dickinson looks at how a common housefly takes flight with such delicate wings, thanks to a clever flapping motion and flight muscles that are both powerful and nimble. But the secret ingredient: the incredible fly brain. (Filmed at TEDxCaltech.)

Why you should listen to him:     

Some things are so commonplace that they barely register our attention. Michael Dickinson has dedicated much of his research to one such thing -- the flight of the fly. Dickinson aims to understand how a fly's nervous system allows it to accomplish such incredible aerodynamic feats. Affectionately dubbed the "Fly Guy" by The Scientist, Dickinson's research brings together zoology, neuroscience and fluid mechanics.

Dickinson was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2001. He is now a professor of biology at the University of Washington, where he heads The Dickinson Lab. The lab conducts research into insect flight control, animal brain recordings, animal/robot interactions and animal visual navigation and welcomes students with an interest in studying insect flight, behavior and evolution from an interdisciplinary approach perspective.

"While fleeing a rolled-up newspaper, the [fly] can change course in as little as 30 thousandths of a second. Now Prof Michael Dickinson ..., who has spent two decades studying flies, announces that their ability to escape is all down to quick thinking." - The Telegraph

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