Michael Dickinson - Quotes

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A fly with a brain the size of a salt grain has the behavioral repertoire nearly as complex as a much larger animal such as a mouse. That's a super-interesting problem from an engineering perspective. ---->>>

Only flies have true halteres. In fact, the scientific term for flies, 'diptera,' means 'two wings.' Most insects, including bees, have two pairs of wings for a total of four. In flies, the hindwing pairs have been transformed through evolution into the halteres. ---->>>

The genus Drosophila is one of the great success stories. There's hundreds of species within the genus. They're on every continent except Antarctica, they're in tropical rain forests, they're in deserts, they've evolved many exotic mating behaviors, and they're capable of incredibly long-distance flights. ---->>>

When it first notices an approaching threat, a fly's body might be in any sort of posture depending on what it was doing at the time, like grooming, feeding, walking, or courting. Our experiments showed that the fly somehow 'knows' whether it needs to make large or small postural changes to reach the correct preflight posture. ---->>>

Although finding fruit flies in your wine or beer can be a bit annoying, I hope people will pause to admire the tenacity of these clever little creatures. They are really just hungry animals looking for something to eat, and have no intention of ruining your happy hour. ---->>>

Fly flight is just a great phenomenon to study. It has everything - from the most sophisticated sensory biology; really, really interesting physics; really interesting muscle physiology; really interesting neural computations. ---->>>

If you watch a fly on, say, a coffee table, you'll see that they're rubbing their little legs together to groom themselves; they're actually quite clean creatures. ---->>>

If flies are a great model, they're a great model for flies. These animals, you know, they're not like us. We don't fly. We don't have a compound eye. I don't think we process sensory information the same way. The muscles that they use are just incredibly much more sophisticated and interesting than the muscles we use. ---->>>

It is difficult, but intriguing, to imagine seeing the world as a fly might. First, flies don't have nearly the same visual resolution that we do... so you have to imagine a fuzzier image. Second, fly eyes are faster than our own and are very sensitive to motion. ---->>>

When you see a fly flitting around your hair or your potato salad, you might see an annoyance. But in my lab, you really see a marvelous machine: arguably the most sophisticated flying device on the planet. ---->>>

I'm obsessed with insects, particularly insect flight. I think the evolution of insect flight is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of life. Without insects, there'd be no flowering plants. Without flowering plants, there would be no clever, fruit-eating primates giving TED Talks. ---->>>

For many years in my laboratory and other laboratories around the world, we've been studying fly behaviors in little flight simulators. You can tether a fly to a little stick. You can measure the aerodynamic forces it's creating. You can let the fly play a little video game by letting it fly around in a visual display. ---->>>

We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, which is faster than we ever imagined. ---->>>

I grew up watching 'Star Trek.' I love 'Star Trek.' 'Star Trek' made me want to see alien creatures, creatures from a far-distant world. But basically, I figured out that I could find those alien creatures right on Earth. And what I do is I study insects. ---->>>

It is best not to swat at the fly's starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter. ---->>>

Like many insects, flies are most sensitive to green light. This means that they would see their world as 'black and white,' in that they can't see the multiple colors required to reconstruct a color image of the world. They do, however, have specialized cells that enable them to see ultraviolet wavelengths. ---->>>

The robotic fly that we actually make the most use of in our laboratory is actually not a small thing, it's a giant thing. It has about a meter wing span, and it flaps in three metric tons of mineral oil. And it is a so-called dynamically scaled fly. ---->>>

Although their maneuverability is limited, blind flies can fly remarkably well. ---->>>

One of the fastest things a fruit fly does is take information from its eyes and react accordingly. ---->>>

The fruit flies we work with have the equivalent of about a 25 by 25 pixel camera. But that camera is very, very fast, about 10 times faster than the human visual system. ---->>>

There's so many mysteries related to how flies are able to make their way through the world. I'd certainly like to know a lot more about how their brain works. I'd certainly like to know a lot more about just how they're put together. I mean, these animals are basically, topologically, spheres. They don't have bones as we do, of course. ---->>>


Nationality: American
Born: 06-21, 1963
Occupation: Scientist