Why are flies so hard to swat? Professor Michael Dickinson of Caltech, who spent two decades studying the neurobiology and biomechanics of locomotion in the annoying bugs (for real!) knew the answer:
He took high-speed digital video of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) when faced with a swatter, revealing how the creature's pinpoint sized brain is hard wired to turn the looming shadow into an appropriate pattern of leg and body motion to prime it for a speedy getaway.
Long before the fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat, comes up with an escape plan, and plonks its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way in the opposite direction.
All of this is executed within about 100 thousandths of a second after the fly first spots the swatter, says the study in the journal Current Biology with graduate student Gwyneth Card.
Prof Dickinson also revealed the scientific way to improve your success rate in swatting flies. The video clip of the fly avoiding the swatter is strangely mesmerizing: Link (the clip automatically started in my browser, be forewarned)