Tag: fruit fly

Boffins uses lasers to make fruit flies moonwalk

Boffins from the Vienna University of Technology and US researchers have hatched out a plan to control fruit flies with lasers.

We are not sure of what inspired someone from a university to think “the world would be a better place if we could control fruit flies” and then to think “what would happen if I fried the beggars with a laser”.

According to RedOrbit, after taking that initial inspiration, that same boffin convinced his chums at the Information Management and Preservation Lab within the Department of Software Technology and Interactive Systems at VUT to develop something called FlyMAD (Fly Mind Altering Device) which targets either light or heat to a specific body region of a fly that is in motion, triggering a response.

FlyMAD has allowed the boffins to zero in on two specific neuronal cell types that deal with courtship behaviour of the fruit fly. So when a male fly is just getting his box of chocolates and floral tie ready for his first date he has his neural pathways fried with a laser and made them moonwalk. It also stuffed up their courtship song.

FlyMAD, unlike previous techniques used in this field, provides researchers with a much more highly improved temporal resolution of their subject animals.

The entire system basically consists of an enclosed box in which the flies are housed. A video camera, can track several flies at once, captures the motion of the flies. The flies are then subjected to targeted irradiation that effectively allows the researchers to alter neural pathways.

The results of this study, which could potentially yield new and further insight into the mammalian brain, was published online on May 25 in the journal Nature Methods.

Of course it is not clear when scientists will be turning their lasers onto dating humans. We will know when they start to think that moonwalking is a good way to pick up members of the opposite sex. 

Amazon listed text book for $23 million

Book sellers are trying to flog their wares using the online book seller Amazon automatically with amusing results.

The situation was revealed when Amazon listed a text book for more than $23 million.

Genetics textbook, The Making of a Fly, by Peter Lawrence, which was recently listed at the ridiculous price of $23,698,655.93.

There was nothing much about the book which meant that it should have netted such a price. It was out of print after being published 1992 and this should have upped its value, but not to the extent that it was the same cost as if it were printed on gold pages and had a solid platinum cover.

The book was discovered by UC Berkeley evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen, who went to Amazon to buy the book. Writing in his bog , he said that he found “17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91. At least it only cost $4 for shipping.

For years Amazon sellers have been working out ways to either undercut each other, or make the maximum profit. What Eisen has found is that they have automated the process.

One seller would adjust its price of The Making of the Fly to be 0.9983 times the price of the other seller, bordeebooks. In response, bordeebooks would inflate its price by 1.270589 times profnath’s price. Eventually, the two sellers’ pricing algorithms elevated the cost of the textbook to silliness.

One seller profnath set the price of its book just slightly lower than that of a competitor while bordeebook automatically made sure its listing was more expensive than any other seller. Its cunning plan might be to obtain the book cheaper elsewhere and then flog it on.

Bordeebook had better feedback than other booksellers so it was possible that a buyer might choose them and pay what should have been a slightly higher mark-up.

If someone actually orders the book, they have to get it – so they have to set their price a bit higher.

Eisen got the book for a “far more reasonable” $106.23 by getting on the phone and explaining no fly was worth all that.

Boffins can read the minds of a fruit fly

Boffins have worked out a way of reading the minds of the humble fruit fly and have made recordings of its brain when it is flying.

Ok the brain recordings of a fruit fly are not ever going to enter the the top ten but the recording was made when it was flying so it does show you how clever the boffins were.

California Institute of Technology researchers led by Professor Michael Dickinson said they used a puff of air to spur tethered fruit flies into flapping their wings while electrodes measured the activity of neurons in the flies’ visual system as high-speed digital cameras recorded their behaviour.

Dickinson said that the work suggests at least part of the brain of the fruit fly is in a different and more sensitive state during flight. Maybe a fruit fly has a fear of flying and is just saying ohshitohshitohshit.

Boffins have recorded the neural-cell activity of fruit flies before, but only when the fly was glued down.In this experiment the insect was tied but free to flap its wings.

According to a paper describing the research appears in the early online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, which we get for the spot the brain cell competition, Dickson sliced off a patch of the hard cuticle covering the brain, “we were able to target our electrodes onto genetically marked neurons”.

Funny, a bloke I went to school with did that to flies. He was later sectioned under the mental health act. What he should have done was become an MIT boffin.