Offensive strategies

You can tell it’s still the silly season for news, when items about the science of fly swatting hit the front pages of broadsheet newspapers.

At first glance, it seems a trivial story. On second thoughts, it occurred to me that this might give an insight into strategies for dealing with irritating fraudsters or hackers. So I took a closer look.

This is serious research by a top Caltech Professor, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The paper “Visually Mediated Motor Planning in the Escape Response of Drosophila” will be published August 28 in the journal Current Biology.

Professor Michael Dickinson used high-resolution, high-speed digital imaging of fruit flies faced with a looming swatter to study how flies avoid swatters. He seems to have concluded that flies see you coming and move out of the way. And he concludes that the best method for swatting a fly is to wait for it to land, approach it from behind and aim a bit forward of where you anticipate the fly is going to jump.

As Basil Fawlty put it: “Can’t we get you on Mastermind…specialist subject: stating the bleeding obvious…”