Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Amazing Flying Machines

NPR interviewed Michael Dickinson about his work with fly behavior (audio and video here). According to NPR's Joe Palca, Dickinson found that these pesky little critters:

"...perform an elegant little ballet with their legs. They move their legs around to reposition their bodies so that when they do jump, they will push themselves away from the looming threat."

That ballet appears to give them a critical edge in escaping the swatter.

Dickinson says what's remarkable about this body position is how fast it happens. In less than a 10th of a second, the fly has to perceive the threat using its eyes, determine what direction it's coming from, and then make the appropriate movement with its legs so it jumps in the right direction. And all this is accomplished by a brain that's the size of a poppy seed.

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

Wow. More sophisticated, even, than aircraft designed by intelligent engineers?! Hmmmmm.



Jason Mattera of Hot Air goes undercover to mingle with the folks at a rally ostensibly supporting Mexican immigrants, including illegal aliens. The march took place at the DNC in Denver last week, and some of the sentiments expressed by the people Jason talks to are more than a little disturbing, not the least of which is the ease with which he manages to get people to go along with his faux organization, People for the Elimination of White People (PEWP, pronounced POOP). Nevertheless, you have to laugh at the guy:

You might save this video in case you ever encounter someone who says that the only thing illegal immigrants want is a chance to make their way in the world. I'm not sure that's true of quite all of them.



Just when you think our political discourse is going to rise above the mean, nasty and destructive, it slouches right back into the sewer. Unable to find anything critical to say about Sarah Palin that's anyone's business her opponents have resorted to smearing her by claiming her son is really her daughter's child, by blaming her son's mental challenges on poor prenatal care (Alan Colmes), and now by gleefully pointing out that the oldest Palin daughter is pregnant and not yet married (and Governor Palin is in favor of abstinence-only education, don't you know? Isn't the irony delicious?).

Someone for whom the labyrinths of the political mind are terra incognita might wonder what any of these allegations have to do with Sarah Palin's fitness to serve in the office she seeks, but relevance is not important. What's important is utterly destroying one's opponent and her family, if need be, so that the unthinking, uninformed masses will be dissuaded from voting for her. Unable to stand against the GOP on the field of ideas some on the left have chosen to retreat to the latrine where they find plenty of glop to lob at their foes. They're little more than adolescent political thugs hoping that if they toss enough offal in the direction of the Pailn family some of it will stick.

Thankfully, Barack Obama has dissociated himself from this, but it doesn't seem that all of his supporters are following his adjuration to leave Palin's family alone.

Then there's Don Fowler, former head of the DNC, chuckling about the fact that a hurricane was about to disrupt the Republican National Convention, and Michael Moore, delighted that a natural disaster was about to arrive on the first day of the convention and proclaiming that it was proof that "there is a God".

Neither of these men seemed to be much bothered by the fact that they were rejoicing at the prospect that thousands, maybe millions, of people stood to lose their homes and all they own in the storm. Such tragedies are not on the radar screen of these "compassionate liberals" who think only in terms of winning elections. The storm will throw a monkey wrench into the GOP convention so it a gift from God and an occasion for mirth.

It's very sad that our society has degenerated to the point where such people are rewarded with positions of power and wealth, but that's where we are. Indeed, those of a certain age will recognize that the left has had long years of practice in destroying people. Just ask Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas.

Despite the sliming of her family and the invasion of her family's privacy I'm told Mrs. Palin is undeterred and upbeat. When asked yesterday about the attacks and her response to them, she said: "Do you know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick".