Monday, February 17, 2014

House Flies

At one time, back in the late 1970s, the study of houseflies was big business in academia.  The reasoning was that the state-of-the-art computers that could fit in the head of a missile had computing power that was comparable to the brain of a housefly.  Houseflies are masters of finding food and evading flyswatters.   Why not reverse engineer a fly's cognitive processes and program those algorithms into the missile's controller?


Have you ever been in the gazebo in the middle of a summer afternoon, stupified by the heat and food?  Your glazed eyes look upward at the buzzing and you observe flies circling overhead. 

But they are not quite circling.  They look like they are flying in a straight line for 10-to-15 inches and then  make a sharp turn of about 90 degrees, flies another 10-to-15 inches...and endlessly repeats.

A fly's eyes are too close for "binocular vision".  The fly is able to mimic a very large pupillary distance by flying short, jagged flight segments.  This is similar to Synthetic Aperture Radar.  The fly is using both sight and smell to calculate direction and distance to the most promising food sources.

The military investigated programming newly launched missiles to cork-screw upon launch.  Accelerometers provided data that was integrated to calculate the missile's velocity and position.  That information was combined with the information from the DVT camera in the nose of the missile and used to calculate the targets velocity and distance.  Just like the fly.

Hazard avoidance

Flies are the fair devil to swat.  There is a secret to killing them. Clap your hands together. While incredibly efficient when the threat is coming from only one direction, the fly algorithm thrashes and locks up when faced with near-equal threats from more than one direction.

The rebar pushpost was from an earlier, failed attempt to keep the dogs in.

Mrs ERJ and I went for a walk the other day.  She noticed that Hercules, our German Shepherd is taking advantage of the deep snow.  That fence is not what is keeping him in the kennel.

Mrs ERJ started figuring out what it would take to keep him in.  I suggested that it might be a good thing if Herc can get out when sufficiently motivated.  It would give the bad guys a second thing to think about.

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