Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Another Reason Flies Are Faster than You - Science

Although fly ethology doesn't exactly tickle the Rockhouse cockles all that much, the ingenuity in their evolution is remarkable.

The Ormia ochracea is a small, yellow parasitic fly with an amazing sense of directional hearing that's second to none in the animal kingdom.

Credit: Ken Jones

"These flies have highly specialized ears that provide the most acute directional hearing of any animal," says Andrew Mason, a professor of biology at U of T Scarborough. "The mechanism that makes their hearing so exceptional has even led to a range of bio-inspired technology, like the mini directional microphones used in hearing aids."

Science Daily:  This fly's incredible hearing is a curiosity to those developing better hearing aids

The engineering is brilliant and unique.

Ormia is a small, yellow, nocturnal fly native to the southern United States and Mexico. The female uses its exceptional hearing to locate the songs of male crickets, where it deposits its larvae. The larvae then burrow inside the cricket, eating it alive in the process.

While that is pretty extraordinary in itself, what makes the fly truly remarkable is its mechanically-coupled ears. Unlike most animals that have two separate ears, both of Ormia's eardrums are connected together, kind of like a seesaw with a rigid joint in the middle that can bend. When one of eardrums vibrates from a sound wave it pushes the other, and the tiny time difference it takes to activate one ear drum allows the fly to figure out which direction the sound is coming from.

- SD

The audience on this one could be people from musicians to acousticians to anyone with an interest in precise sound.  This dinky li'l bug has hearing unmatched by anything else and that trick in connecting the ears to permit accurate detection of direction is astounding.  Many times we hear something and we have an idea where it originated but we're not sure.  This tiny bug know.

Note:  parallel aspect we won't dive just now but the technology has application, along with its concomitant problems, for robos.

If you're thinking, man, all I need is a Marshall amp and there will be flies dropping faster than if I sprayed the room with bug killer ... in fact, it may be true since distracting noise does not compute for them.

In a series of lab tests they found that when a distracting noise was introduced to one side of the fly, it diverted it away from the cricket sound it should be interested in. They found that since the fly's hearing is extremely directionally sensitive, and because of its mechanically coupled hearing system, a noise placed at one side obscures the signal in one ear.

- SD

That last is a singular problem for using the coupled-hearing trick for hearing aids since the mechanism isn't capable of masking distracting sounds.  It uses the acoustic version of every sperm is sacred and the bug gets confused if there's too much sound at once.

Masking distracting sounds is vitally important in hearing aids since the inability to differentiate one sound from any other becomes increasingly difficult with hearing loss.  In effect, that gets to the same problem as for the bug but in a different way.

The depth of the research just impresses the hell out of the Rockhouse since who conceives a reason to test the hearing of some bug and who comes up with the idea to apply the knowledge to technology for better hearings.  These people don't think outside of boxes; they have never even heard of such boxes.

Exceptional insight and the Rockhouse loves that it came from some lowly bug.

No comments: