1932

Abstract

Why do animals move the way they do? Bacteria, insects, birds, and fish share with us the necessity to move so as to live. Although each organism follows its own evolutionary course, it also obeys a set of common laws. At the very least, the movement of animals, like that of planets, is governed by Newton's law: All things fall. On Earth, most things fall in air or water, and their motions are thus subject to the laws of hydrodynamics. Through trial and error, animals have found ways to interact with fluid so they can float, drift, swim, sail, glide, soar, and fly. This elementary struggle to escape the fate of falling shapes the development of motors, sensors, and mind. Perhaps we can deduce parts of their neural computations by understanding what animals must do so as not to fall. Here I discuss recent developments along this line of inquiry in the case of insect flight. Asking how often a fly must sense its orientation in order to balance in air has shed new light on the role of motor neurons and steering muscles responsible for flight stability.

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2016-03-10
2024-04-22
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Supplemental Material

    A model fly hovers briefly and succumbs to pitching instability. This is an example of flight instability with feedback control (1; also see Section 2).

    With a time-delayed discrete feedback control scheme, the model fly can hover stably (1; also see Section 3.4).

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