A fruit fly by any other name is still a fruit fly

A good example of what South Korean educational system produces (see my previous blog) is their first astronaut, bioengineer Yi So-yeon, who was featured in this article Tuesday by The Korea Herald .  During her mission at the International Space Station she completed a number of experiments, including one that involved the assistance of 1000 fruit flies.

If I were an astronaut going up with so many flies, I’d shake the container just before lift-off to get them up in the air and lighten the load.  I heard about this trick from my next-door neighbor – a bee-keeper.  He loaded up too many hives in his truck and it went over-weight, but he beat the inspectors by banging on the side with a hammer as he drove onto the scale.

Having segued to bees, here’s a heads-up about a study done by a group of 8- to 10-year-old British school children from Blackawton Primary School.  They trained a bunch of bees to go to specific-colored and/or patterned targets by selectively rewarding them with sugar.  This experiment met the standards of the Royal Society, which published the results in this Biology Letter.  Also see these kind commentsWired Science provides a ‘dumbed-down’ version with photos, that is, an executive summary ;) here.

“We discovered that bumble-bees can use a combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from. We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before.”

-          Children from Blackawton

PS. Some folks think that drosophila melanogaster is a misnomer for this little critter that mysteriously spring up from discarded apples and the like.  “The fruit fly’s name is likely to change to Sophophora melanogaster if results of a new evolutionary analysis are accepted” according to this April 2010 bulletin from the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.  Who made them lords of the fruit fly?

  1. #1 by Eric Kvaalen on February 7, 2011 - 3:04 am

    Actually, if the bees are flying around inside the truck, their weight will still be detected by the scales. Basically they push down on the air and the air pushes down on the bottom of the compartment of the truck.

    The only way for the bees to lighten the load is if they all simultaneously act like the “Vomit Comet” airplane (used for giving people a minute or so of weightlessness) and fly in parabolas that cause no extra air pressure at the floor. This would only work for a fraction of a second, and the weight of the truck as measured by the scales would be greater than usual just before and just afterwards.

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