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Discovery Magazine 11/1/2007

Who Makes the World’s Best Fliers?

For more than seven years, a team of scientists from Harvard University has been studying flies, attempting to build a life-size, flying robot that can mimic the flight of living flies. The government is hopeful that robotic flies might one day be used as spies in secret missions, as well as to detect toxic chemicals used by terrorists. On July 19, 2007, it was announced that the “robotic fly has taken flight.” One scientist called this robotic flying insect “a major breakthrough.”

What do brilliant scientists have to show for their seven years of research on flies? What was the “major breakthrough”? Why are scientists so excited? Because the life-size robotic fly took off. It cannot maneuver in the air. It cannot be controlled. It cannot avoid obstacles. It cannot slow down and land on a specific target. It does not have its own power source (and even if it did, it could provide no more than five minutes of power to fly). The robotic fly “is limited by a tether that keeps it moving in a straight, upward direction.” Yet, since “a lot of people thought it would never be able to take off,” such a feat is considered remarkable.

Admittedly, scientists have done a splendid job building a life-size robotic fly that can move upward on something like a string by flapping its man-made wings. It takes extremely intelligent individuals to make a tiny robot that resembles and mimics (to some degree) living flies. Yet, some of these same scientists believe that real flies, which have “long puzzled scientists and bedazzled engineers” with their “magical,” “intricate maneuvers,” are the end result of mindless time and chance (evolution). Such a thought does not make sense!

Were researchers to leave hundreds of tiny parts lying around in a lab for 100 years (or one billion years!), no reasonable person would conclude that, eventually, time and chance would assemble a robotic fly, much less one that moves as well as a real fly. It has taken clever, hardworking scientists more than seven years just to make a robotic fly lift off the ground.

Who made the often imitated, but never duplicated, living fly that far surpasses the abilities of any robotic fly? Who designed the fly’s sesame-seed-size brain and its complicated flight dynamics that scientists have been unable to figure out fully even after several years of study? God, not nature, makes the world’s best fliers. Jehovah is the builder and maker of all things (Hebrews 3:4).



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