Q. Why is it so hard to swat a housefly? A. It sees you coming in slow motion

New research claims that for some animals, such as a fly and a dog, time moves at a slower rate

Trying to swat a fly is like trying to shoot Keanu Reeves in The Matrix because time appears to move more slowly in the minds of smaller animals, a new study has claimed.

The ultra-nimble fly is capable of processing nearly seven times as much  information in a second as a human. This means a rolled-up piece of  newspaper that is moving so fast that it appears as a blur to our eyes is, to the fly, more like the slow-motion bullets that are easily dodged by Neo, Reeves’ character in The Matrix.

A paper published in Animal Behaviour journal today found the perception of time was linked to the size of an animal’s body and metabolic rate. 

But it can also change depending on the circumstances: time appears to slow down during stressful situations like a car crash because in an attempt to avoid disaster, the brain increases the amount of information it is taking in.

Dogs are able to process information at twice the rate of humans and so tend not to be interested in television. All they see is a flickering image, as if a projector had broken and the film slowed.

The scientists used the point at which a flickering light appears as a solid beam as a way to examine how different animals perceive time.

Houseflies can see a light flickering at a rate nearly seven times faster than we can. “That’s because they are  getting much more information per second through their visual system…  so that second feels longer,” one of the researchers, Dr Luke McNally, of Edinburgh University, said. “These animals are perceiving the world in a very, very different way.”

This explains why flies seem so hard to hit. “[For the fly] it feels like you are moving so slowly towards them. It’s the same as the famous bullet-time scene where the bullets are moving at this incredibly slow rate as far as Keanu is concerned,” Dr McNally said.

At the other end of the scale, time rushes by for the slow-moving leatherback turtle because it gets  only about a third of the amount of information that humans do in a second. “This perception of time co-evolved with how fast you can move, how fast your metabolism is and how small you are,” Dr McNally said. “There’s very little point in gaining all this information if you cannot react to it.”

However, there is at least one animal whose perception of time is at odds with its physical characteristics.

“Tiger beetles can run faster than their eyes can keep up,” Dr McNally said. “They run towards their prey, then they have to stop, and then sprint again and hope they’ll hit into it.”

Dr Andrew Jackson, from Trinity College Dublin, who led the study, said the effect may also account for the way time seems to speed up as we get older: “It’s tempting to think that for children time moves more slowly than it does for grown ups, and there is some  evidence that it might.”

News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

Calypso Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis