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Fruit fly research, maligned by Sarah Palin, bears fruit

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Remember when Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin dissed research on fruit flies? Well, the little buggers—a favorite of scientists who like studying their genome and the bane of kitchens everywhere—are back in the spotlight, this time with news that technology could one day spot olives spoiled by the flies.

Olive processors typically look for fruit fly damage by hand. But U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers testing an x-ray sorting device found that it detected undamaged olives 90 percent of the time and ruined ones 86 percent of the time, according to the agency's Agricultural Research magazine.

Since the machine uses film x-rays, it isn’t ready for prime time. But a device that utilized digital x-rays could analyze olive imagery in hundredths of a second, according to the magazine.

Take a bite out of that!

Image of Mexican fruit fly/USDA via Wikimedia Commons

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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