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Guys could learn a lot from male fruit flies

Over the years I have been harshly critical of the scientific community for wasting time researching things nobody cares about, such as the universe. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of reading newspaper stories like this:

"Using a giant telescope, astronomers at the prestigious Crudwinkle Observatory have observed a teensy light smudge that they say is a humongous galaxy cluster 17 jillion light years away, which would make it the farthest-away thing that astronomers have discovered this week. However, astronomers at the rival Fendleman Observatory charged that what the Crudwinkle scientists discovered is actually mayonnaise on the lens. Both groups of astronomers say they plan to use these new findings to obtain even larger telescopes."

With all due respect to astronomers: We don't NEED to find any more stuff in the universe. We already have more stuff than we could ever use, right here in our garages. We need the scientific community to focus on a topic that is of far greater importance, yet remains a baffling mystery to humanity, or at least guys: sex.

Guys think about sex a LOT. You know the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, where the guys in the boat have facial expressions of grim resolve as they approach a battle that will determine their fates and the fate of the revolution? Those guys are thinking: "Maybe there will be women in New Jersey."

But despite several million years of thinking virtually nonstop about sex, guys have made very little progress toward answering such basic questions about human sexuality as: How can you obtain more of it? How much talking is required? What is the role of jewelry? How important is the size of a guy's, um, car?

For guys, these are uncharted waters. That's why I am so pleased by a recent Reuters article, sent to me by alert reader Jorge Gomez, concerning research being done by scientists at Stanford University into the sex life of fruit flies. This research is significant because fruit flies have many biological similarities to humans. For example, both species eat fruit. The list goes on and on.

According to this article, when a male fruit fly wants to have sex with a female fruit fly, he goes through a series of specific steps, the first one being to pound down approximately eight martinis.

No, wait, that's what a human guy would do if he were going to attempt to mate with a female who had six legs and 17,000 eyeballs, which trust me is not out of the question for some guys, and you know who you are. What male fruit flies do is engage in a courtship ritual, which according to the Reuters article includes "tapping the female, extending and vibrating a wing and singing." (The article doesn't say what they sing, but I assume it's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," by the late Barry White.)

The Stanford scientists found that these ritual mating actions are controlled by a sector of the fly's brain consisting of 60 cells — about twice the number of brain cells required to cast a vote on "American Idol." According to the article, when scientists mess up these cells, the male flies rush through the mating steps — "essentially try to do everything at once" — which causes the females to become turned off and develop little fly headaches.

This, of course, is exactly the mistake that male humans make: We're always trying to rush through the mating steps. Stand next to any construction site, and when an attractive woman walks past, you'll hear guy construction workers suggesting that she go directly to, like, Step 74. This approach NEVER works. Construction workers have been trying it since they built the pyramids, and not once in all that time has a woman ever said: "That's a great idea! Let's have carnal relations right now on this pile of dirt!"

And yet guys keep trying. Why? Because we're dumber than fruit flies. Fruit flies at least have some clue what their mating ritual is supposed to consist of, whereas human guys get most of their information from letters written by imaginary people to Penthouse magazine.

That's why we need scientists to determine exactly what steps are required for successful human mating. And I don't mean some vague psychobabble about "listening" or being "sensitive." I mean specific written instructions that we guys can understand, like "caress the target region in a clockwise pattern, applying 1.8 foot-pounds of torque." Wouldn't that be great?

No, because we guys don't read directions. So I guess we're stuck with blundering around, learning what "turns women on" through trial and error.

Tonight, I will vibrate my wings.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132.