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How snakes fly
Certain species of snake can glide as far as 300 feet from tree to tree. Scientists say they've figured out how — but why is the military funding the research?
 
The snake flattens itself life a ribbon, launches from the branch and parachutes down to a neighboring tree.
The snake flattens itself life a ribbon, launches from the branch and parachutes down to a neighboring tree.
Screen shot

The video: Certain species of snake found in Southeast Asia, India, and China appear to be able to fly through the air from tree to tree. The snakes don't actually propel themselves through the air, but they can glide for hundreds of feet. This miracle of nature was not truly explained until recently, when a team of scientists at Virginia Tech studied how the snakes move in the air to determine how they do it. It turns out the snakes twist their ribs and flatten their bodies in mid-air so that they are tilted up by about 25 degrees, with their heads above their tails. This makes the airflow rush up the snake, allowing it to slow its descent and glide through the air. Virginia Tech's research has been funded by the Defense Department, which could use the work in aerodynamics in its design of military technologies.
The reaction: "Forget military dolphins with 'toxic dart guns,'" says Erin Valois at the National Post. The U.S. Department of Defense clearly has "a new trick up its sleeve, and it involves flying snakes." Could this be a "new strategy in guerrilla warfare"? Actually, "despite inspiring terrifying thoughts of hordes of flying snakes," says Hanna Jones at Time, the real purpose of this research is to help the U.S. build more effective airplanes. "But we won't be holding our breath for Snake Airways just yet." See a snake in flight:

 

 

 

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