he 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:
- The secrets of happy families
- 4 secret societies you probably don't know about
- How to stick it to the poor: A congressional strategy
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- Did God have a wife?
- Why Republicans shouldn't get too excited over Obama's stumbles
- Why Newt Gingrich is getting flak for defending Nelson Mandela
- Will John Kerry's foreign policy successes undercut Hillary Clinton?
- Cue scary music: Cockroaches that can survive New York winters reach the U.S.
- The emerging budget deal is a small victory for Republicans
Subscribe to the Week