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:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- Why insects are the future of food
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
Subscribe to the Week