Serpent Science

An unusual breed of Asian snakes can glide long distances in the air, and the Defense Department is funding research at Virginia Tech to find out why.

“Basically . . . they become one long wing,” said John Socha, the Virginia Tech researcher who has traveled extensively in Asia to study the snakes and to film them.

“The snake is very active in the air, and you can kind of envision it as having multiple segments that become multiple wings,” he said. “The leading edge becomes the trailer, and then the trailer become the leading edge.”

It gets stranger. During a technique not yet understood, some of the snakes can actually turn in air. What’s more, they all take a flying leap off their perch to get airborne, then drop for a while to pick up speed before starting the motion that keeps them aloft much longer than they would otherwise.

Socha’s initial research was sponsored by the National Geographic Society, but his most recent work and paper were funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency is involved in advanced military technologies of all kinds, and Socha said the physical dynamics of snake flight (and how other creatures stay in the air) is of great interest to the agency. (Washington Post)

Serpent Science: DARPA Wants to Know Flying Snakes’ Secret | Popular Science

Pentagon seeks flying snakes’ secret

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

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