Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Community News Network

March 10, 2014

Researchers tackle mystery of how some snakes can fly

(Continued)

As a biomechanist, Socha works at the intersection of biology and physics, studying flying snakes for almost 20 years. He noticed that so much was known about how birds fly, but so little work had been done on serpent flight despite the creature first being recognized in the late 1800s.

"Most of the early writing was natural history-type notes, where some British scientist in Southeast Asia happens to see one go through his tea garden," Socha said. "'I tried to whack it with a stick and missed it!'"

The glide starts with a small jump, after which the snake extends itself out to full-body length. It gains speed as it sharply drops; then mid-flight, its ribs splay apart and cause the normally circular body to flatten. It makes an S-shape and starts to undulate. Eventually, the flight path becomes more horizontal as it glides forward.

In earlier experiments, Socha filmed snakes diving off tree branches using multiple cameras positioned at different angles in order to capture an accurate description of their geometry during flight. Using that data, he created an idealized 3-D model of the snake's flattened body, which formed the basis for Barba's computer simulations and his physical fluid-flow model.

"These shapes are very efficient at generating lift when they are positioned at high angles of attack," Barba said, referring to the angle of the flat surface with respect to the body's trajectory in the air. "Normally, an airplane wing operates at very low angles."

Socha has found that serpents tend to maintain angles of attack of about 20 to 40 degrees. Also, some portions of the snake's body are perpendicular to the trajectory they are moving in, so they become like little sections of a wing. They hit the wind sideways, allowing for more lift.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014