The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

CNHI Special Projects

March 11, 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
CNHI Special Projects
  • Electric-grid attack fuels sniper-versus-hacker threat debate

    U.S. energy regulators' efforts to harden the power grid against snipers and terrorists are fueling a debate over whether they're diverting resources from other threats, like cyber attacks.

    March 14, 2014

  • VIDEO: Oklahoma high-speed chase ends in crash

    Authorities in Oklahoma City, Okla. say a man who stole a pick-up truck led police on a high-speed chase reaching nearly 120 miles per hour before crashing into a mini-van and two other vehicles.

    March 14, 2014

  • Screen shot 2014-03-14 at 12.39.21 PM.png Spring Madness: 3 apps to help manage your schedule

    Spring is imminent, and as you welcome the warmer weather, it's time to start thinking about home maintenance, school events and everything else you put off during the winter. These three apps will help you manage your schedule, no matter your organization style.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140309-AMX-SNAKES094.jpg Researchers tackle mystery of how some snakes can fly

    Flying snakes sound like creatures from a bad B-movie, but these serpents are elegant gliders that have evolved a special skill that sets them apart. In two new studies, engineers have used simulations to try to decipher how the wingless reptile manages to remain airborne despite its lack of flight appendages.

    March 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • ERIC-HOLDER.jpg Holder: Heroin deaths an 'urgent and growing public health crisis'

    Attorney General Eric Holder, calling the rise in deaths from overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers an "urgent and growing public health crisis," is outlining a series of efforts by the Justice Department to combat the epidemic.

    March 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • plane-skydiver.jpg VIDEO: Skydiver, pilot treated after midair collision

    A pilot practicing take-offs and landings got tangled up with a skydiver in Polk County, Fla., but amazingly, no one was seriously hurt.

    March 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • missing-plane.jpg In this tech age, how can a plane go missing?

    Call 911 from the side of the road, and GPS satellites can tell dispatchers exactly where to send help. Airline passengers have access to detailed maps that show exactly where they are during their journey. Hop onto WiFi, and somehow Google knows whether you're logging on from Lima or London, and will give you detailed suggestions about what to eat.

    March 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2014-03-07 at 10.45.45 AM.png VIDEO: Penguin sweaters save birds trapped in oil spills

    A wildlife group in Australia is inviting volunteers to knit sweaters for the penguin population it conserves, because it says the sweaters can actually save the lives of birds caught in oil spills.

    March 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Most deadly fraternity scraps initiation for new members

    Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest U.S. fraternities and the deadliest, said Friday it will ban the initiation of recruits, citing the toll that hazing has taken on its newest members.

    March 10, 2014

  • VIDEO: Michigan woman's death, mummified body hidden by auto-pay for six years

    The mummified body of a Michigan woman was discovered in the backseat of her car approximately six years after her death. The body was only found after the bank that foreclosed on the home ordered work on the property.

    March 10, 2014

Front page
Clinton Herald Photos


Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.

Poll

What are your plans for the weekend?

Enjoying the outdoors
Staying in out of the heat
Traveling
Other
     View Results
AP Video
Olympics 2014
Featured Comment
Featured Ads
Blue Zones Project
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.