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Flying Snake Physics

January 30, 2014

Flying snakes flatten their bodies to make themselves more aerodynamic.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The secrets of flying snakes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Jake Socha)

A large snake that can leap soar through the air would inspire horror in many people. Virginia Tech biologist Jake Socha is fascinated by the Paradise Flying Snake, and has studied it for over twelve years. In the Journal of Experimental Biology, he and his colleagues report that the snake’s ability to flatten its cross section into a shape similar to the top half of a hamburger bun is key.

JAKE SOCHA (Virginia Tech):

So, if you were to compare a streamlined airplane wing at that same size and shape—the snake is actually comparable. So what we found is that snakes’ body shape can contribute quite a lot to the way it glides.

HIRSHON:

While the work is basic research, he says a possible application would be the development of a flying robotic snake.

SOCHA:

It can actually crawl though cracks, come out of a pile of rubble or a height and jump off and glide through the air, and then land effectively and then be off and running.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.