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Flying Snake Mysteries Revealed

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the why-your-attic-sounds-like-slithering dept.

Earth 78

Rambo Tribble writes "Researchers from Virginia Tech are reporting they have uncovered the secrets behind the genus Chrysopelea's aerodynamic feats . These ophidians are capable of gliding some distance while appearing to slither through the air. The BBC's article on the revelations hosts a short video of the phenomenon. At the heart of Chrysopelea's feat is a remarkable ability of the snakes to alter their body's cross-section. Finally, snakes that don't need to be on no stinking plane." The paper [PDF] has some more cool pictures, too.

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78 comments

I have HAD it... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112397)

...with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane!!

Re:I have HAD it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112477)

detachable penis.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#46113993)

... with these "new" discoveries that really aren't.

I learned about how the snakes create an aerodynamic profile of their bodies over 10 years ago.

Nothing new here folks. Move along now.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#46114493)

I should add:

I even saw a video about it. And 10 years is a minimum figure... I really think it's closer to 20, but I don't remember for sure.

I quite literally see nothing new here. It's like the researchers did not even look at prior research before deciding to study this.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

mt1955 (698912) | about 3 months ago | (#46115071)

I know what you mean in the sense that /. articles are often "olds" instead of news

However for me there are two other considerations;

It may be news to me -- and possibly others -- as is the case with this article

More importantly I usually get more insights on the topic from the discussion it generates than from the article itself

Anyway, thanks for pointing out this is actually "olds" -- good to know!

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 3 months ago | (#46117837)

To their credit, they did a significant amount of modeling and testing to see if it was enough to account for what the snakes are capable of. Unfortunately the article completely fails to grasp the actual results of the study. They found that while the shape does significantly help, they were unable to reproduce the magnitude of the snakes results and determined that there is something else that we haven't yet found. In other words, the title should have been "Flying snake mystery solution deepens".

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 3 months ago | (#46114525)

These things come in cycles, when a new generation is ready to be introduced to a whole new breed of nightmares.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#46114591)

New generations are supposed to learn things from the older generations. That means picking up a book and watching National Geographic once in a while.

The fact that they didn't do their homework is not an excuse to call this "new research". It's re-inventing the wheel, which helps nobody.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46114663)

Did that book or "National Geographic" cover quantitative modeling of the aerodynamics? Or are you talking about one of the several previous studies explicitly cited in the paper? The paper discusses how it is already known that they change their body shape, with several studies cited on the details of what such changes are observed, but the goes on to back up the significance of those changes with fluid dynamics modeling, which it only cites one previous paper for.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#46115707)

"... the goes on to back up the significance of those changes with fluid dynamics modeling, which it only cites one previous paper for."

The fluid dynamics is all fine. BUT... look at the titles of both OP and the research paper:

"Flying Snake Mysteries Revealed"

(There is no mystery. It was already known that the snake flattens its cross-section to an aerodynamic shape.)

"... how a bluff body cross-sectional shape contributes to gliding performance"

The (known) cross-section is an obvious airfoil-shape. We know basically "how" the cross-section leads to gliding performance. It may be that some actual fluid dynamics analysis has led to some better understanding of the details, but the title gives the impression that the basic aerodynamics were not already well understood.

The actual research may be new, but it is titled (and presented by OP) as though the BASICS weren't already known. The abstract does clarify it somewhat, but that doesn't change the fact that the title is misleading.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46116571)

The fluid dynamics is all fine. BUT... look at the titles of both OP and the research paper

The title of the research paper is "Aerodynamics of the flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi: how a bluff body cross-sectional shape contributes to gliding performance." That seems pretty apt.

The fact that they didn't do their homework is not an excuse to call this "new research". It's re-inventing the wheel, which helps nobody.

Seems to contradict "The actual research may be new,"...

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#46118045)

"Seems to contradict "The actual research may be new,"..."

Repeat: the title of both the paper and OP's article give the impression that this is not new research, and that the basics of the snake's aerodynamic profile were not already know.

But then, you knew I wrote that already, and were looking for something to argue with me about.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46119429)

Not the same AC, and I can't say if he has a grudge or not. But it looks like either you're either grabbing at straws or seeing something that is not there to try to blame the original authors for the typical usual bad science reporting crap. The original science article has a perfectly reasonable title and abstract (and paper...) that doesn't suggest there was nothing previously known about the topic. Their paper cites more previous studies than I typically do in papers I write on more common subjects, so it looks like they did their literature search and responded with new work, only to have bad reporting hype and misrepresent the work in the typical science news cycle. So it is no surprise people are "looking for something to argue about" as you're giving something pretty obvious to do so.

Re:I have HAD it... TOO (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#46122733)

"Not the same AC, and I can't say if he has a grudge or not. But it looks like either you're either grabbing at straws or seeing something that is not there to try to blame the original authors for the typical usual bad science reporting crap."

I am blaming them for a slightly misleading title. Nothing more.

Okay, I was wrong that this wasn't original research. BUT my basic point still holds: the title of both OP and the paper strongly suggest that it's NOT original research. And yes, that's their fault.

Paper has some cool pictures? (-1, Redundant)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 3 months ago | (#46112423)

What has /. turned into? Discovery Kids?

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (2)

gr4nf (1348501) | about 3 months ago | (#46112471)

Like it or not, pictures are still a more efficient way of communicating data than text. By an order of magnitude. Also, cool snake pictures!

ORLY? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112525)

Fuck you.

Downmod? WHOOOSH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112915)

Must have been a low-flying snake going over someone's head...

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#46112605)

hmm, no.
A photograph is an out of context snapshot of time. They need context for accuracy.
Written descriptions can be far more efficient at communicating information.

Better yet, use both.

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112935)

hmm, no.
A photograph is an out of context snapshot of time. They need context for accuracy.
Written descriptions can be far more efficient at communicating information.

Better yet, use both.

Yes, of course nobody is saying you should abandon text. While we're being picky, GP didn't say what he meant by efficient. Efficient use of the producer's time? Efficient use of the consumer's time? Efficient use of page space? bandwidth?

A good photograph, chart, or video can accomplish in seconds what it would take hours of puzzling over a few pages of text to understand.

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46114065)

Ah, I see.
You're the asswipe who keeps writing encyclopedic entries in your email even though there's a perfectly good pic attached that requires no supplementary explanation.

"Here's the thing, right there in the picture, see the thing in the picture that we're talking about... Let me tell you all about the thing. See, it's in the picture! It's right there, can you see it? Please respond to me and let me know what you think about the thing. If you'd like, I can capture another picture of the thing if its unclear."

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112629)

Actually, the old adage (if true) would make that three orders of magnitude:

"A picture is worth a thousand words"

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (4, Funny)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 3 months ago | (#46112723)

Like it or not, pictures are still a more efficient way of communicating data than text. By an order of magnitude.

You've lost me on that...can you show me a graph?

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46113503)

sure! how bout a bar graph...

Efficiency of Medium
text ##################
pics ########

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (1)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 3 months ago | (#46115261)

That looks like a factor of two, not an order of magnitude. Maybe you should spell it out next time...

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46116705)

Factor of two was intended. If i agreed with OP, 'pics' would have the longer 'bar'. Maybe you should read next time.

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46116747)

A graph is worth a thousand words only if the axes are labeled (and it has error bars...). If that was plotted versus log of efficiency, it could easily be an order of magnitude.

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112577)

I know, right? It's not like this is just someones personal blog!

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46114139)

Wait, this isn't my personal blog?
That explains why I haven't been able to post new stories to it.

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#46112599)

What has /. turned into? Discovery Kids?

All geeks are kids at heart.

Where once we openly drooled at the view through the candy store window, we now drool at the view through the gadget store window (or web site).

We also still like to see what makes things tick.

Re:Paper has some cool pictures? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46116037)

This is true. I'm 32 and I still have and will never lose my sense of wonder and zest for learning new things.

I learned (from a random slashdot poster no less) that rats are physically incapable of vomiting. However, they make up for this by having very refined abilities that allow them to avoid toxin consumption.

Also, the process of vomiting, or emesis, is a VERY complex, involved process that is quite the boon for organisms capable of it. Who the hell knew being able to barf was so special and helpful?

Also, Octopuses.... Octopi? When they get really, really hungry, they will self-cannibalize and eat one of their own freaking limbs!! Insane!!

Bob, where's your right arm?

Well......I went hiking, and got lost and....

Forget pictures, here's a video (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 months ago | (#46113989)

Yeah, who wants pictures? Here's a video of the snake in action: http://www.nbcnews.com/science... [nbcnews.com]

It's really uncanny to see it suddenly going from a free fall into a glide that looks to be on par with what we'd expect from a paper airplane. And later in the video they show it actually pulling off a turn as well, which is even more insane to consider. Jumping from a tree in the forest, I could easily see this thing traveling quite a way.

Re:Forget pictures, here's a video (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#46114233)

Yeah, who wants pictures? Here's a video of the snake in action: http://www.nbcnews.com/science... [nbcnews.com]

It's really uncanny to see it suddenly going from a free fall into a glide that looks to be on par with what we'd expect from a paper airplane. And later in the video they show it actually pulling off a turn as well, which is even more insane to consider. Jumping from a tree in the forest, I could easily see this thing traveling quite a way.

Radical. Who would think such motor technique could be harnessed by that brain? I wonder if they hunt while on the fly, too.

Our snake fly... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#46112429)

When seized by hawks or other raptors and a clumsily dropped, one may find a totally pissed off rattlesnake landing on their hat or shoulder.

Not quite the old Death From Above maneouver, but it'll do until we're piloting 'Mechs around.

Herodotus' History (5, Informative)

oldhack (1037484) | about 3 months ago | (#46112473)

Herodotus in his History mentioned flying snakes in Arabia/Egypt. Many considered it one of the more fanciful tales in that work.

Re:Herodotus' History (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 3 months ago | (#46113329)

Herodotus in his History mentioned flying snakes in Arabia/Egypt. Many considered it one of the more fanciful tales in that work.

Well if he saw them, at lead it was a step better than his "Water Horses"

Re:Herodotus' History (0)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#46113611)

I wonder if those were water buffalo?

Re:Herodotus' History (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46137607)

You're referring to the hippopotamus, "or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" ()"?

A bigger mystery (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#46112483)

I wonder how that one evolved. A billion snakes leapt to their death until ... ?

Re:A bigger mystery (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112615)

Isn't it more likely that there were a couple thousand years of hopping snakes and then leaping snakes? Much like the original base jumpers started by jumping off roofs into pools.

Re:A bigger mystery (1)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#46115045)

Snakes facing a predator leaping from certain death to probable death. Snakes with the right adaptations were a bit less likely to die from the leap.

Re:A bigger mystery (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about 3 months ago | (#46116757)

Snakes climb trees, and jump (okay, slither) out of trees, all the time. The best eggs are up there, and an occasional bite that tastes like chicken.

Point being, that this one doesn't require lots of snakes to die; it's a normal progression.

Re:A bigger mystery (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 months ago | (#46116913)

The problem with that "normal progression" is that it requires significant structural changes to happen before it will be useful. I'm not sure that I see any incremental advantage accruing.

This sentence no verb (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46112529)

"Finally, snakes that don't need to be on no stinking plane..." ... ... ... ???

Agreed, and this sentence no verb either.

Re:This sentence no verb (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 3 months ago | (#46112863)

Since when is "to be" not considered a verb?

Re:This sentence no verb (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about 3 months ago | (#46112931)

Actually the verb of that sentence is "need".
The subjects are the snakes. And they don't need.
What don't they need ? "to be on the plane".

Re:This sentence no verb (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about 3 months ago | (#46113121)

No, that's a relative clause [wikipedia.org], not a full sentence. "that don't need to be on the plane" serves only as an adjective for "snakes".

The independent sentence, without the relative clause, is "Finally, snakes." The primary verb is implied: "Finally, [there are] snakes." Or maybe "Finally, [we have] snakes." Or something similar.

Re:This sentence no verb (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#46113967)

No, that's a relative clause [wikipedia.org], not a full sentence. "that don't need to be on the plane" serves only as an adjective for "snakes".

The independent sentence, without the relative clause, is "Finally, snakes." The primary verb is implied: "Finally, [there are] snakes." Or maybe "Finally, [we have] snakes." Or something similar.

I saw what you did there.

Misleading title (1)

osgeek (239988) | about 3 months ago | (#46112803)

These aerodynamic characteristics help to explain how the snake can glide at steep angles and over a wide range of angles of attack, but more complex models that account for 3D effects and the dynamic movements of aerial undulation are required to fully understand the gliding performance of flying snakes

Without that information, I doubt we've revealed the real mysteries.

Re:Misleading title (3, Interesting)

systemeng (998953) | about 3 months ago | (#46112979)

The test they did suggested the snake's cross-sectional shape was more efficient than many other airfoil designs. This could have applications in aircraft design.

Re:Misleading title (1)

jrumney (197329) | about 3 months ago | (#46116837)

It's only more efficient for low speed and weight. Aircraft are still better off with current designs.

How is this news? (2)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | about 3 months ago | (#46112833)

I remember hearing this same story (regarding flattening of the body) already in the 90s.

Re:How is this news? (1)

andreev (1998552) | about 3 months ago | (#46112923)

Also, it was on National Georgraphic Wild during the weekend. A whole movie about it (which takes time to make), in Bulgarian (add time for translation), a replay.

Re:How is this news? (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 3 months ago | (#46113363)

I remember hearing this same story (regarding flattening of the body) already in the 90s.

The only thing that I can see is novel is that they measured the aerodynamic properties of the airfoil shape and came up with hard numbers for how good it is.

But being the pussies they are, the VT people didn't measure this on actual snakes in flight, and only tested a model!

Next time with actual snakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46113885)

But being the pussies they are, the VT people didn't measure this on actual snakes in flight, and only tested a model!

So you're saying a followup study should be... within striking distance?

Re:How is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46114051)

I "read" about these flying snakes in a small kids book introducing jungle animals way back in the late seventies/early eighties.

It was about the same time I had uncensored realistic and anatomically correct "books" on all parts and stages of human reproduction. The most boring book any child ever had and perhaps that's why it might actually be a good idea.

Being five years old in Norway in those days was great despite the Cold War however these days most five year olds in Europe are named after a belligerent pedophile rapist cult leader or some butcher acolyte of his —no wonder things are turning to shit :(

P.S. fuck the government of the US of A too: they're even worse.

Flying snakes? (1)

zarmanto (884704) | about 3 months ago | (#46113163)

Why does this sound so much like the makings of a B horror flick to me? (When it happens, just remember that you read it here first, folks.)

At least they're not (very) venomous. (1)

AJWM (19027) | about 3 months ago | (#46113355)

[...] As he spoke, Carson noticed a slim green ribbon ripple out of the jungle canopy ahead. It glided toward them and settled on Gupta's shoulder. A jade ribbon snake.
Carson reached over and flicked it to the ground, then stomped on its head, hard.
Gupta flinched, then looked down. "A flying snake is only mildly toxic to humans, there was no need to do that."
"Flying snakes on Earth, perhaps," said Carson. "This is a jade, its venom compares to that of a krait or a taipan."
Gupta paled. "That deadly?"
"Only if you let them bite you. Come on."
Gupta looked up at the branches above them, then down at the body of the snake. He brought his heel down hard on its already flattened head.
Carson looked at him, an eyebrow raised.
"Just making sure," Gupta said.

-- The Chara Talisman, 2011.

Snakes _are_ a plane! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46113691)

I am sick and tired of these motherfscking snake-planes!

NOT flying or gliding... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46119597)

These snakes are falling.... with style....

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