Find the latest episode of "The Uncertain Hour" here. Listen
Codebreaker

Defense Department invests in flying snake research

John Moe Nov 23, 2010

At least five species of snake from the genus Chrysolopea in Asia are able to fly. Sort of.

As video of the reptiles show, they undulate from side to side, in almost an air-slithering, to create an aerodynamic system. It allows them to travel from the top of the biggest trees in the region (almost 200 feet high) to a spot about 780 feet away from the tree’s trunk.

Now the US Defense Department, through it’s sometimes eccentric seeming DARPA research fund, is sponsoring research at Virginia Tech to determine how the snakes do that. The research could then be applied to building new aircraft.

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.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.