The heart of the matter on the Long Beach Convention Center Grand Ballroom B stage was Chrysopelea paradisi. And what are Chrysopelea paradisi, you ask? They're freakin' flying snakes, that's what they are.
With visions of flying snakes launching themselves from the stage and onto the academics who'd gathered to hear about them, it was enough to promptly tweak Samuel L. Jackson's immortal line.
"I have had it with these motherfucking flying snakes on this motherfucking convention center stage!"
OK, so it turns out the snakes weren't actually on the stage Monday evening. Virginia Tech biologist Jake Socha was, leading a presentation on five related species of tree-dwelling snakes found in Southeast and South Asia. The snazzy title? "Gliding flight in snakes: non-equilibrium trajectory dynamics and kinematics."
You may want to wait for the DVD.
Chrysopelea paradisi fling themselves off perches, flatten their bodies and glide from tree to tree or to the ground, according to Socha, who observed the snakes launching themselves off a branch atop a 15-meter-tall tower. Four cameras recorded the flying snakes, which led to the creation of 3-D reconstructions of the animals' bodies and examinations of their positions during flight.
The results of that research are what Socha unveiled at the 63rd annual American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting, which this year was hosted in the LBC by USC, UCLA, Cal Tech and Cal State Long Beach. The research will also be published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
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You may want to wait for the YouTube.
Socha's analyses showed the snakes do not undulate their bodies to counteract the force of gravity pulling them down, nor do they simply fall to the ground. Instead, Socha revealed, "the snake is pushed upward--even though it is moving downward--because the upward component of the aerodynamic force is greater than the snake's weight."
He called moving upward "quite an impressive feat for a snake," but noted the effect is only temporary and eventually "the snake hits the ground to end the glide."
Yeah, like that's going to make my nightmares any less frightening.