“Aerodynamics of the flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi: how a bluff body cross-sectional shape contributes to gliding performance.”

This research was partially supported by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant W911NF1010040 to J.J.S. and P.P.V.

I guess it turns out it wasn’t a secret.

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Holden, Daniel, John J. Socha, Nicholas D. Cardwell, and Pavlos P. Vlachos. “Aerodynamics of the flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi: how a bluff body cross-sectional shape contributes to gliding performance.” Journal of Experimental Biology. (217):382-394. (available February 1, 2014)

The drafts keep piling up, as every post I’ve written lately has tried to turn itself into a manifesto and I keep running out of time, patience, and/or energy.

To tide you over, I’ll actually finish the post about Downton Abbey.

I don’t get it. I absolutely do not get the appeal of this show. I’ve tried to get it. I’ve tried so hard I’ve seen the 1st season twice and I’m almost done with the 2nd season. I don’t fucking get it…BUT I CAN’T STOP WATCHING IT.

Perhaps the Dowager Countess really is a witch.

That would explain a lot of things.

I wasn’t sure where to take that joke, but then this Diagon Abbey twitter account came along and gave me the perfect thing to insert into this section. I guess that’s something watching Downton has going for it – if you haven’t watched it, the jokes won’t land and you’ll just be wasting your time reading those tweets.

Because if you get the jokes you aren’t wasting your time reading those tweets? Sure. That’s it.

Not to spoil it for you, but here’s the plot of pretty much every episode:
Someone: “The times are changing.”
Someone else: “Indeed they are, indeed they are.”
Someone: “Winter is coming.”

No, wait, that’s the plot of almost every episode of Game of Thrones.

Let’s try again.

Someone: “There was the incident with the gentleman from Turkey….”
Someone else: “Did he take my dragons? Do you know where my dragons are?”

That may not be right, either.

To be honest, I haven’t started watching season 3 yet, but my Tivo, Overlord II has been sucking them up for me. I already know what happens, because of course the show airs in the UK before it airs here and so there aren’t many surprises left by the time I get around to seeing it.

Why is a show about nobility and their servants so wildly popular in the United States? And why can’t I stop watching? Why? Why? Why?

As soon as we catch up on Homeland, Husband can start watching Downton. Yes. Yes he can. Maybe he can explain why I can’t stop watching while we wait for the next season of Homeland.

I guess an advantage to watching is that Sesame Street’s Upside Downton Abbey is much funnier if you know what they’re spoofing:

Why is a show that only began in 2010 a “Masterpiece Classic” on PBS?

Futilely pondering Downton‘s popularity is still less disturbing to think about than the fact that the U.S. Government is going to try to solve the Guam snake problem by airdropping dead poison-laced mice.

I can’t even begin to think about the intended consequences of dropping poisoned food into a rainforest.

In honor of Charles Darwin’s birthday, here’s an adaptation of something I originally posted on facebook while recovering from bronchitis or it’s ilk.

On the evolution of trees:
One of the most interesting, yet least known, examples of co-evolution involves the relationship between trees & reptiles. The earth started out covered in nothing but shrublike vegetation. Over time, some of those shrubs grew taller & developed sturdier branches. They did this because snakes, their natural partners in evolution, needed taller & taller perches from which to drop down upon unsuspecting humans. The snakes thought dropping on humans was hilarious.

This was an activity that the trees also found hilarious, so the trees grew taller & differentiated into the vast diversity of species we enjoy today – the ones that aren’t filled with practical-joke loving snakes, that is.

Very few of us enjoy the trees full of sneaky snickering snakes.

Once taller trees established themselves, it was but a hop skip & jump, evolutionarily speaking, to the evolution of flying snakes, which led to the evolution of flying monkeys to combat the increasing scourge of flying snakes. These are all true facts. You can look them up, as long as you only look here on my blog or on my fb page.

The flying snakes actually exist in S and SE Asia. I would suggest not looking them up on the google. It’s sorta cool, but that’s just not right & once you see it you can’t unsee it, if you know what I mean.

It should be noted that snakes and grandfathers share a genetic mutation which leads them to believe that they are much funnier than they actually are. Snakes find it difficult to comprehend why we will laugh at our grandfather’s jokes but rarely find snake humor, well, humorous.

Far Side cartoons notwithstanding.

[As I’ve mentioned recently, I’m trying to move all of the content I wish to keep here onto my blog, so facebook friends will have to put up with a few reruns now and again. I apparently first blogged about flying snakes in 2002. I haven’t been the same since.]

Speaking of unleashing things into Rock Creek Park, I thought I’d post a link to the story about the python that showed up in Rock Creek Park this week. It’s a nice change of pace from obsessing over all of the exotic invasives in the Everglades, I guess. Speaking of which, if you haven’t had a moment of horror over this monster, you should really take a break out of your busy schedule of reading my site and drinking coffee. “UF Researchers find state record 87 eggs in largest python from the Everglades.”

Yesterday’s Science Times had a cool article about cobras, “How the King Cobra Maintains Its Reign.” (Don’t click that link if you don’t like pictures of snakes).

I wanted to post a link to that article because I thought it was interesting. It popped up because I have a google alert set for cobras, not because of Halloween.

Still, snakes are pretty spooky, so they make good Halloween post fodder. Yesterday’s Washington Post contained an article, “Evolutionary psychology explores ancient and newer roots of instinctual fears,” that was pretty interesting.

Cars kill a lot more people than spiders, bats, snakes and wolves, but why don’t we fear them in the same visceral way? When’s the last time you saw a jack-o’-lantern carved in the shape of a BMW?

The drugstore Halloween images of dark and hairy critters touch off sensations deep inside us, pointing bony fingers at instincts that go back millions of years, evolutionary psychologists say.

On a related note – I don’t know about your house, but mine has become the Kingdom of the Spiders lately and I’m not enjoying it. I know we’re not alone in our neighborhood, the local hardware store is doing a brisk business in glue traps. Yuck.

p.s. if you read these posts via email, I apologize for the last post you received. The email you received was of an early draft and it was a mess. The correct post is on the site.

Did you watch Invasion of the Giant Pythons this weekend on PBS? Me neither, but my Tivo, Overlord II, recorded it for me so I’ll watch it soon.

In related news, I’m still marveling over this story out of Maryland: a woman claimed she was bitten by a cobra she picked up in the parking lot of White Marsh Mall after she mistook it for a stick. That was the best story she could come up with? Snakes can look like sticks, sure, but the more fundamental question would be, why would you pick up a stick in a mall parking lot.

Meanwhile, her story – that she had come across the highly poisonous monocled cobra in the parking lot of the White Marsh Mall – immediately raised eyebrows among the snake-savvy.

Experts say the animals, normally found in Southeast Asia, could not survive outdoors in Maryland in January. And finger bites are typical of injuries to careless snake handlers during feeding.

Actually, an even more fundamental question would be, why would you go to White Marsh Mall in the first place? I’ve only been there a few times, but the place always smells like tires to me and it gives me a headache.

Victor Garber is one of our favorite actors. His new show, Present Laughter, was in rehearsals when we were in New York a few weeks ago.

We opted for dinner with some friends instead, but as a consolation prize we Tivo’d an episode of the Martha Stewart Show wherein Martha terrorizes Garber with power tools. But first, she makes him sit with a 15 foot python across his lap. I can’t embed the video of the show intro but it’s worth going to the site to watch it, so you’ll have to follow this link.

Seriously. Go check out the video. I know it’s says it’s 12 minutes long, but just go watch the first couple of minutes because Martha is extra-super-crazy when she’s got a huge python as her straight man.

Garber just bought Gypsy Rose Lee’s house so Martha taught him how to build a plant stand. Husband needs to make me a plant stand.

Fossils from northeastern Colombia reveal the biggest snake ever discovered: a behemoth that stretched 42 to 45 feet long, reaching more than 2,500 pounds.

“This thing weighs more than a bison and is longer than a city bus,” enthused snake expert Jack Conrad of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who was familiar with the find.
“It could easily eat something the size of a cow. A human would just be toast immediately.”

On the other hand, big snakes are better than small ones in many ways. No chance something that big could hide in your house or surprise you. More than once, anyway.