Now here's something we hope you'll really like
December 15, 2016 12:56 PM   Subscribe

posted by queensissy at 12:59 PM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

More like squeeeeeeeeeeeeerrels.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:03 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Somewhere in the flying squirrel's little body resides a mysterious mechanism that, without the power of flapping or internal combustion, generates exceptional lift, comparable to that of powered flight.

Is it the butt?
posted by Going To Maine at 1:16 PM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

I've seen flying squirrels in action on some night hikes while camping. It's an incredibly infuriating experience. There they are, jumping back and forth out of nowhere, zip zip zip, and it's all you can do to contain the yelp of SQUEEEEEEEEEEE trying to chestburst its way out of you. Because you can't scare them off. And a contained SQUEEEEEEEEE becomes self-perpetuating, sort of like a Church Laugh. Try to hold it in, and it only becomes worse, but you gotta hold it in! Exquisite torture.

posted by Capt. Renault at 1:17 PM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oof, some of his explanations of aerodynamic phenomena were really rough to read.

Stalling is caused by a loss of lift.

It's the other way around, actually - stalls cause loss of lift.

This occurs when the main source of lift, air vortices—the swirls of air that form at the leading edge of a wing as a result of differences in the pressure below and above the wing—essentially slide down the wing surface at high angles.

Not really, no. Lift is a result of a momentum transfer between the air and the wing; the airflow "sticks" to the wing due to viscous forces and is deflected downwards, which essentially pushes the wing upwards. Stalls happen when the angle of attack of the wing is so high that the viscous force of the local airstream is greater than the force between the wing and the airflow boundary layer, "peeling" the air off the wing before it can get pulled down the rest of the wing.

Somewhere in the flying squirrel’s little body resides a mysterious mechanism that, without the power of flapping or internal combustion, generates exceptional lift, comparable to that of powered flight.

He seems to be conflating propulsive force with lift force here. The mechanism that generates lift is the wing (or the patagium). Now, a fixed wing relies on airspeed to generate lift, but there's nothing special about powered flight that "generates exceptional lift"; recreational gliders usually have much better lift characteristics than any powered aircraft.

Designing a wing that can instantly change in stiffness and configuration in response to minute changes in local air pressure and flow remains a dream for human aircraft engineers.

I'll give him that one.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:17 PM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

I just came to appreciate the post's title.
posted by rtimmel at 1:18 PM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

Yeah, thumbs up for Rocky & Bullwinkle reference!
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 1:20 PM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

(I've finished the article. It's probably not the butt.)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

It was never the butt. It was always the Mighty Moose Muscle...

In other pop culture squirrel news, Ryan North has confirmed that in an upcoming issue, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl will acquire her own flying suit (and will apparently no longer have to borrow a set of Iron Man's armor to get airborne).
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:43 PM on December 15, 2016

Full moon.....


OMG, don't you people realize? They are VAMPIRE SQUIRRELS!!
posted by BlueHorse at 1:44 PM on December 15, 2016

When I moved into my current house there were three "volunteer pet" flying squirrels. Several got into the house, and after the human residents did the sealing up all the entryways, playing loud music, lather rinse repeat, these were the ones that just kept getting back in. So someone bought a huge rat cage, researched what to feed them, and they had a new home not in anybody's sock drawer. They were absolutely adorable, and took very well to being kept. We used to call it "Cat TV" because the cats would sit and watch the squirrel's acrobatics intently while the squirrels did the rodent equivalent of thumbing their noses.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:02 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Across the street from me here in Helsinki there's a huge park, which apparently has a population of old world flying squirrels. It took a herculean amount of common sense to not drop everything I was doing and just start camping out in the park until I saw one. None more awedorable.
posted by Kattullus at 2:40 PM on December 15, 2016

I came for the article, now I'm staying to say that inner child-me feels totally cheated by all the adults in her life. If anyone had told me when I was eight years old, that if I became a scientist I might have the opportunity to do experiments with flying squirrels in wind tunnels my life would be very different and way more awesome now.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 4:17 PM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

I haven't seen a flying squirrel in the wild in years. I used to see them fairly often growing up. I hope my concern is unfounded. /downer
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:20 PM on December 15, 2016

And then there is the squirrel’s ultimate secret weapon: the patagium itself. It appears early in each squirrel’s development as a massive outgrowth of skin between hind and forelegs—making a brood of baby flying squirrels in a nesting cavity look remarkably like a stack of pancakes.

Must. See. Pictures. Or. Die.
posted by scalefree at 6:12 PM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

@backseatpilot, you are spot-on and making me very glad I did no more than look at the pictures.

Plus, this!
posted by oheso at 6:25 AM on December 16, 2016

The article is well worth reading. The author, while getting its aerodynamics wrong much too often for my taste, describes many adaptations of the flying squirrel body to flight that are simply incredible. We'll be building adaptive wings based on these little guys some day.
posted by hat_eater at 7:57 AM on December 16, 2016

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