commenter intelligence operative has brought to our attention a terrifying new development in the enemy weapons program: the squirrels are now training as weaponized drones. Highly advanced weaponized drones, as a matter of fact, utilizing flight technology waaaay beyond our current reach. What else to make of these shocking photos and recent findings by scientific researchers?
To say the squirrel drone training program is a higly secret covert operation is quite an understatement. Writer, researcher, photographer and professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona Alexander Badyaev had to freeze his ass off (-30F!) for hours snowshoeing for miles in some godforsaken Montana wilderness in the middle of the night just to capture these horrifying photos. But that’s not even the half of it.
Until recently, flying squirrels were assumed to be passive gliders, using their expansive patagium—the furry wing membrane that spans from the squirrel’s neck to its forelimbs and back to its hind limbs—to simply prolong jumps across canopy gaps, and to lessen impacts upon landing.
Once scientists began studying flying squirrels in the lab, it didn’t take long to discover that there is nothing passive or constant about the species’ flight. Researchers would ultimately document in flying squirrels a wider variety of aerodynamic modifications and flight types than had been described in any other species of animal glider. In a single flight episode, a flying squirrel might use a dozen separate flight-control techniques and—frustratingly for the graduate students and research assistants tasked with documenting the patterns—different squirrels would use different combinations of these techniques. Ironically, the one type of flight that has never been observed in this species is passive gliding.
As more and more squirrels flew through wind tunnels and along blocked-off biology department corridors, it became clear that flying squirrels have a marked disregard for basic aerodynamic constraints.
Well that should hardly be surprising: as we already know, squirrels have a marked disregard for the laws of physics generally.
And there’s more:
Aircraft typically stall when their angle of attack reaches 15 to 20 degrees. Flying squirrels routinely reach 60 degrees, far exceeding values that would result in the stall and crash of even the most advanced military jets.
Laboratory studies also found that the squirrels fly at remarkably high speeds and have a puzzling ability to control their acceleration throughout the flight…However, the recorded speeds vastly exceed those that could be generated by a glide itself. 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.
And listen to this:
[Foremost among] the array of elegant solutions the squirrels employed to solve major aerodynamic problems—some previously unknown, others suggested by laboratory research…was the squirrels’ extensive deployment of a “wing tip”—a protruding cartilaginous rod outside the wrist—sort of a long sixth finger. This trait was first described 20 years ago by mammalogist Richard Thorington at the Smithsonian Institution, who speculated that the wing tips were used in the same way as the winglets of modern jets. These vertical metal plates added to the ends of wings revolutionized air travel after NASA began installing them in the 1970s. Flying squirrels evolved wing tips about 20 million years earlier, and have been perfecting their use ever since.
In both the squirrels and the aircraft, the wing tips deflect and retain large air vortices that form along the leading edge of wings and thus generate substantial lift. But in a crucial difference compared to the aircraft, flying squirrels can independently and dynamically control their wing tips on the left and right, folding and extending them as needed to modify the speed and trajectory of glides in mid-flight.
In the course of a single flight, the flying squirrel integrates precursors of some of the best inventions of human aircraft engineering over the last century, morphing flawlessly from a canard supersonic airplane design to an agile jet to a blended wing-body aircraft.
Amazingly, the squirrels appear to actively direct trapped air vortices across the [patagium] membrane surface. The closest analogy from human engineering would be tiltrotors—aircraft, such as the V-22 Osprey, with variably tilted rotors attached to fixed wings that combine the high speed and range of a conventional plane with the lift capacity and take-off versatility of a helicopter. The crucial difference is that flying squirrels can instantly modify the size, number, and location of their “rotors” in response to minute changes in airflow and pressure—an achievement that is well beyond modern aircraft engineering.
The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, one of our most advanced military aircraft.
Squirrels are kicking its ass.
Badyaev sums up nicely our current intel on squirrel flight technology:
The end result is a prized combination of functional versatility and exceptional robustness of nature’s flying solutions—something we have yet to achieve in human engineering. The flying squirrel is a premier example of this, easily encompassing in one small furry package…the aerodynamic features of heavy transport planes, agile military jets, movable-rotor helicopters, flexible-wing parachute gliders, and many innovations we’ve yet to achieve.
Now when I refer to all of this is a “new development,” I obviously don’t mean the flying squirrels themselves. After all, the earliest squirrel fossil we have is 35-40 million years old—and it is remarkably similar to modern flying squirrels. Modern humans on the other hand have been on the scene for a measly 100,000 or 200,000 years, give or take, and the Wright brothers only broke the yoke of gravity for our species a scant century ago. The “new development” to which I refer is our recent discovery of just how advanced squirrel flight technology actually is—and the rather ominous fact that they are flying heavy objects around with them.
Another lab research finding that challenged the basic aerodynamics of gliding was the flying squirrel’s ability to carry heavy objects in flight without compromising height or trajectory. In the lab, the squirrels are routinely observed generating lift forces up to six times their body weight, a feat that makes it possible for them to take flight with such things as stolen peanut-butter sandwiches—or, under more natural conditions, enormous pine cones. Indeed, even advanced stages of pregnancy seem to have little impact on the squirrels’ flying capabilities.
Pine cones? Or… grenades?
We already know squirrels steal our GoPro cameras and are quite proficient with them, so we can be fairly certain the squirrel drone program encompasses aerial surveillance. But they have no reason to stop there. Further, the distinct similarity in size and shape between pine cones and grenades to the point that one can barely distinguish them is not lost on us here at Death to Squirrels Central. Don’t just take my word for it—see for yourself whether you can differentiate the pine cones from the grenades in these images:
So. Human aircraft engineering, manned or unmanned, simply pales by comparison to squirrel technology. We have an awful lot of catching up to do; as Badyaev says, “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.” And we sure as hell don’t have the luxury of taking FORTY MILLION YEARS to do it. Besides, given another eon or two, who knows what the little beasties would evolve? Breaking the light speed barrier? This is an arms race Homo sapiens simply cannot afford to lose. Unfortunately, in the US at least, humans just do not seem all that interested in winning it.