Snakes are a fascinating part of the natural world. It is hoped that by imitating natural motion, robots may be developed with unusual capabilities as well as answering questions about how biological snakes really move.

I encountered a real Burmese python during my honeymoon in Bali:

Gavin in the Bali Reptile Park with a Burmese python

Burmese python somewhat coiled on the grass

The python's head with tongue tasting the wind.

© 1999, Gavin Miller.

My encounter with the Burmese python interested me in a form of snake motion called "rectilinear progression" in which the snake moves the belly (ventral) scales forwards and backwards to propel itself forward in a straight line. Since none of my snake robots could do that, and it might be good for climbing over things, I decided to begin a new snake called S7.

In addition to making me want to make more robots, the information that I learned about snakes inspired me to write a poem. The poem tries to capture the science of what is going on with the animal's sensors as well as to try to put the reader in the "shoes" of the snake's mind.

The Viper

What questions does a viper ask,
With silent slithers through the grass?
A gaping mouth of knives and fork,
It hopes to dine on things that walk.

Detected first in infra-red
A field mouse is up ahead,
Fixed in the gaze of lidless eyes
That measure out its swift demise.
A sudden strike.
The helpless prey,
Too poisoned now to dart away,
Is captured in a limbless hold.
A coiled trap
Of blood run cold.

With pulsing dislocated jaw
The snake devours fur and paw.
The skin is taut and scales stretched
To make room for the breathless wretch.

Content, at last, this bulging elf,
Has wrapped a present for itself.
Time to rest and shed old skin,
Ignoring twitches from within.

Intent to never be a shoe.
The viper grows,
And thinks of you.

© 1999, Gavin Miller. All rights reserved.

For more of my poetry and other writing, go to