Jack the Ripper identified?

The paper below is getting a lot of publicity, and its conclusion, that Jack the Ripper—the long unidentified British serial killer—was really a 23-year-old Polish barber named Aaron Kosminski, is being trumpeted in all the media. After all, the Ripper, who killed five women in 1888 in a particularly gory manner, has long fascinated the public as an unknown figure of evil. Hundreds of books and papers have been written speculating about his identity, but nothing conclusive has resulted.

Now, a paper in the Journal of Forensic Sciences (probably free with the legal app Unpaywall; click on link below, or get pdf here) purports to identify the killer using DNA evidence on a shawl linked to the crime. But I’m not really impressed with the paper, as the authors don’t present the results in full, and a piece in Science about the paper identifies further problems.

Here’s the link; if it doesn’t work, I’ll be glad to send you the pdf:

The identification is based on DNA extracted from a silk shawl found at the murder scene of Catherine Eddowes, a shawl recovered by a police officer and passed down to his relatives. (Science, however, says that the shawl was bought in 2007 by a writer, Russell Edwards, and given to Louhelainen. It also notes that “Other critics of the Kosminsky theory have pointed out that there’s no evidence the shawl was ever at the crime scene.”—neither of these facts is mentioned in the paper).

Eddowes, one of the five victims, and one of two killed on September 30, had several wounds, and her left kidney and her uterus were cut out and removed (there is plenty of gory detail, and a photo of the autopsied victim at the Wikipedia page).  A card purporting to be from the Ripper, and referring to the “double event”, is known as the “Saucy Jacky postcard”, and was received at police headquarters on October 1, but its authenticity is uncertain. This is a facsimile of the front (the card has disappeared), and the message is below:

Text on the obverse:

I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you’ll hear about Saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. Had not time to get ears off for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.

Jack the Ripper

There’s also a “letter from hell” that accompanied a kidney that was sent to a London vigilance committee, but the handwriting on that letter differs from that on the Saucy Jacky postcard.

Aaron Kosminski was a suspect in the murder, apparently because he “hated women and had strong homicidal tendencies”, but even here there is ambiguity, as Wikipedia reports that his name might have been confused with that of a Jewish bootmaker, Nathan Kaminsky (aka “David Cohen”), and even “Aaron” as a first name was recovered from records of Londoners long after the murders were committed. Both men died in insane asylums.

Back to the paper. The shawl, as I said, was made of silk, and had dyes that ran in the rain. The authors suggest that a fancy garment like this probably belonged to the Ripper, not to Eddowes, as Eddowes was a poor woman who worked as a casual prostitute.

The authors located stains on the shawn by visual inspection of the shawl and UV and infrared photography. Bloodstains were distinguishable from semen stains (presumably the killer masturbated on the shawl). Here’s the shawl:

(From Figure 2 of paper): Images of the shawl parts. Upper left: largest piece of the shawl with the blue and brown sections. Lower left: the floral detail on the shawl. Right: smaller piece of the shawl from the blue side.

The stained areas—both putative bloodstains and sperm stains—were washed and DNA from the extracts sequenced; in most cases they isolated single cells from the material and extracted and amplified both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from those cells, also doing profiles of others who could have contaminated the shawl in the interim. Not much DNA could be obtained, but enough for the authors’ analysis, which shows how refined the technique has become. Single cells can help incriminate you!

They then compared the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the putative blood and semen samples to DNA from relatives of Eddowes and the suspect Aaron Kosminski.  Although mtDNA is passed on only through females, it is present in the midpiece of sperm, and is destroyed after fertilization. mtDNA is useful for this analysis because it can be passed on intact (save for rare mutations) in the female relatives of the victim and perp; all one has to do is find females in female lines of descent from Eddowes’s and Kosminski’s mothers, and compare their DNA with that on the shawl. Who they sampled and their relationship to victim and suspect are not reported in the paper for legal reasons, though I think they could have given at least those nameless individuals in a line of descent.

The way the data are reported is weird: they appear as simply blocks colored in, denoting a match in the mitocondrial DNA regions, and the matching sequences are not given. Here’s how the matches are shown:

(From paper’s Figure 7): Sequencing results of mtDNA presented as graphical blocks when deviations from the Human revised Cambridge reference sequence (rCRS) have been recorded. Color coding is used to highlight the results (victim = blue, suspect = red, owner = green, and laboratory operator = gray).

As you see 6 regions of mtDNA on the shawl that were variable (apparently single nucleotides, though they’re not clear on this nor give the sequences) matched Eddowes’s sequence, and seven regions of the shawl that were variable matched mtDNA from relatives of Kosminski (there was a non-match for two nucleotides).

The frequency of a match for Kosminski (using the present-day European population) is .019, or 1.9%, while the frequency of the type for Eddowes is 0.0013, or 0.13%.  These are interesting, but also mean that thousands of people in London today could be a match for either sample. The results, then, are intriguing but not dispositive. And they have no database for London, neither now nor of course from 1888, so these figures are at best ballpark estimates. Neither the shaw’s “owner” (not specified) nor the lab boss (or technician) matched the stains.

The 11 nuclear DNA sites were used only to determine what the killer’s hair and eye color were, as these sites are like those used in 23&Me to tell you what you probably look like. They show that the killer had brown hair and brown eyes, which match one eyewitness report (not given in the paper) of what the Ripper looked like. As the authors note:

One of the strengths of this paper is the demonstration of the use of aged single cells as a source of genomic DNA. This was taken further by using in‐house assays for amelogenin sex determination and phenotypic SNP markers. The results were in full accordance with one of the very few witness statements considered reliable: a male with brown eyes and brown hair. Although these characteristics are surely not unique, they fully support our hypothesis. We have no reliable information on how common these phenotypic features were with males in London in 1888, but at the moment, blue eyes are more common than brown in England.

Well, this isn’t very strong evidence, and to be sure the authors don’t make a strong claim that they’ve identified the killer. However, they fail to present all the data they have so that other scientists can judge how strong their conclusion really is. And they seem to omit critical data, like Science‘s claim that there’s not strong evidence that the shawl was in fact found at the murder scene. (There is a chain-of-custody letter.)

So, has Jack the Ripper’s identify finally been revealed? The answer is “probably not,” but the data, at least in the weak form presented here, increase the likelihood that Aaron Kosminski, who was a suspect in the murders, was the killer. But we’re a long way from knowing who butchered those five women. Caveat lector. 


Louhelainen, J. and Miller, D. (2019), Forensic Investigation of a Shawl Linked to the “Jack the Ripper” Murders. J Forensic Sci. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.14038

Court rules that flipping someone off is free speech

If you had asked me before this story broke whether giving someone the finger counts as protected free speech, I would have said, “Yes.” After all, it’s an expression that doesn’t hurt anyone physically and is simply a gesture that expresses one’s feelings. If burning an American flag is considered free speech, as it is, then so should be “giving the bird.”

But, according to the New York Times (article below), a cop in Michigan didn’t think so. After Debra Cruise-Gulyas was stopped for speeding in Taylor, Michigan, she got a break: Officer Matthew Mindard gave her a ticket for a “non moving violation”—less serious than a ticket for speeding. She wasn’t grateful, though, and as she drove off she gave this sign to the officer:

Then the machinery of the law began to grind finely, as the paper reports:

Officer Minard was clearly offended, and he stopped Cruise-Gulyas again, giving her the more serious ticket for speeding. Cruise-Gulyas filed suit, claiming not only that her speech was protected (First Amendment), that the officer was retaliating against her protected speech (First Amendment), and that the cop “restricted her liberty” (a due-process violation of the Fourteenth Amendment). This would go to a federal court as she was objecting on constitutional grounds, not on anything about Michigan law.

Cruise-Gulyas won in a lower court, the government appealed, and then the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled unanimously that the second stop was illegal (pdf of decision is here).  Cruise-Gulyas won on the First Amendment claim, while the judges didn’t bother to rule on the Fourteenth Amendment claim. Here’s part of the decision:

But why, then, can judges change a plea deal if the accused behaves offensively? The court dealt with that, too.

That’s a bit less convincing, as it counts the interval between the two events (deal/revocation of deal, non-moving ticket/moving ticket) as the significant factor. Well, the judges have ruled, and in this case I think they’re right.

As the Times notes, there is a legal precedent for this ruling:

There are at least two earlier cases in which federal courts made similar decisions.

In 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decided against qualified immunity for a police officer who had arrested a teenage girl after she raised two middle fingers in front of him; the girl’s mother had been killed by the police a few years earlier. Also in 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided that an officer should not have been granted qualified immunity after he arrested a man who had raised a middle finger while passing by in a car. The officer had followed the car and a verbal confrontation had ended in the man’s arrest.

These courtroom decisions do not necessarily mean that people can be rude to police officers with impunity, or that people would feel safe doing so, especially since police officers have used deadly force against unarmed people and avoided facing charges.

Joanna C. Schwartz, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert on police misconduct litigation, noted that Ms. Cruise-Gulyas and a few others had their rights recognized only after they went through the trouble of bringing their cases to court.

“The right is there, but the enforcement of that right is a more complicated matter,” she said, noting that many people who experience police misconduct do not report it. “There is a gap between what the Constitution allows and requires, and how police behave on the street. And getting from the street to the courthouse is a long and expensive process.”

The lesson is that you still shouldn’t be rude to cops for two reasons: they might rough you up or give you more serious charges, and if you want redress for that you’ll have to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of litigation. Ms. Cruise-Gulyas should have been grateful for the lesser ticket—assuming that she was speeding.

h/t: Tim

Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Nilou visited the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve to see the breeding Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), which I also saw when I was in Oahu. Here are three pictures of these gorgeous beasts in situ.

A downy chick inspected by adults:

Reader Kevin Elskin sent some photos from Arkansas; his notes are indented:

First, the Nine Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is a new world placental mammal known best for being born on the side of the highway, stone dead. In all seriousness, they seem to be thriving. I grew up and spent the first 30 years of my life in northwest Arkansas, and during that time I recall seeing exactly one alive. After a 27-year absence I have returned and seen at least a half dozen in the last 18 months.

Speaking of Arkansas, perhaps you would not expect to see Elk (Cervus canadensis), but there is a large herd that roams the Buffalo River valley. It is some beautiful country if you ever have the chance to visit.

I think the Yellow Garden Spider or Argiope aurantia has made an appearance in your web pages before. I have to say I really like this photo I captured, which shows off the zig zag of spider silk known as a stabilimentum.  According to Wikipedia, the purpose of this web decoration has not been definitively explained.

And a few birds. First a Red Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). Raptors are everywhere and are magnificent birds.

Next is the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus). These cool birds use their long tails to help them maneuver and catch insects. But I also love the splash of orange under their wings and down their sides. Another animal which I rarely saw as a youngster, but are quite common today.

And last the humble Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis). I caught this one preparing a nest. Hopefully this is everyone’s bluebird of happiness.



Tuesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Tuesday, March 19, with only two days left until the advent of Spring. It’s National Oatmeal Cookie Day, honoring the worst of all possible cookies (many times I’ve been fooled into biting into one, thinking that the raisins were chocolate chips). And it’s “Return of the Swallow” Day, when the swallows are supposed to migrate back to the Mission San Juan Capistrano in southern California. Are you old enough to remember this cheesy Pat Boone song with that Capistrano trope?

Today’s sad news (it’s always sad these days): another shooting, possibly an act of terrorism. A Turkish immigrant killed three people on a tram in a Muslim area of Utrecht in The Netherlands. The motive is not yet clear.

On this day in 1649, the House of Commons of England abolished the House of Lords, deeming it “useless and dangerous to the people of England.” The Lords were not reinstated until 1660 when the monarchy was restored. On March 19, 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumière recorded their first motion-picture footage with the cinematograph. It was a scene of people leaving their factory, and was first screened on March 22 of that year. In December they screened the first public movies: 10 short films, each about 50 seconds long. Here’s a compendium of their 1895 movies. These could be seen as the first “real” movies:

On March 19, 1931, gambling was legalized in Nevada. Exactly 12 years later, Chicago mob boss Frank Nitti, facing criminal charges, shot himself in the head in the Chicago Central Railyard. On this day in 1954, the famous pool shark Willie Mosconi set a world record in a pool exhibition in Springfield Ohio, sinking 526 consecutive balls. That record has yet to be equaled.

On March 19, 1962, Bob Dylan released his first album for Columbia Records, an album simply bearing his name. Remember this?

. . . and the contents (I like “Freewheelin'” better, and “Highway 61” even better):

On March 19, 1982, the Argentinian military landed on South Georgia Island (of Shackleton fame), starting the war with the UK.  Exactly five years later, Jim Bakker resigned as head of the PTL (“Praise the Lord”) Club, as he’d paid off Jessica Hahn for her silence (she accused him of drugging and raping her). Head of PTL went to Jerry Falwell.

Finally, on this day last year, the last male northern white rhinocerosSudan, died (he was euthanized because of age-related degeneration). That ensured the demise of the subspecies. However, there are two subspecies, the northern, and southern, with the following distributions (orange: northern [Ceratotherium simum cottoni], green = southern [Ceratotherium simum simum].

Wikipedia states that they might be two species rather than subspecies (see below), but I don’t accept this claim, since they use the bogus “phylogenetic species concept” (PSC) and base the species diagnosis simply on morphological and genetic differences, which are subjective and arbitrary. Here’s how they mislead a gullible public:

Following the phylogenetic species concept, recent research in 2010 has suggested the southern and northern white rhinoceros may be different species, rather than subspecies of white rhinos, in which case the correct scientific name for the northern subspecies is Ceratotherium cottoni and the southern subspecies should be known as simply Ceratotherium simum. Distinct morphological and genetic differences suggest the two proposed species have been separated for at least a million years.

If you use the Biological Species concept, which bases species status on the proper criterion—reproductive isolation—their species status is unclear because they live in different places and thus we can’t see if they exchange genes. The weakness of the PSC, and ways to tentatively classify allopatric (geographically isolated) populations can be seen in Chapter 1 of my book with Allen Orr, Speciation (2004).

Notables born on this day include Tobias Smollett (1721), David Livingstone (1813), Wyatt Earp (1848), William Jennings Bryan (1860), Joseph Stillwell (1883), Frédéric Joliot-Curie (1900, Nobel Laureate), Adolf Eichmann (1906), Lennie Tristano (1919), Glenn Close (1947), and Bruce Willis (1955).

Those who took the Dirt Nap on March 19 include Arthur Balfour (1930), Edgar Rice Burroughs (1950), Garry Winograd (1984), Louis de Broglie (1987, Nobel Laureate), Willem de Kooning (1997), John DeLorean (2005), and Arthur C. Clarke (2008).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is impatiently waiting for Spring:

A: What are you doing?
Hili: I’m watching the grass growing.
In Polish:
Ja: Co robisz?
Hili: Patrzę jak trawa rośnie.

Reader Jon sent this “Rhymes with Orange” cartoon by Hilary Price

Sam Harris retweets a scene from After Life with Ricky Gervais and Philomena! (h/t: Barry). It’s gotten good reviews but, since you have to pay for it and get Netflix on t.v., I haven’t seen it.

The Pedants’ Revolt, found by reader Jiten:

Tweets from Matthew. Matthew finished his book!

Didinium is the python of microbes!

I think you can make out the French here. Two brother chimps reunited.

Food-shaped gemstones!

Tweets from Grania.

Ichthyosaurs had such weird eyes:

I spent a long time studying these things, and concluded that they help the male grab onto the female’s butt before copulation (a male without them can’t grab well). Notice the chitin “spikes” at the base of each hair, which probably detect deformation of the hairs:

“Bird brain” should not be a term of disapprobation, and here’s why:

Look at this sweet baby kakapo (a flightless New Zealand parrot):

Is the Pope Catholic?

Here’s a video from the British comedy game show QI (“Quite Interesting”) about the official title of the Pope Francis. It turns out that it’s not “Pope”. Further, you’ll learn that THE POPE IS NOT A CATHOLIC! In fact, the man who is officially the Pope is also NOT a Catholic. Listen and learn.

h/t: Michael

An Underground map of science

I may have put this up before, but can’t be arsed to look it up. This map, first published in 2010, is worth seeing again, and of course we have a new generation of readers. Crispian Jago’s “Modern Science Map” first appeared on his website The Reason Stickand can be seen in larger and clickable form here (clicking on each scientist takes you to his/her Wikipedia entry).   It’s been updated and is arranged  by field, and with the stops in temporal order. Crispian’s explanation:

500 Years of Science, Reason & Critical Thinking via the medium of gross over simplification, dodgy demarcation, glaring omission and a very tiny font.

The map of modern science was created to celebrate the achievements of the scientific method through the age of reason, the enlightenment and modernity.
Despite many of the scientific disciplines mapped having more ancient origins, I have restricted the map to modern science starting from the 16th century scientific revolution.

The map primarily includes modern scientists who have made significant advances to our understanding of the world, however I have also included many present day scientists who fuel a passion for, and advances in, science through communication and science popularisation.

Click on the screenshot below to go to the enlarged and interactive version. It’s a good try, but the “evolution” line would be more like an evolutionary tree than a single lineage. For example, I’m on the lineage two stops down from Stephen Jay Gould, whose ideas didn’t inform mine at all, and one stop before evo-devologist Sean Carroll, who certainly would deny that I influenced him! I’m sure readers in other areas will have beefs, but you have to admit that this is a good try.

h/t: Juris

New York Times changes headline to make Israel seem more culpable

On March 14, two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, Israel, from Gaza. Fortunately, although the missiles weren’t intercepted by the Iron Dome, nobody was hurt. It was the first rocket attack on Tel Aviv since 2014, and Israel retaliated with air attacks on terrorist military sites. Hamas denied responsibility, but it’s clear that some Palestinian militant group was responsible. It is of course a war crime to fire missiles at civilian targets.

What’s interesting—and I noticed this at the time—was that mainstream (or anti-Israel) Western media almost invariably began its stories with headlines like “Israel retaliates after rockets strike Tel Aviv”, switching the temporal order of events to make Israel seem more culpable. Here, for example, is what I just got when I Googled “rockets fired at Tel Aviv from Gaza”:

But in an even more telling media switch, Honest Reporting notes that the New York Times, which is becoming increasingly Woke (and that includes more negative press on Israel), actually switched its headlines about the event during a four hour period, a period when the order of events was already known.

As that site reports, here’s the first headline in the NYT, which gets the order of events correct:

Four hours later, with nothing intervening to change the headline, the Times changed that headline to this:

Now you can make up all the reasons you want why they’d make this switch after four hours, but I think it’s pretty clear. While the reports in the headline are correct, the order in which things are reported makes Israel seem more culpable. If that theory is true, somebody made a conscious decision to manipulate words to inculpate Israel more.

I’m not going to argue here about whether Israel’s response was disproportionate, because I’m not sure what the U.S. would do if, say, North Korea fired two non-nuclear missiles that landed in our country. I just want to point out how the media covers these things, and raise the possibility that they’re reporting in a way that shows bias against Israel.

Monday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Yep, it’s Monday, March 18, 2019, and in one week I’ll be waking up in Amsterdam. Look for travel photos but not as much posting for about 12 days. It’s National Sloppy Joe Day, and if you don’t know what those are, go to the Wikipedia article, which describes this regionally variable sandwich of loose, cooked ground beef. It’s also Transit Driver Appreciation Day, so give your bus drive a big kiss.

Professor Ceiling Cat, though recovering from his Nasty Cold, is still a bit under the weather and is resting at home today. Posting today (after this one) will be either light or nonexistent. But, as always, I do my best. And donate to Feline Friends London if you haven’t yet.

Today’s Google Doodle honors Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake, inventor of the “Tenji Block” in 1965, which made possible “tactile paving” to help the visually impaired navigate by detecting a series of bumps or raised lines in the pavement (you can see a video of its use and importance here).  You will be familiar with these as they’ve been installed in many train and subway stations. If you click on the Doodle’s screenshot below, you’ll be offered a number of sites to learn more about this revolutionary invention.

On this day in 37 AD, the Roman Senate proclaimed Caligula as Emperor; he ruled four years until he was assassinated. As Wikipedia notes, “All surviving sources, except Pliny the Elder, characterize Caligula as insane. However, it is not known whether they are speaking figuratively or literally.”

On March 18, 1892, former Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley donated a silver cup as an award for the best hockey team in Canada. It became the Stanley Cup, and can now be held by American teams. On this day in 1940, Hitler met Mussolini (one of their few meetings) at the Brenner Pass, and agreed to form an alliance opposing France and the UK.

On March 18, 1965, Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov left his space capsule, Voshkod 2, for 12 minutes, thereby becoming the first person to walk in space. Here’s a video of his spacewalk, which shows that it (and the rest of the mission) was pretty much of a cockup.

On this day in 1990, citizens in the German Democratic Republic voted in their first democratic election. Finally, it was on that very day (1990) in Boston that the largest art theft in U.S. history took place, with 12 paintings, valued in total at half a billion dollars, stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. These included works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet and Degas. The robbery has never been solved, and empty frames, marking the loss, still hang on the museum walls.

Notables born on this day include Mary Tudor (1496), Polykarp Leyser I (1552), Christian Goldbach (1690), John C. Calhoun (1782), Grover Cleveland (1837), Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844), Neville Chamberlain (1869), Wilfred Owen (1893), Ernest Gallo (1909), John Updike (1932), F. W. de Clerk (1936), Wilson Pickett (1941), Linda Partridge (1950), and Queen Latifah (1970),

Goldbach’s Conjecture has never been proven, though it’s simple. Here it is:

Every even integer greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two primes,

Those who died  on this day include Robert Walpole (1745), Laurence Sterne (1768), Johnny Appleseed (1845), Erich Fromm (1980), Fess Parker (2010), and Chuck Berry (2017).

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is hunting for underground prey:

Hili: I think I can hear a mole.
Cyrus: I think it’s just your imagination.
In Polish:
Hili: Chyba słyszę kreta.
Cyrus: Chyba ci się tylko zdaje.

And Leon is out hiking as the weather in Poland improves:

Leon: If there are stork nests there must be cat nests as well.

Leon: Jeśli są bocianie gniazda,to mogą być też kocie.

Tweets from Grania, with today being a special Grania Cat Edition. First, Larry, the Official Mouser to the Cabinet Office, offers to take over the Brexit mess:

The way things should be:

“I’m not a pet, dammit!”

This kitten is gonna have a sore butt:

Many people call it “kneading,” but I call it “making biscuits”:

Tweets from Matthew. The first is a classic Gary Larson cartoon of the Creation. (Why did Larson stop cartooning?)

One way to reach an unknown customer who accidentally left his jar of bees:

A sea otter sommelier:

And a series of videos of a big bee war. Dramas like this take place constantly under our noses but are rarely detected by humans:

Where should I eat in Amsterdam?

I’ll have a full six days in Amsterdam starting on Sunday, and I don’t know the restaurants in that town very well. If you do, please advise me on where to eat.  Note: I eschew raw herring but I love Indonesian food, and I want to have a rijsttafel when I’m there.

I’d also be glad to get the names of good places to get beer (I had an awesome Belgian monastery trippel last time, and I will be going to Belgium for five days thereafter, but I’ll drink as much lambic or kriekbier as I can get).

Any tips much appreciated. Oh, and I love frites.

Mongoose vs. mamba: no contest!

Here we have a fight to the death between a slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea) and the deadly black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), one of the most venomous snakes in the world. For some reason these YouTube battles of mongoose vs. snake always end with the snake losing, but of course there’s been strong natural selection for quicker reflexes in the mongoose.

The mongoose, after pretending not to notice the snake, and then feinting at it repeatedly, gives the fatal bite at about 1:42.  They’re brave little buggers!

If you want to see more on this snake, here’s a video. Note that it can lift half of its body off the ground and travel at 5 meters per second, faster than most humans can run. My colleague Daniel Lachaise was once chased into a vehicle by an aggressive black mamba in Africa. He thought he was safe, but then the damn thing raised up off the ground and tried to crawl in through a crack in the driver’s-side window. Daniel survived.