Two interesting articles in Tuesday’s Science Times. The lead story concerned twenty-foot Burmese pythons, which have been spotted (as well as killed and eviscerated, to discover, among other things, who their victims are) lurking in the Florida Everglades. (Zounds! Now that a species of Chinese killer fish [last year’s story], which apparently can walk short distances on land, is busy taking over our streams and lakes, what’s next?) The second story, below the fold, was a tale of two physicists who misinterpreted data from a Collider Collector Facility (the Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois) to mean the creation of a triple muon (whatever that is), who later grew embarrassed when they realized they had actually constructed a whole theory to explain what never existed.

Well, that would be a tad embarrassing, I suppose, but should it be, I wonder? One tries to get it right, of course, and hangs one’s head when one doesn’t. But I’m not sure how chagrinned one should be about trying to explain something from the available evidence. The urge to make sense of our world is a fundamental characteristic of who we are, of what it means to be human.

The prevailing theory as to why Asian snakes are suddenly appearing in places where they’re not native is that they are escapees (or discardees?) from the burgeoning trade in exotic pets. Should one be embarrassed if another theory comes along which better explains the facts?

To me, it’s a lot like being embarrassed about sex. The urge, that is, not any particular act. Lust is a biological given, like the desire for food and water. One might survive without its fulfillment, of course – unlike food and water – but not, I believe, without consequences. And I don’t believe we can go for long without trying to make sense of things either. Including sex, including muons, including Burmese snakes inside our borders. The process of discovery, as well as theorizing about it, is an endless one, whose pursuit honors our humanity.

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