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February 7th, 2012

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06:14 pm - Crickets vs taxpayer
I love this article in the Guardian. An 165 million year old fossil of a bush cricket is so well preserved that scientists were able to reconstruct the sound of its chirp (which you can hear at that link).

But, I see that the comments are divided. Some people like me think it's wonderful, and others think it is a waste of money to do research like that:
This isn't science! It is sheer fantasy and a waste of time, money and energy.

This is obscene. I want to know how much this cost the taxpayer.

Actually it was paid for by the Chinese taxpayer, but that's beside the point. I suppose there are two ways to justify this type of expense. One is that blue sky research, open research, can lead to practical benefits. Some definitely will, and we don't know which. But I think that's a poor reason, really an excuse, for research. I think it's like art; it cultivates the human mind. It's cheaper than I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, and to me it's more interesting by miles.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:February 7th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
Hurrah! Totally agree. Understanding the world is never a waste of money. Understanding how many bugs a sleb will eat is.
[User Picture]
Date:February 7th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
I was transported back in time by the sound. I also played it to my students today. I thought they would be unimpressed but they were really interested.

(NB they are Chinese students, and they were interested it was Chinese science)

Edited at 2012-02-07 07:35 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:February 8th, 2012 09:40 am (UTC)
I think if you can't feel wonder when hearing a 165 million year gone creature's call, then you probably don't deserve to live in the liberal west...
[User Picture]
Date:February 9th, 2012 07:20 am (UTC)
Yes, what soul it is that can fail to something or other I forget the quote, but agree with the sentiment.
[User Picture]
Date:February 21st, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, the benefits of research with no immediate practical benefit are hard to see. I know a woman who researches climate patterns in pre-historic Greece. She says it's knowledge for knowledge's sake, but then I think that the world's a giant web and knowing all the strands is benefical, even if we can't see how they connect right now. I like the art comparison.

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