You have GOT to be kidding . . .
June 5, 2000 7:20 AM   Subscribe

You have GOT to be kidding . . . With everything that COULD be achieved by modern science, THIS is what's getting attention?
posted by Zosia Blue (16 comments total)
I think it is kind of interesting. It reminds me of the story from last year where some group of scientists got together to find out why coffee rings dried the way they do, and figured a way to apply it to making even smaller digital circut boards.
I don't know if this will be as useful, but it doesn't hurt to know.
posted by thirteen at 7:37 AM on June 5, 2000

Seconds later...
I take it back, it's pretty useless.
posted by thirteen at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2000

Those noisy wrappers are so annoying! Go science!
posted by rschram at 7:44 AM on June 5, 2000

The AP article is a puff piece that doesn't explain much of anything to anyone. There was a bit in the NY Times last week (which I can't find the link to right now) about it that explained things in more detail, relating it to other scientific processes that are potentially more practical. I wish I could find the link, because the AP version of it is really watered down and sucky.

And what's wrong with pure scientific research? (The answer, BTW, is "nothing")
posted by jkottke at 8:21 AM on June 5, 2000

Last Thursday's All Things Considered featured an interview with the Simon's Rock Professor who did the research. I'm not sure whether any practical applications were discussed, but you get to hear that annoying sound of candy being unwrapped 3 or 4 times.
posted by sudama at 8:26 AM on June 5, 2000

I find it cute and amusing, as well . . . but I guess I'm torn between looking at the lighter side of side things and the idea of cancer and AIDS patients, desperate for a cure, reading this article and groaning.

I know, I know, there are plenty of scientists working on the big issues.

posted by Zosia Blue at 8:32 AM on June 5, 2000

While it is important to target certain important areas for research, i.e. AIDS, it is also important to allow and encourage a lot of pure, seemingly impractical research.

In Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize winning book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (about the history of cultural change), there's a chapter called "The Mother of Necessity." This is a play on the cliche "Necessity is the Mother of Invention" which implies that people invent things when there is a societal NEED for the invention.

As it turns out, most inventions were not created to fill a need. They were invented by people who liked to tinker, came up with something, and perhaps didn't even fully understand the possible uses for what they had invented. (Edison NEVER intended the phonograph be used to record music and was personally affronted by the idea when it was proposed. He felt it vulgarized his machine.)

Then later--sometimes YEARS later--someone else comes up with a use for the invention. So invention is (usually) the mother of necessity, rather than the other way around.

So who knows where the candy wrapper research will lead? Maybe it will eventually lead to a new understanding of sound--which will somehow help deaf people. Maybe it will lead to a technology that will create better acoustics in recording studios. Maybe it will lead to nothing (except a little bit of new knowledge. Is that nothing?)

I'm glad that some researchers are free to follow their quirky interests. And I'm glad the NY Times reported it. Maybe some other researcher read the article, and it has sparked an idea in his mind that will lead to the cure of AIDS. Unlikely, but you never know.
posted by grumblebee at 9:04 AM on June 5, 2000

I forgot to include a link to Jared Diamond's book. If you're interested in why some cultures came to dominate others, it's a must read.
posted by grumblebee at 9:07 AM on June 5, 2000

Newton and the apple thing. Nuff said.
posted by holgate at 9:23 AM on June 5, 2000

Ahh, true. I never thought of it that way -- that tinkering with such things as candy wrappers COULD lead to other developments. Thanks for widening my view on the issue. :)
posted by Zosia Blue at 9:25 AM on June 5, 2000

Two things:

I'm reminded of the Army's search for "silent velcro". It's a very similar problem to the candy wrappers: Velcro just plain makes noise, which is damned annoying under battlefield conditions. But if you can figure out how to make things like velcro and candy wrappers quieter, we could perhaps make the work environment quieter, which might have huge effects on productivity. (See the book Peopleware for more on this.)

The other thing is, re AIDS and cancer and whatnot... look, those are problems that can't really be force by brute force research. Incremental progress, sure, and we've made a lot (though I doubt we'll ever find "cures". Odds are, like polio, we'll find vaccine-cognates).

My point is, when it comes to problems like AIDS, we're basically waiting for genius. And genius doesn't conform to either budgets or schedules. Throwing money at the problem won't help -- we need the right researcher to spend the money, whatever the amount might be.

(If you ever want to look at a field where throwing money just hasn't helped much, consider practical uses of fusion.)

posted by aurelian at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2000

Open all packaging prior to entering the theater, or during the previews. Problem solved. :)
posted by flestrin at 11:27 AM on June 5, 2000

or this.
posted by netbros at 11:36 AM on June 5, 2000

I attended a Broadway show recently, and they actually made an announcement on the PA before the show started asking all people who liked to suck on candy during the show to unwrap NOW, rather than after the show started.

The audience applauded the announcement.
posted by grumblebee at 11:39 AM on June 5, 2000

I think its fine that scientists are working on this kind of stuff (for all the reasons outlined above) but was it really such a slow news day that CNN couldn't find *anything* else more worthy of coverage?

I guess this is what happens when AOL owns you.
posted by jbushnell at 11:55 AM on June 5, 2000

I think it's horrible and disturbing that acoustical scientists are spending their time researching acoustics. This is an outrage that disturbs me horribly. Acoustical scientists should be solving AIDS and World Hunger instead! I have cancer, AIDS, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and I think acoustical scientists are the very people who should be working on my outrageous and horrible problems! Cancer, AIDS and RMSF scientists are obviously not up to the task and are wasting their time looking at "biological samples" and "retroviruses". Get the acoustical scientists on the job now!
posted by dhartung at 7:59 AM on June 7, 2000

« Older Patently Absurd.   |   A spin-off Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments