Just two weeks after a Nobel Prize highlighted theoretical work on subatomic particles, physicists are announcing a startling discovery about a much more familiar form of matter: Scotch tape. It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers. Yahoo! News
I love this story. By itself it answers the myriad of questions, the cartoons, the snide letters-to-the-editor, and associated rants from all those whose knowledge of science is limited to how to dial a telephone. “Why”, they will ask about a particular research project, does the government fund such stupidity (their words).
And for the answer we can now refer them to this article. Someone, not a researcher, must have criticized the researchers for even considering such an experiment. “A waste of funds” or some other snide comment. The truth they needed to be told, is that knowledge and the discovery of new information is never a waste. All those that rail against scientific research, and especially research that on the surface appears meaningless need to understand this truth.
Today, the knowledge gained from this experiment may seem of little use. But other researchers will extend and amplify this knowledge and one day there will be a significant benefit that will be derived from it. It may not even be in the areas highlighted by the article but in an entirely different and unpredicted area. That is what science and research are all about and I believe this is a great example.