Politicians and other organizations often point out certain scientific studies that they say were a waste of taxpayers' money. On Science Friday recently, the researchers behind some of those studies explain why they were important.
Terrie Williams from the University of California, Santa Cruz, tells Ira Flatow that her study, which involved putting a mountain lion on a treadmill, wasn't even about mountain lions in particular, but to develop a new collar to track wildlife and predict when they might attack.
Likewise, John Dabiri at Caltech says his study of "synchronized swimming in sea monkeys" was actually aimed at studying climate change and the role of the oceans in the process. Tides and wind are known to help maintain ocean circulations, and some studies suggested that swimming animals do, too. They simulated the ocean processes in the lab using lasers and sea monkeys — at lower cost than it would've been to do in the ocean
"There's a double-edged sword to trying to make science more accessible," Dabiri says. "I think it's important that people understand what we're doing in our laboratories, that it's not this ivory tower endeavor. At the same time, I think in some cases you find these caricatures that arise."