One of the things I love about research is that what might seem, at first glance, to be completely loopy and useless and generally inapplicable, can provide leaps forward in technology we rely on for more serious applications. As an example, scientists have been studying the breakage patterns of dry spaghetti.
The physics behind how spaghetti breaks has long puzzled scientists who have wanted to work out why spaghetti fragments rather than breaks in two.
The French researchers now say the answer is related to waves of vibration that pass through the pasta when dry spaghetti is bent and suddenly released at one end.
I meandered on over to the article because, well, who doesn't want to know why dry spaghetti fragments instead of simply breaking? But of course those scientist types are ready with a justification for their curiosity. (Of course they are. Research requires funding, and an application for funding includes details of all the exciting projects underway. And funding bodies usually look at the loopy research projects and say "Breaking spaghetti? Who cares about that?" They've probably had to justify the project several times over. I'm glad I don't have to write funding applications any more.)
the finding can be applied to the use of fibreglass and metal rods in civil engineering to make structures like buildings and bridges more stable.
The research into "flexural waves" can also be used to describe the breakage of other objects under impact, from aeroplanes to buildings to the human leg. And (just for Justine), the "sweet spot" of a cricket bat.
But my favourite line of the entire article comes near the end, when we learn that Professor Cross has studied the physics of how pencils fall over.
Really, apart from those funding and business issues, a life in research would suit me quite well.