How well can a shrimp perform on a treadmill? It’s a question that has puzzled mankind for ages. Fortunately, some researchers at the College of Charleston, South Carolina, are in the process of answering it — at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of a mere $682,570 (and counting).
The project first came to light in an April 2011 report on the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Coburn, famous for his annual reports on government waste, found what he considered to be “over $3 billion in mismanagement at NSF,” including $1.5 million to build a robot that can fold laundry (at a rate of one towel every 25 minutes), $300,000 to study whether Facebook’s FarmVille helps build personal relationships, and (at the time of the report) $559,681 to see if shrimp’s treadmill performance is impaired by disease. Since then, says CNSNews.com, the shrimp research grant has been increased to $682,570.
The study is, in fact, not as ridiculous as it sounds. According to a description of the study on the NSF’s website, it aims to discover how “human-made marine stresses [are] affecting the marine life we need.” Specifically, College of Charleston biology professors Louis Burnett and Karen Burnett...
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