still no cure for cancer

Leaping Shampoo

One of the best parts about YouTube is scanning through viewer comments – especially in regard to science-related videos like Leaping Shampoo. In this case the comments range from completely missing the point (“they used the Microsoft startup music”) to the classy (“GREAT excuse to bring girls in the tub“).

One comment simply read, “The last time I checked, there is still no cure for cancer.

boboelmo is right of course, there is still no “cure” for cancer. Just the other night I called my mom and she answered from the ER. She was sitting with a good friend whose legendary sense of humor is drifting away with her strength as she is beaten down by chemo.

Why on earth would you invest time, money and brain power into studying how shampoo pours when they could be invested in saving lives?

That’s a tough question.

I feel compelled to respond though, probably because I need to reassure myself that what I and my colleagues do is worthwhile. So, boboelmo, here is why I appreciate Falling Shampoo and all it represents.

1. Science needs creativity and diversity to progress

A Beautiful Mind and Freakonomics are excellent examples of how systems and models in one corner of research can bring new understanding to fields seemingly miles away. Supporting a spectrum of projects and encouraging cross-disciplinary collaborations are not just nice ideas, but necessities for a cutting-edge science program. From the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report:

Increasingly, the most significant new scientific and engineering advances are formed to cut across several disciplines. [emphasis theirs]

2. Scientists need creativity and diversity to progress

Check out the story Masters of Improv from Symmetry Magazine to read about the importance of aspirin and coke cans in experimental particle physics. By nature scientists are creative and curious people who, like artists, should be given reign to explore their ideas. See Female Science Professor’s post on Science and Creativity and Relativity for more.

3. The world needs creativity and diversity to progress

God knows helping people overcome cancer is worthy of all kinds of research – but so is finding alternative energy sources, predicting the path of hurricanes, creating materials that can withstand extreme conditions, understanding biodiversity, global warming, reproduction, drug interactions, AIDS and HIV, population and hunger, nanoscale devices, robotics, and on and on…

4. Small experiments build up the big picture

Finally, let me bring up one other point – experiments are nearly always part of a larger context. Michel Versluis, leader of the team that discovered the cause of the Kaye effect and created the YouTube video, studies

…bubbles and jets in multiphase flow phenomena such as air entrainment, sonoluminescence and cavitation. I am particularly interested in the physics of muliphase flows found in biomedical applications and in biological systems and in the physics of bubbles and jets in granular flow.

It appears that he is not just some “dumbass” who thought “I want to pour shampoo out of a bottle.”

But even if he was – it’s still a cool video.

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