Home > Uncategorized > Does Science Have a Limit?

Does Science Have a Limit?

I was searching through the journals provided to us by GW is search of something to write about when I came across this one : http://prl.aps.org.proxygw.wrlc.org/pdf/PRL/v108/i7/e078101. This article discusses the science of ponytails. In the article, they propose “a [scientific] theory on the basis of a continuum theory for the spatial distribution of hairs in a bundle.” At first this sparked my interest. It’s something different to what is normally found in a physics journal.

The article discusses the physics of hairs, the statistical probability of certain hair lengths, the elasticity of a ponytail, and many more variables that could affect the way a ponytail is shaped as well has how it would fall. It was clear that a lot of work went into making sure this was as accurate as possible. Equations such as this: were used to calculate the “energy of an asymmetric fiber bundle.” Such an equation is not easy to come by and must have taken some time to derive.

This got me thinking… what are these scientists doing? Why on Earth do we care about how a ponytail falls? Is it going to help humanity in anyway? Probably not. Is it going to further our knowledge in anything useful? Again, probably not. In my opinion, this is the limit of what can be called scientific. I think science is some sort of knowledge, and is this really knowledge. This is more of a pointless waste of time. Scientists are a sort of tool. There are a limited amount of them in the world, and normal people can’t do what they can. So why are they wasting their time figuring out the physics and statistics of a ponytail. There are more important things that can be theorized… global warming… world hunger… deseases… all of these are important to the advancement of the human race. Ponytails are not. So my question is, who holds scientists accountable? Is there any accountability? Or are they just free to do what they want…

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 20, 2012 at 3:16 am

    That is a little bit ridiculous to be called science. It is definitely on the far scale of fitting into the “science” realm. Money and time would perhaps be better devoted to things that would have a greater impact on human life and the world. Of course, scientists are free to do what they want in their work, including anything that interests them, such as ponytails, as long as it doesn’t involve unauthorized use of things such as taxpayer money. In my personal opinion, I wouldn’t use my time researching things such as ponytails, but that’s just me. I suppose each to their own, and if someone’s fascination is with anything from ponytails to ear hair, they are free to use their time as they wish, and even to call it science (even if others don’t quite agree that this makes the science cut-off.)

  2. March 20, 2012 at 4:31 am

    I definitely agree – this caught me off-guard a little bit because it’s so irrelevant to anything going on in the world right now. I actually laughed a little bit when I read this: “From Leonardo to the Brothers Grimm our fascination with hair has endured in art and science [3,4]. Yet, we still do not have an answer to perhaps the simplest question that captures the competing effects of filament elasticity, gravity, and mutual interactions: what is the shape of a pony- tail?” Who cares what the shape of a ponytail is? While it’s true that hair has played an important role in culture throughout history in various communities, I see practically no relation to science.

    After laughing, I became a bit concerned because, while it’s true that there’s a limited number of scientists, there’s also a limited amount of resources that scientists have to work with. It’s worrisome that there are people who study something as trivial as the way we do our hair, when there are, as Ben originally pointed out, much more pressing issues facing the world today (like climate change, and diseases like cancer and AIDS).

    Lastly, I think it would be really interesting if we could see comments or reviews of this study to see what the public had to say. While I imagine that scientists aren’t always doing studies that are this unimportant (or it would be a much bigger phenomena), I also wonder about the accountability of scientific studies and if scientists in their various specialties should create more parameters around what people can study. It’s definitely an interesting topic to look into.

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