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'Oddball science' has proven worth, say UMass Amherst biologists
Date:2/27/2014

s and across the ceiling, a UMass Amherst research team invented Geckskin, an adhesive that can attach a 700-lb. weight to a smooth surface on an index-card-sized pad.

Functional morphologist Duncan Irschick, a member of that team, says, "Gecko adhesion stands as a classic example where long-term research on a seemingly frivolous topic has led to a major innovation with enormous potential for making an economic contribution." He and colleagues say experts have identified more than 2,000 instances of technology inspired by evolutionary innovations, including highly efficient solar panels, insulated glass and body armor inspired by mantis shrimp appendages.

The public is already interested in "oddball science" and related success stories, the authors add, and "the abundance of organismal biology science stories in the news shows that [such] studies have mass appeal. This suggests they can play a role in education," particularly in a nation where only 40 percent of the public acknowledges evolution.

Evolutionary developmental biologist Craig Albertson notes, "It's easy to assume that innovation happens from well-planned research, but the history of innovation does not tell that story." Norman Johnson adds, "We are not suggesting that applied science is unimportant, far from it. We are merely pointing out the long-term value and innovations that arise from what is commonly viewed as wasteful spending."


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Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert  

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