Real Clear Policy: #WasteOfTheDay Week 19 76_WOTD_wk_19

June 25, 2021 10:28 AM



New Wind Tunnel Studies How Birds and Bats Fly | June 21, 2021


Despite a $4.7 billion endowment, Brown University has received $756.8 million in grants since 2017, including $1 million to create a wind tunnel for birds.

The $1 million from the National Science Foundation since 2017 went to create a wind tunnel for aerodynamic experiments and testing the flight of birds, bats, and other flying and gliding animals.

It was built even though the university’s Breuer Lab had a smaller wind tunnel. The university says the second, larger tunnel was needed to work with a more diverse group of animals and that it allows researchers to use sophisticated experimental techniques to study biomechanics, animal flight, and bio-inspired robotics.

“It will enable advanced measurement of kinematics and dynamics of animal fight, muscle function, echolocation, sensing and control during flight,” says a Brown University article touting the new tunnel.

Built in 2019, the tunnel can operate at speeds from 5 to 120 mph. The test section is enclosed by a BioSafety Level 2 enclosure with HEPA-filtered air exhaust, so researchers can test wild-caught birds and bats without fear of transmission of any infectious agents.

Why were working and middle-class U.S. taxpayers compelled to fund these experiments at the wealthy Ivy League college? If this research was so important, why didn’t they fund it with their own money?


Cornell’s Robots Want a Bottle of White, Bottle of Red | June 22, 2021


Cornell University has a $7.2 billion endowment, yet has received $1.5 billion in grants since 2017. This includes $1.2 million since 2019 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help vineyards manage themselves.

The funding to Big Red was for touch sensitive technologies for improved vineyard management.

“This project aims to develop an automated vineyard system to accurately determine vine yield, leaf area to fruit ratio, and cluster integrity based on touch-sensitive soft robots (rather than the industry standard of computer vision), accurately estimating grape vine yields prior to harvest,” a summary of the project says.

The grant partially funded a seminar titled, “Robots, Wine and Food, a seminar on Precision Agriculture at Cornell and beyond.”

Professors “review opportunities and challenges in agriculture and technology,” according to a website advertising the course. The topics include grapes, strawberries, apples, soil, machine learning, and robotics, among other things.

“We have a super exciting line up of prominent speakers spanning researchers, industry, farmers, and more – the class also includes field trips to the Dyce lab for pollinator research, the Cornell Vineyards, and the Cornell Dairy Plant,” the website says.


Almost $30 Million to Create a Fruit Fly Database | June 23, 2021


At $40.9 billion, Harvard University has the largest endowment of all American universities and colleges, yet the Ivy League institution has collected $29.7 million from the Department of Health and Human Services since 2014 to study flies.

But that almost $30 million was not enough - Flybase, a database of the genes and genomes of houseflies, requires visitors to pay either $150 or $750 annually for access!

The millions in funding from National Institutes of Health went to President and Fellows of Harvard College — otherwise known as the Harvard Corporation — for human genome research.

Research of fruit flies is one of the most commonly used model organisms for biomedical science, and the fly had been indispensable for basic research, the NIH says.

While the fly may be the subject of important scientific research, the $29.7 million of taxpayer money used to create Flybase does not mean American taxpayers have access to the research they paid for, since they still must pay an access fee.

The fly funding is just part of the $2.5 billion in grants Harvard has received between 2017 and 2021. Maybe some of that should cover the cost of membership to Flybase.



Creepy Voicemails From 2065 Say the World is Devastated by Climate Change | June 24, 2021


Throwback Thursday! 

Here is an eerie way to spend $5.7 million from the government: create fake voicemails from people as far in the future as 2065, when climate change has devastated the Earth and Alaska and California are without water.

In 2012, Columbia University’s Climate Center received the taxpayer-funded grant from the National Science Foundation to “engage adult learners and inform public understanding and response to climate change.”

This dystopian project, called Future Coast, also includes a game where people search for fictional fallen “chronofacts” that fall out of time.

These “immersive stories” are supposed to warn the public of the destruction that will befall the Earth if climate change continues on its course.

The university’s climate center’s Polar Learning and Responding Climate Change Education Partnership (PoLAR CCEP) received the funds to “to inform public understanding of and response to climate change," according to the Future Coast website. How do fictional “chronofacts” and voicemails advertising tsunami insurance help inform people?

The only “real” aspect of all this was the $5.7 million cost, funded by the American taxpayer.



Forget About Libraries, It’s Story Time at the Laundromat
 | June 25, 2021


How about some “Green Eggs and Ham” to go with several hours of doing a wash at the neighborhood laundromat? Thanks to a $248,200 grant, story time at the laundromat is a reality.

The funding came from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that gives library and museum grants and does policy development and research.

This funding went to Libraries Without Borders to “refine, assess, and scale partnership models between public libraries and laundromats.”

The two-year “Wash and Learn Initiative” aimed to enhance story time at laundromats and develop a national Laundry Literacy Coalition of trained librarians who gathered feedback and now use new approaches to story time at laundromats.

The organization claims that, while libraries provide needed internet and other library services to seniors, unemployed and low-income people, these folks often can’t get to the library. However, they do go to the laundromat.

So, using taxpayer funds, Libraries Without Borders is trying to transform the 30,000 laundromats in the U.S. into “access points for digital learning and community development.” Shouldn't taxpayer funds that support libraries be sufficient?

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at

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