I'm not sure I have all that much to say in terms of context and commentary (except that basic research really is important, and even the most apparently absurd has its uses -- if only to enable us to wonder at the glories and oddities of the universe ), but I'm hoping the powers that be (aka the RGM) will forgive me, since the article excerpted below is about ducks, penises, and conservative attacks on NSF-funded research. If that doesn't belong on CM, what does?
Why I Study Duck Genitalia
Fox News and other conservative sites miss the point of basic science.
In the past few days, the Internet has been filled with commentary on whether the National Science Foundation should have paid for my study on duck genitalia,and 88.7 percent of respondents to a Fox news online poll agreed that studying duck genitalia is wasteful government spending. The commentary supporting and decrying the study continues to grow. As the lead investigator in this research, I would like to weigh in on the controversy and offer some insights into the process of research funding by the NSF. . . .
Male ducks force copulations on females, and males and females are engaged in a genital arms race with surprising consequences. Male ducks have elaborate corkscrew-shaped penises, the length of which correlates with the degree of forced copulation males impose on female ducks. Females are often unable to escape male coercion, but they have evolved vaginal morphology that makes it difficult for males to inseminate females close to the sites of fertilization and sperm storage. Males have counterclockwise spiraling penises, while females have clockwise spiraling vaginas and blind pockets that prevent full eversion of the male penis. . . .
Generating new knowledge of what factors affect genital morphology in ducks, one of the few vertebrate species other than humans that form pair bonds and exhibit violent sexual coercion, may have significant applied uses in the future, but we must conduct the basic research first. In the meantime, while we engage in productive and respectful discussion of how we envision the future of our nation, why not marvel at how evolution has resulted in such counterintuitive morphology and bizarre animal behavior.
[honestly, I'm not entirely sure she nails the argument, but there's got to be some fodder for discussion, or t least amusement, somewhere in there.]