Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is a medical doctor and notorious budget hawk. (His colleagues call him "Dr. No" because he likes to block legislation.) Annually, he releases a list of what he perceives to be examples of wasteful government spending. In an era where American debt is $16 trillion, the federal government could probably use a few more people like him.
...a $325,000 grant to build Robosquirrel -- a robotic rodent designed to test the interaction between a live rattlesnake and a robot squirrel.That is technically true, but it distorts the purpose of the research. The scientists were examining animal behavior and predator-prey relationships, which is a legitimate field of inquiry. They wanted to know how rattlesnakes respond to squirrel tail-waving (called "flagging" behavior). Obviously, this research can't be done with a real squirrel because, as Samuel Kenyon on Science 2.0 asks, "How can you isolate and test individual animal signal
components and the specific responses they elicit?" So they built a robot that looked like a squirrel and tested that on rattlesnakes.
Next on the chopping block:
Although NASA has no plans or budget for manned spaceflight to Mars, the agency spent nearly a million dollars developing the Mars menu -- an effort to come up with a variety of foods that humans could eat if they were on Mars.This statement is false. NASA absolutely has plans to go to Mars. In August, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that the U.S. would go to Mars in the 2030s with an international team. NASA also plans a pit stop on an asteroid by 2025. Obviously, astronauts will need something to eat other than freeze-dried ice cream.
...the nearly $700,000 grant for development of a musical about global warming. When it opened in Kansas City, a reviewer said he learned nothing new about the topic, that the songs sounded like 'Wikipedia entries set to music,' and that the performance included flying monkey poop.Okay, Fox News and Coburn have a point here. That's absurd. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has no business funding musicals, even ones about science. Whichever bureaucrat is responsible for this decision should be reprimanded.