The Oct. 15 commentary1 by T.V. Rajan was a delight to read and a pleasure to think about. Let me extend your metaphor a little. Some years ago, I too was a researcher at the University of Connecticut Health Center. I was then engaged in research in a field even more obscure and recondite than Demodex folliculorum. I was trying to analyze the volatile organic compounds in human breath, first, because it seemed like a challenging and enjoyable thing to do, and second, (somewhat perversely) because everyone else in the universe thought it was a total waste of time.

Well, guess what? The research paid off, and all that "useless" investment in basic knowledge has now burgeoned into a promising new diagnostic test for the early detection of diseases such as lung cancer, well-funded by the National Institutes of Health, with the possibility of saving many lives that...

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