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Wed, 02 Jun 2010
Survival of the fittest in other fields - 14:30
With many things we use it already happens, such as bike parts, software, recipes. They go through a process of engineering/development/evolution over time (though guided by us, unlike in nature). Of course the M&M breeding is simply someone choosing to apply their own criterion to their candy that was not the evolutionary criterion applied by the company that made them. So the question is what evolutionary criterion do you want applied to everyday things that so far tend not to be.
Say if you buy a hardback book, you either want it as soon as it is available or you need another device with which to cause injury to others. Try hitting someone with the book if they stay conscious you need to find sturdier books. Of course it really is pretty cool when scientists and engineers redefine their work such that they look for something with different qualities/goals (or get lucky and discover something awesome they were not looking for).
This seems to be an ongoing failure in modern research funding, with a goal/result oriented funding appearing world wide often, if people can not research all manner of things in their field of interest we are less likely to have the accidental discoveries that so often change history. Though funding experts in the field to research their interests works, as is pointed out in this list of 10 accidental discoveries, "That's the genius behind all these accidental inventions - the scientists were prepared. They did their science on the brink and were able to see the magic in a mistake, set-back, or coincidence."
Good to see M&M recognised this, gave the man a bag of M&M's and let him get on with his research.