Basic Research: A Lens to Think of Hapa and Eurasian

At dinner the other night, a close friend and a badass Physics professor said: "name something big that didn't come from basic research."

I didn't have an answer. And my buddy, it turns out, didn't really expect for me to have one :)

We were talking about whether in the hard sciences there is enough money going into basic research. It seems time and again money is tied to very specific uses, i.e. grantors want to specify the inputs, presumably because they are probably gunning for specific outputs. There is an expectation of a "return on investment," or ROI.

But if you listen to a lot of researchers, they'll tell you great things are often stumbled onto. The internet grew out of NASA's communication needs. It was a solution to a problem, that was initially cobbled together, and iteratively just happened. But it wouldn't have grown if not for the basic research it grew out of. So, the pickle about ROI is you do not invest unless you can expect a return (a known unknown), but if you can expect a return you have already trapped yourself in the world of the possible/not revolutionary, because the really big stuff must be stumbled into (e.g. these are the unknown unknowns).

So... I think this quandary directly applies to the topic of being mixed.

I reckon too many people jump to the conclusion of Hapa. They jump headfirst into the label of Eurasian. But these are pre-blended ready mixes, mixes that may or may not suit the individual under question and her/his specific needs.

Hapa and Eurasian clutch for the features of Asianness or Whiteness or Blackness or what have you.

Forgive me, but I think some food analogies might help illustrate: 

But I say to be mixed is to temporarily forget French cuisine or Sichuanese cuisine. Forget Bouillabaisse; forget Spicy Saliva Chicken.

When we talk about basic research, using the analogy of food--basic means the fundamental tastes (the irreducible, 5 tastes if you include umami).

You might say Chinese is the Great Wall and Tang poetry, and Western is Michelangelo and The Eiffel Tower- but those are features, they are outgrowths of something fundamental. Tuning back in to food- focus on just the taste. Hapa and Eurasian don't have much in the way of identifiable features because they ignored the basic building blocks. Both their foundations are shaky. There is nowhere else to begin the conversation but the very basics: this exercise requires you to transform an Orange Duck and a Peking Duck into tones. Your senses just nose-dived into primeval goo. Your vocabulary is this: sweet or sour, bitter or salty.

And from there we stumble.