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The stars of Desperate Housewives. (PRNewsFoto/Coty Inc.)

Your tax dollars paid for computers to binge watch 'Desperate Housewives' for science


You pay a monthly fee to binge watch some of your favorite TV shows, but you probably didn't know that your tax dollars helped pay for a computer to watch 600 hours of "Desperate Housewives."

That's just one of the studies highlighted in a new report outlining millions of tax dollars the federal government spent on seemingly wasteful research projects. 

On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. unveiled his latest waste report titled "Wastebook: PORKemon Go," comparing federal spending to the augmented reality game because, like pokemon, examples of waste can be found everywhere.

"Within mere days, the national debt will top $20 trillion, the largest amount ever owed by any nation in history," Flake wrote. 

"We can do more without spending more by simply making better sense out of how we spend every cent," he added. 

In his 201-page report, Flake highlighted 50 examples of projects he claims cost taxpayers billions of dollars. 

Here's a few examples: 

1. Computers binge watching TV

The National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense's Office of Naval Research spent $460,000 to teach computers how to understand certain human behaviors by binge watching reality TV. 

After watching over 600 hours of TV shows including "Desperate Housewives" and "The Office" and 400 hours of online videos, the computers were still unable to predict how humans would behave in most situations, according to the report. 

2. Playing with dolls 

The National Eye Institute and the National Science Foundation spent $300,000 on a study to determine whether boys or girls spend more time playing with Barbie dolls. 

Researchers surveyed 300 men and women about their experiences playing with Barbies and Transformers toys, according to the report. 

They also tested whether or not women could identify the real Barbie in a lineup of similar dolls. 

3. Fish on a treadmill 

The NSF and UC San Diego spent $1.5 million on a study that put midskipper fish on a treadmill. Their goal was to test how quickly the fish could flop on the treadmill and their need for oxygen.  

The fish "ran" two inches per second on a treadmill for 15 minutes. 

This isn't the first time the government has funded studies that put animals on treadmills. Mountain lions, monkeys and shrimp have also had to run for science. 

4. The "Jaws" theme music is scary, according to science 

A $3 million National Science Grant was used for a study to determine whether or not the infamous "Jaws" theme music was intended to be scary, and whether or not it has contributed to people's fear of sharks. 
Guess what? It has. Research participants watched videos of sharks set to different music. Shockingly, respondents said the sharks they watched swimming to the ominous music seemed "scary" "dangerous" and "vicious," according to the report. 

Aya Collins, a spokeswoman for NSF told Circa in an email that Flake's report "disparages important NSF-funded fundamental research that has the potential to yield significant scientific, economic and national security benefits -- government investments that are far from wasteful." 

She said Flake's report "inaccurately misstates the purpose of awards, mischaracterizes the results of scientific research and conflates individual publications with entire research projects."

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