So over the break, at our big family get-together, relatives asked me what I did, and also my sister. "I teach calculus, and am supposed to be doing research" - that's me. "I'm working on things associated with progeria" - that's her (of course, in her conversation she didn't link to wikipedia). All paraphrased, clearly.
I just found it amusing that my sister was doing things that will have an actual, significant, impact on other people's lives. She could, for all I know, be saving lives. Me? I'm making students miserable talking to them about things they don't mostly care about, and then grading them on it. And my research? Like lots of mathematics, the things I'm looking at are completely non-applicable to the real world.
Which reminds me - why do I get paid again? I don't remember the last math paper I read, for my own work, with real-world applications. How many mathematicians removed am I from the real world? How many theorems away - that is, what is the theorem 'nearest' the things I am looking at that is still applicable to some real-world setting? Even just the nearest general theory? I guess knot theory is the closest, though I've heard rumors that category theory has computer science applications. I've not seen anything serious, but I can't say I've spent a whole lot of time looking. But anyway, I don't anticipate any of my work to be close to any of this, and I don't expect any of the ideas to trickle down somewhere useful, even for decades upon decades (and with the coming singularity, or weather issues, how many decades do we have left?). Oh, so I guess I must get paid for teaching (and the research somehow makes me a better teacher?). But these kids are bright enough, they could be reading it from the book. Even if they don't think they could. And anyway, I'll be quite suprised if more than 1 or 2 use anything I teach outside of other classes.
Anyway, off to bed. Gotta get up and teach in the morning :)