It's not a "waste of time", they're theoretical physicists, it's their job to ask such questions and investigate such things. Your argument is essentially "I think it's a waste of time when they could be solving bigger problems" which I have already explained is a false dichotomy. It is not an either/or scenario no matter how many times you repeat this fallacy.
I never said anyone was assigned to anything. I think they are wasting their time on something that is irrelevant. The worlds problems needs multi-disciplinary solutions (global warming for example needs physicists and biologists ect. ect. ad nauseum). Just because they chose to work on that project doesn't change the fact that it's a project that isn't worth the time.
These are some of the worlds most brilliant minds working on something as important as figuring out the best way to win at tic tac toe. They may be passionate, but it's still a waste of human potential.
Do you have a source for this or are you making a rather large (and baseless) assumption here? I wouldn't put tic tac toe on the same footing as answering fundamental questions about the nature of the universe.