Not Exactly Science!

From: Jim Rollins (
Date: Mon Jun 23 1997 - 16:39:39 EEST

Sorry for the people who can't see the humor.


This is an actual letter from the Smithsonian
          institute. The story behind it is as follows:

          There's this weird guy who digs things out of his
          backyard and sends the stuff he finds to the
          Smithsonian Institute, labeling them with
          scientific names, insisting that they are actual
          archeological finds. The really weird thing about
          these letters is that this guy really exists and
          does this in his spare time!

          Paleontology Division
          Smithsonian Institute
          207 Pennsylvania Avenue
          Washington, DC 20078

          Dear Sir:

          Thank you for your latest submission to the
          Institute, labeled "211-D, layer seven, next to
          the clothesline post. Hominid skull." We have
          given this specimen a careful and detailed
          examination, and regret to inform you that we
          disagree with your theory that it represents
          "conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in
          Charleston County two million years ago." Rather,
          it appears that what you have found is the head of
          a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff,
          who has small children, believes to be the "Malibu
          Barbie." It is evident that you have given a
          great deal of thought to the analysis of this
          specimen, and you may be quite certain that those
          of us who are familiar with your prior work in the
          field were loath to come to contradiction with
          your findings. However, we do feel that there are
          a number of physical attributes of the specimen
          which might have tipped you off to its modern

          1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient
          hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

          2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is
          approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the
          threshold of even the earliest identified

          3. The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is
          more consistent with the common domesticated dog
          than it is with the "ravenous man-eating Pliocene
          clams" you speculate roamed the wetlands during
          that time. This latter finding is certainly one
          of the most intriguing hypotheses you have
          submitted in your history with this institution,
          but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily
          against it. Without going into too much detail,
          let us say that:

          A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that
          a dog has chewed on.

          B. Clams don't have teeth.

          It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we
          must deny your request to have the specimen carbon
          dated. This is partially due to the heavy load
          our lab must bear in its normal operation, and
          partly due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy
          in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best
          of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced
          prior to 1956 A.D., and carbon dating is likely to
          produce wildly inaccurate results. Sadly, we must
          also deny your request that we approach the
          National Science Foundation's Phylogeny Department
          with the concept of assigning your specimen the
          scientific name "Australopithecus spiff-arino."
          Speaking personally, I, for one, fought
          tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed
          taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because
          the species name you selected was hyphenated, and
          didn't really sound like it might be Latin.

          However, we gladly accept your generous donation
          of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While
          it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil, it is,
          nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the
          great body of work you seem to accumulate here so
          effortlessly. You should know that our Director
          has reserved a special shelf in his own office for
          the display of the specimens you have previously
          submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff
          speculates daily on what you will happen upon next
          in your digs at the site you have discovered in
          your backyard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to
          our nation's capital that you proposed in your
          last letter, and several of us are pressing the
          Director to pay for it. We are particularly
          interested in hearing you expand on your theories
          surrounding the "trans-positating fillifitation of
          ferrous ions in a structural matrix" that makes
          the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex femur you
          recently discovered take on the deceptive
          appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman
          automotive crescent wrench.

          Yours in Science,

          Harvey Rowe
          Curator, Antiquities

Jim Rollins          
Dir. Scanning Services 
Scientific Measurement Systems (SMS)
2210 Denton Drive
Suite 106
Austin, Texas 78758

Tel# 512-837-4712 xt 519 Fax# 512-837-9082

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