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Stranger than Fiction
An absolute Cracker
A letter from the Smithsonian Institute:
The story behind this... Apparently, there is a nutball who digs things
out of his back yard and sends his "discoveries" to the Smithsonian
Institute, labeling them with scientific names and insisting they are
actual archeological finds. The bizarre truth is this guy really exists
and does this in his spare time!
Anyway, what follows is a letter from the Smithsonian Institute in
response to his submission of a recently discovered specimen.
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078
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 loathe 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 origin:
Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has
Clams don't have teeth.
- The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are
typically fossilized bone.
- The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic
centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified
- The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more consistent with
the common domesticated canine (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.
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 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly
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 back yard.
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
Yours in Science,