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Learning History

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  • turf12001
    Hey! I m all for the practical history we can learn in our own backyards -- so to speak! Here is a letter I once received from the Smithsonian Institute. I
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 1, 2003
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      Hey! I'm all for the practical history we can learn "in our own
      backyards" -- so to speak!

      Here is a letter I once received from the Smithsonian Institute. I
      think it may be a little condescending, but maybe that's just me.

      Paleoanthropology 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 clothes line 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 it's modern origin:

      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
      proto-hominids.
      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 AD, 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
    • wa3ngg@aol.com
      In a message dated 9/1/2003 9:13:46 AM Eastern Standard Time, turf1@vt.edu ... Golly, you may have been had. There is no Smithsonian Institute at that
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 1, 2003
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        In a message dated 9/1/2003 9:13:46 AM Eastern Standard Time, turf1@...
        writes:

        > Here is a letter I once received from the Smithsonian Institute.


        Golly, you may have been had. There is no Smithsonian Institute at that
        address, although there is a Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
        Yrs,
        Bill Deutermann


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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