OT, but related (and funny)...
The story behind the letter below is that there is this nutball in
Newport, named Scott Williams who digs things out of his backyard and
sends the stuff he finds to the Smithsonian Institute, labelling them
scientific names, insisting that they are actual archaeological finds.
This guy really exists and does this in his spare time! Anyway...here's
the actual response from the Smithsonian Institution. Bear this in mind
next time you think you are challenged in your duty to respond to a
difficult situation in writing.
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078
Dear Mr. Williams:
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labelled
layer seven, next to the clothesline post...Hominid skull." We have
this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform
that we disagree with your theory that it represents conclusive proof
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
of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes
be "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
loathe to come to contradiction with your findings.
However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of
specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:
1. The material is moulded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are
typically fossilised bone.
2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic
centimetres, 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
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:
1. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has
2. Clams don't have teeth.
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your
to have the specimen carbon-dated. This is partially due to the heavy
our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to
carbon-dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic
To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to
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 Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning
specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino.
Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance
your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the
name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might
However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating
specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil,
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
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 Newport back yard.
We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you
in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay
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
9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.
Yours in Science,
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