Research report title: “A Stratigraphic Analysis of Desk Detritus.”

Abstract: A multilayer investigation of various objects recovered from an archaeological dig site used for interpretation and dissemination of scientific information.

Discussion: On October 6, 2008, with a column overdue and a desk so messy the pile was starting to block the bottom of the computer screen, the author endeavored to kill two burdens with one stonewall, by removing and cataloguing multiple artifacts long stored on my desk.

The top layer consisted of various television remote controls, one AA battery charger, a one-gigabyte flash drive, a pair of bifocal sunglasses missing one arm, two pairs of intact reading glasses, and an ancient, two-megapixel digital camera. These were safely filed for future use.

Removal of the top layer unearthed a dictionary, which could come in handy in case the author is forced to construct a machicolation or use a machete because of any Machiavellian machinations by macho machinists. Also found were reimbursable receipts for expenditures made traveling to the last meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February. (Note to psychology experts: Why is doing expense reports such an onerous task given the large return available for a small time investment, and does this behavior relate to the overall economy being in the—consulting that book now—room with a fixture consisting of a large bowl and a water-flushing device?)

Next was a set of CDs called “300 Spectacular Sound Effects” used to punch up Scientific American podcasts. (Dating last use of a sound effect on the podcasts can set a minimum time for the presence of the CDs at this level of the dig.) Careful excavation then revealed a dust mask probably left over from a previous attempt to hit desktop.

Perhaps the highlight of the entire dig was the discovery of a fabulous pamphlet entitled “Have Scientists Been Wrong for 400 Years?” published by the Kansas-based Geocentric Bible Foundation, Inc., a group firmly convinced that the earth is stationary and at the center of the universe. “Ever since the scientific community adopted heliocentrism as fact,” the brochure notes, “attempts have been made to prove it. Some of these attempts should have worked. Remarkably, not only has NOT ONE of these attempts produced the proof, but also the results of all of them are consistent with the hypothesis that the earth is at rest.” (Capitalization, italics, boldface print and lunacy all found in original.)

Near the geocentricity document was the antidotal Darwin layer. A map of a New York Botanical Garden exhibit on Darwin sat directly above a Bank of England 10 note featuring Darwin's portrait. In light of the U.S. economic situation, the research team is evaluating the investment potential of strategically filing the note under any available mattress.

A key find was then made: a dated document, the April 24, 2008, issue of the Onion. The newspaper featured the front-page headline “NASA Intern Hoping To Go On Space Walk Before He Leaves In June.” At this late date, it should be straightforward to discover whether 20-year-old Ryan Hodson, reputedly a cultural anthropology major at Columbia University, achieved his goal. (And whether he might have conducted any new research of interest to the Geocentric Bible Foundation.)

Underneath the Onion was another dated document, the April 13, 2006, edition of the New York Post, which included actual mathematics on the front page: “(S + C) (B + F) / (T – V).” This equation was touted as being the “formula for the perfect butt.” Further elucidation and explanation of the variables (for example, B represents “bounciness,” whereas V is the more rigorous “hip-to-waist ratio”) was then found on page 3, under the heading, “Find Out If Your Booty Is A Beauty,” featuring explanations by researchers identified as “tush-ologists.” The accompanying article offered the caveat: “But [sic] science really settles nothing, says booty expert Sir-Mix-A-Lot.” This issue of the Post was apparently saved to be used in a column for Scientific American, an intent now realized. Which will paradoxically encourage this writer to continue his slovenly ways.