It’s Science! With Dr. Plutonium

By Jeffrey Carl

Jeffrey Carl UR Column
University of Richmond Collegian, January 26 1995

Thanks to a bare modicum of writing skill and a more obvious fondness for bourbon which aligned with that of my journalism professors, my putative career advanced rapidly through my undergraduate years. I went from a practicum story writer for the University of Richmond Collegian student newspaper in my freshman year to Assistant News Editor in my sophomore year, then on to Greek Life Editor and IT Manager (I read MacWorld magazine!) in my junior year, and ultimately to Opinion Editor in my senior year.

For some reason that escapes me now, I acquired a humor column during this process at the beginning of my junior year. This column, titled “Over the Cliff Notes,” eventually ran for 22 installments and was over the course of two years was read by literally dozens of actual humans, only most of which where KA pledges I forced to do so. Its literary influence was quite literally incalculable, and I’m just going to leave it at that.

It occurs to me now that topical humor from college campuses nearly 30 years ago does not age well. I’m sure it was absolutely hilarious at the time, though. Enjoy!

Editor’s note: We don’t really know where this came from.  We got a call from the Science Center one day asking if we still had a “human newspaper” here, and then we heard lots of shouting and giggling in German.  Then this showed up.  The point being: there are some questions that you just don’t want to know the answer to.

We here in the Science Center pride ourselves on being responsive to our readers, ha ha.  This new feature in your newspaper, read by many humans not suspecting its true nature as propaganda for the planet Frothgar, but I digress, this new feature will allow you, the reader, to send in burning – or shall we say, “Oxidizing?” ha ha ha – questions about science and nature, not realizing of course that our secret Gottwald building experiments will destroy this puny planet and enslave the universe by using a mild cheese sauce to break the warp barrier, ha ha never mind you didn’t read that last part and let’s get to the first letter anyway.

Many people believe that science teachers like myself are strange because they wander around with slide rules and polyester slacks and tell jokes about proton decay.  Ha ha this is funny because all we science people in Gottwald laboratories are completely normal and there is nothing wrong and there is nothing for humans to fear and there are certainly not Zondorg death squadrons hovering above your planet’s atmosphere at this moment anyway.

Let us read the first science question sent in to us by humans who will soon be roasting in the depths of the Sarlacc Pit like all others who resist us ha ha ha just kidding I meant the first reader question.

Q: Where does Nerf™ come from?

A: Nerf™ grows in the hills of Colombia where it is harvested by Juan Valdez© and his trusty burro, Pepe.  Nerf is not actually “planted,” but seems to grow in a field around this glowing green meteorite which fell to earth during the sixties.  Señor Valdez must be careful to not let his children play in the Nerf fields™ after sundown or the Nerf plants will eat them.  Nerf1, in its raw form, is a stimulant 200 times more powerful than cocaine, but for some reason is merely processed into small children’s toys and Pier specials.  But it is certainly not being experimented with in the basement of the Gottwald building as a source of mind-control rays for giant squid.  No, that is not happening at all and I think it is funny ha-ha that you even mention it.  Next question?

Q: What is the funniest science joke you know?

A: It starts, “What if

(x2y √90210 + PBJ2 (footnote) ≈ xÿ/5Ø – ∞)”

and ends, “so the Scotsman said, ‘No it’s not a bagpipe, but don’t stop playing.’”  

That joke is very funny ha-ha and all we scientists think it is very amusing, for you see we do have senses of humor and find very much to be what you humans call “ha-ha,” which proves very thank you much that we are not secretly robots programmed to suck out human brains.  Ha ha.  Next?

Q: How do computers work?

A: Research indicates that there are thousands of tiny, tiny monkeys (called “semiconductors” because they wear railroad conductor outfits and they are very, very tiny) which live in the boxes  called “computers.”  Each time a key is pressed on a keyboard, a tiny, tiny electric shock is delivered to the monkeys and they become agitated and do work, so don’t ever drop your computer because the monkeys would get out and after all those electric shocks, they are very, very bitter.  These monkeys have all been trained to add and subtract and play “Tetris” and so they turn the gears and levers inside the “computer” to make it work.  Here in Gottwald Laboratories3, in a secret room in the basement which says on the door “Do not enter – Pier Specials inside,” we are working on a special new computer4 used exclusively to compute GPAs with five special, totally insane  monkeys called “Pentiums.”  

Q: What other exciting new technologies are  being invented and perfected in Gottwald Laboratories each night as we sleep and are totally unaware of?

A: Nein!  Nothing!  We have no plans to clone Hitler’s left foot and use it to dominate this puny planet, and we are certainly not using giant mind-controlled squid™ to develop newer and more virulent Pier Value Meals™5!  Ha ha and we are just kidding anyways.

Q: Could you explain the relationship between quantum mechanics6 and neutrino behavior, in 25 words or less?

A: No.

An entirely unsuitable explanation can be found in S. Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” which only takes about two hours to read.  A more complete explanation can be found in Hawking’s “A Long, Drawn-Out, Excruciatingly Dull History of Time,” which moves as slow as time itself and takes over 12 billion years to read.

Q: You don’t sound like a scientist.  You sound like Jeff Carl after three fifths of cheap bourbon7.

A: Let me assure you ha ha very funny what you just said that it has no basis in truth and I have never even met this “Oberstführer von Karl” person and I don’t like him anyway, plus Iunderstand that he is not funny and he is the result of secret Nazi genetic experiments anyway.  

By the way of course we are not conducting any experiments of that kind here, especially not developing hordes of telekinetic badgers who will cause havoc and plague or bringing Keith Richards back to life.  Ha ha it has been very good talking with you and please do not go into any of the locked doors in the basement of the Science Center.  Auf wiedersiehn! 


1 Nerf is a registered trademark of Wham-O® Corp., which is, if you think about it, even stupider-sounding than “Nerf.”

2 This equation was originally proved by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew of Muppet Labs™ and his assistant Beaker.  Then it was proven that they themselves were in fact Muppets and so you probably shouldn’t take anything they  say too seriously.

3 Herb J. Ibid, “Blitzkrieg Fahrvergnügen,” p. 66

4 Ibid., p. 66

5 Soylent Green is made from people.

6 These are people who repair the time machine from “Quantum Leap.”  For more information on this show, see the USA Network or your average lame Paul Caputo column.

7 Usually “Wild Turkey” or “Old Crow” but sometimes as cheap as “Old Kentucky Dog Sweat” or “Ripple.”