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Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 12 2006 9:53 PM

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A 21-year-old undergraduate majoring in astronomy at Berkeley, along with a recently graduated Comp Sci friend, were busted for giving pot-laced cookies to their flatmates. Evidently one guy complained about feeling sick, and it snowballed from there. It's possible he was simply high, and had never experienced it before. Several residents were hospitalized, but it's not clear if there was something bad in the cookies, or if the police might have suggested that something was wrong, adding to the hysteria. It sounds like the consumers were not aware there was marijuana in the cookies, and were in a state when the cops came. It's really hard to tell from the stories -- and this was on Reuters as well, so the story is everywhere.

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The press is treating this as a silly story. The only serious note about this is if the students really didn't tell the others the cookies were of the Alice B. Toklas variety. That's very uncool, and if true, is worse than bogarting.

But the astronomy angle is the one that made me laugh. I imagine the idea of an astronomer taking drugs, mild or otherwise, is a shock to a lot of people, which may be why the newspaper emphasized it. It's a major misconception that astronomers are nerdy, drinking nothing harder than Jolt and reading journal papers at parties. I know quite a few like that (including one who actually does sit off in a corner and reads The Astrophysics Journal at parties), of course, but they are a minority. Drugs aside, a lot of astronomers are cool, too. We dance, we joke, we laugh. Some take drugs, and some don't. I swear, more real work -- making collaborations, brainstorming ideas, and just plain gossip-inspired research -- is done at bars at astronomy meetings than in any University lecture hall. I've seen it happen many times. I wonder how many billion-dollar projects started off with a drink or two?