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Moon rocks and dinosaur thefts



"Suspect in moon-rock theft arrested, co-defendant charged with dinosaur thefts"
Thad Roberts was a busy guy in July of 2002 but should be earning some 
well-deserved downtime in the future:
http://www.trib.com/AP/wire_detail.php?wire_num=64750

In his own words, his interest in collecting dinosaur and other fossils:
http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-072202b.html
(edited below to bring you the most inspiring passages)
___

NASA JSC Co-Op: Thad Roberts
The following document was reprinted from the NASA JSC Co-Ops website.
Hello! My name is Thad Roberts.

I guess that you are interested in what type of people get selected for the 
coop program here at NASA, so I will tell you a little about myself.

I was born in Utah in 1977. I am an undergraduate student from the University 
of Utah aspiring degrees in Geology, Geophysics and Physics. I am a junior in 
all three degrees.

As a member of the cooperative education program, here at the Johnson Space 
Center, I alternate between work and college.
<...>
As you can tell I love to be involved with many things. I volunteer at the Utah 
Museum of Natural History on campus where I have been trained to prepare fossil 
samples. My current project is a Sauropod vertebra that is about a half meter 
cubed in volume.

Kaydee and I go out on Dinosaur digs on some weekends with Mike, Mark and 
Monica who are with the museum. On one of our excavations, we were digging on 
the first and only T-rex to be found in Utah so far. During lunch we were 
prospecting within a quarter of a mile from the dig site and I found the 5th 
tyrannosaurid tooth to ever be found in the North Horn Formation. That was very 
fun.
<...>
Kaydee and I collect minerals in Utah and we often go out on weekends on what 
we call treasure hunts, where we find beautiful Topaz, Bixbyite, Red Beryl, and 
many other crystals. We also collect fossils from Utah, especially plant 
fossils and trilobites.

I also volunteer for the Curators office in the Geology department.
____

The University of Utah is probably missing its specimens a lot more than it 
misses Roberts' input/output.  

For a brilliantly written piece on Roberts, NASA, egos and a similar situation 
at the Smithsonian, see Barbara Weitbrecht's post at:
http://patriot.net/~pinniped/weblog/2002_07_01_archive.html
reprinted below.
____

The theft of moon rocks from the Johnson Space Center [previous post] may have 
been minor news for most of the media, but here at NASM it has become an 
obsession. A colleague at JSC sent us the names of the interns involved and the 
URL of Thad Roberts' personal home page. Of course this knowledge rapidly 
diffused around the building. 

"I can't imagine why anyone would be interested in thisâegotistical child," a 
curator responded. I understand the comment, but I personally find Thad Roberts 
fascinating. He is a perfect example of an evil that we in the museum community 
see too often--a member of the inner circle who goes spectacularly bad. 

One reason the NASM staff is reacting so strongly is that we had our own Thad 
Roberts. A member of the curatorial staff--not a curator, though he described 
himself as one--was stealing the artifacts in his care and selling them at 
auction. The first we knew of it was when FBI agents showed up at the 
Registrar's office. The offender spent six months in prison, but to our 
amazement he continued to work in the aerospace museum community. Through sheer 
force of personality he convinced prospective employers, not to mention his 
wife, that the charges against him were fabricated--the result of a personal 
vendetta by the Smithsonian administration spawned, apparently, by jealousy. 

Like Thad Roberts, our traitor was a golden boy. He was young, handsome and 
privileged, with expensive hobbies and a "willful personality" (a phrase used 
to describe Mr. Roberts in a press release included on his website). His life 
seemed dedicated to proving to the world at large "the wonderfulness of ME!" 
And the world was mostly convinced, though not as fast or as fully as our 
would-be curator had hoped. In the end, his raids on the collection seem to 
have been as much about revenge as the need for money. Tellingly, he defended 
his thefts by saying that the items were not being properly cared for. This is 
an interesting justification, considering that the parts of the collection 
raided were his responsibility. 

Was Thad Roberts' fall similarly motivated? I have not doubt of it. The 
"egotistical child" was obviously not stupid. He also obviously had high 
ambitions in the geology and aerospace communities. He was, in every sense of 
the word, a golden boy. But at JSC he was a very young fish in a large and 
privileged pond. His superiors were older and duller. No doubt many of them 
seemed like lazy government bureaucrats. They did not appreciate the 
wonderfulness of HIM. 

And so he took his revenge. Nobody was paying attention to that safe. It would 
serve them right if their precious moon rocks vanished under their noses, prey 
to the superior man, the golden boy with the willful personality. 

It was stupidity. But it was also the arrogance of Lucifer, a pride both sinful 
and deeply human. We who toil in the mines of "the increase and diffusion of 
knowledge" watch the fall of the meteor and shiver, because we buy into the 
golden boys' myths and share their rage against bureaucracy. The enterprise of 
knowledge is noble and sacred; those who administer it are often dull-witted 
plodders. It is easy to become disillusioned. 

But disillusionment is ultimately egotism. Disillusionment is the world not 
living up to your expectations. It is the conviction that the world is not 
worthy of your labor, your love and integrity--that it is not worthy of the 
wonderfulness of YOU.
___

I would say that a number of the fossil stealers (oops, dealers) fit into this 
category. And weren't academic paleontologists supposed to be jealous of the 
success of commercial collectors?  Aren't fossils going to blow away as dust or 
be hidden in drawers unless _someone_ takes them?

Mary