Rice University
There's hope underneath that tough facade.

No, Seriously, It Really Is Falling

Homeless folks now have an option besides aluminum-can recycling and panhandling to earn a little extra cash. The good neighbors at Rice University are dropping Styrofoam boxes all over the city — not filled with beer, which would've been a good way to eliminate the middleman, but with the promise of $30.

What's the point of this free-for-all cash drop?

Science, of course. (We are talking about Rice.)

Every day over the next two months, the university will launch six to 12 weather balloons carrying instruments to measure air quality. The Styrofoam boxes dangling from some of the balloons can be reused, so Rice will dole out $30 to anyone who finds a box and returns it. (You might be a winner. Call 713-348-4938 now.)

Sounds like a great job opportunity to us, and we're all about monitoring our city's air quality, but we have to wonder what would happen if one of those boxes plopped down on 610 West in the middle of rush hour.

The resulting pile-up would be one way to curb ozone emissions, but B.J. Almond, director of media relations at Rice, assured us by email that:

"[W]e do not launch when the forecast trajectory suggests that the instruments will land inside Beltway 8. This minimizes the probability of the instruments landing in the more densely populated regions of the city. More than 100 balloons have been launched from the Rice campus during the past three summers."

No fair. That totally gives the suburbanites an advantage. — Keith Plocek

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