Image of Hacking - The Smoot Hacking - The Smoot
Hacking – The Smoot, Smoot Bar, Oliver Smoot and the Brothers of Lambda Chi, 1958 and 2008

Practical jokes are part of undergraduate life almost everywhere. But nowhere else do they rival MIT’s tradition in sophistication or integration into the intellectual culture of the campus. Called “hacks,” they follow a code of ethics—no one harmed physically or emotionally, and nothing damaged. Often taking years of planning and teams from many disciplines, they become the stuff of legend, infusing our community with humor even as we marvel at the creativity, talent, and tenacity they display. Partisans dispute their relative majesty much like sports fans arguing about teams from decades past. They attract national attention to the imagination and technical proficiency that MIT fosters. Oliver Smoot, a freshman in 1958, became a unit of measurement—placed on the Harvard Bridge and moved 364 times as Smoot marks were painted (364.4, +/- one ear). Rebuilding the bridge in 1987 included renewing the marks. Today, the Smoot is a widely known metric, even as an option in Google Earth! “Best ever,” Smoot fans affirm. A police car on the dome, MIT’s triumph at the Harvard-Yale game, Cal Tech’s cannon suddenly appearing, Greenspeak—these also have devout advocates. Together, they proclaim that the spirit of MIT sizzles with clever prowess.

The Smoot Bar was fabricated at the MIT Hobby Shop by Dayan Paez ’08 for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Smooting of the Harvard Bridge. Oliver Smoot and the Brothers of Lambda Chi presented the bar to the MIT Museum as part of the anniversary celebration.

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  • This object was voted MOST SPIRITED in the MIT Museum Yearbook Awards on December 9, 2011!

    Second Fridays
    9 Dec 11 at 7:59 pm
  • This object was voted CLASS CLOWN in the MIT Museum Yearbook Awards on December 9, 2011!

    Second Fridays
    9 Dec 11 at 8:04 pm