A former staff member writes, "As a former staff member at MIT (1989-2006), I loved to walk through Strobe Alley on the 4th Floor of Building 4. I think it is both a great tribute to the innovative and creative spirit of MIT and reminds us of the genius of Doc. I think that Doc is in the pantheon of the great individuals at MIT and he spans such an important part of the Institute's history."
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  • While I was a graduate student at M.I.T., 1964 – 65, I was fascinated with the photographs of Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton’s that were displayed on the 4th floor hallway walls. So imagine my excitement when I read that his lab was having an “open house” one afternoon. I remember in particular one exhibit that went beyond the familiar photos that I had already seen: The room was pitch dark, and a strobe light was set to flash only when a sudden sharp sound occurred. One of Doc Edgerton’s students was continually blowing up balloons and stabbing them with a knife. The loud “pop” triggered the strobe, with perhaps a few milliseconds’ delay, and during the brief flash I saw a balloon frozen in its path while bursting.

    The pattern of a balloon’s demise is remarkable, and consistent from balloon to balloon. Due to the rubber contracting only where the burst is still in progress, the balloon exhibits a very elongated set of zigzags, sort of like interlocking triangular fingers that are starting to separate. This is a phenomenon that one can never see without the aid of a high-speed strobe.