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Chris M. '12

Nov 8, 2009

“You know what would be cool?”

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Life & Culture

That phrase is probably the most uttered string of words I hear. It's 0400 Saturday morning, and my roommate and I sit listening to whatever Pandora has queued up for us, sipping homemade sweet tea and tossing ideas around like basketballs of our more athletically inclined friends. We've spent hours at a time like this, discussing topics ranging from Computer Science to Student Life, the best way to get free food and every tangent in between.

It's in these aloof conversations that I really appreciate one of the more unsung parts of MIT:

People here are very clever.

You see, let's be honest here for a second. There are plenty of very respectable universities that you can go to for your education. It's not like MIT teaches some secret form of Math that no one else knows about. Heck you can even kill yourself with homework if you really want to try and emulate what it's like to be here (as a sidenote, I recently learned that going for 35 hours without sleeping makes your thoughts indistinguishable from someone with a severe mental disorder in an MRI. This makes me want to wear a tactical vest and be very nice to everyone on campus).

But what really sets MIT apart from other institutions is the incredibly stimulating thinktank nature of people around here. Thinking is a hobby for many people around here, and for the hard stuff, they're really good at it. The more trivial things, like "Does orange plaid match with a floral green print?" or "Should I wash my hair this week?" seem to stump some people, but given that they could make a supercomputer using nothing but soda cans, hairspray, 3 rubber bands, and Karmic Koala; it's definitely forgivable.

You needn't click further than the Notable Alumni page to see a good number of people who's accomplishments I'd venture to say started off as the sort of humble ideas that populate the dialogue of students around here.

But it doesn't even have to be serious stuff. People here drop pumpkins off buildings for fun, and turn grocery carts into high speed go-karts for no other reason than because they can. It's a sort of art really, engineering as expression. It's no surprise then to see this creativity transfer to problem solving, seeing people win grants and contests is a such a regular occurence that it's not until I'm away from campus that it really sinks in how cool that is.

That's nothing short of exhilarating to me, to know that the people eating lunch at Subway next to me are future Nobel Laureates (scientific ones nonetheless. You know, the ones that are hard to get), engineers of advances in space travel, and doctors who will cure cancer. The guy getting his bagel from LaVerdes could be a MacArthur fellow, whose annoyance with the local price discrepancy (read: gouging) spurs him to invent a bagel tree that solves world hunger. Who knows what paradigm shifting idea is starting right now in someone's room or the coffee table in lobby 7. This is a place of dreamers, thinkers, and creators. The impossible's dying breath is "you know what would be cool?" because with it comes the beginning of ingenuity so profound that it makes the all the hours spent reading, tooling, and being awake well worth it.

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

This is a great post chris - keep it up.

Posted by: Bryan jenkins on November 8, 2009

You are so right! I hope I will one day get to meet all of those incredibly intelligent people.

Posted by: Bryce on November 8, 2009

That was beautiful.

Posted by: 0 on November 8, 2009

Reading entries like this only make me desire MIT even more, and make the wait for admission even more brutal. wink

Great post BTW!

Posted by: Colclasure '14 on November 8, 2009

Oh gosh... look what you're doing to me! You're making me want to be there even more than I already do... because I know that I would fit in, by all that I have read.

Ps. ONE MONTH(ish)!

Posted by: VAL ('14?) on November 8, 2009

That sounds so incredible! (But what's wrong with orange plaid and floral green print?)

Chris, your posts lately are such carefully crafted essays. But how are you? What are you learning from MIT? How's your research? How much homework are you getting?

Posted by: Lydia AK on November 8, 2009

"to know that the people eating lunch at Subway next to me are future Nobel Laureates (scientific ones nonetheless. You know, the ones that are hard to get),"

Is that what I think it is? =)

Posted by: Justin on November 8, 2009

Absolutely wonderful.

Posted by: bek on November 8, 2009

I just want to say that posts like these are what make people want to come to MIT. Personally, this sounds like an amazing place, and I hope to come here next year

Posted by: Jamie '14? on November 8, 2009

... please tell me you shower ...

Posted by: Piper on November 8, 2009

Nobel Laureates (scientific ones nonetheless. You know, the ones that are hard to get)

Ohhh obama just got burnt!

Posted by: the truth on November 8, 2009

I would prefer Debian over Ubuntu. Debian compiles their kernels with rubber bands multi-threading. wink

Posted by: Andrew H. ('14?) on November 8, 2009

I am impressed!!

Posted by: enriqueve on November 9, 2009

amazing post. thank you for a great read smile

Posted by: nate '14? on November 9, 2009

@Lydia AK
I'm doing ok. I hit a rough patch a few weeks back, but I'm for the most part back on track now. When you say how much homework am I getting, do you mean assigned, or done? =) Either way, I think "a lot" is appropriate

@Justin
you betcha.

@Piper
I shower =)

Posted by: Chrism on November 9, 2009

You've come up with *some* gems but the last paragraph just about beat every other blogpost that you've ever written.

Posted by: Shreya on November 9, 2009

This has inspired me to give the SAT II Math 2C and a science subject a go and also do the SAT I as well as in order to apply to MIT...

It's just that I have to travel some distance to do the SATs and I will lose a year and transfer in as a sophomore even after 2 years of college already.

That's even if I get in

Posted by: Oce on November 9, 2009

Thank you Chris for this...

Goodluck EAs and RAs!!!

Posted by: Oce on November 9, 2009

I'm Inspired Dude *_*

Posted by: steve on November 10, 2009

What a thought-provoking post. It's incredibly humbling (for us dreamers who spend our time on the blogs fantasizing) to think, 'You wanna go to MIT? Well, /that's/ what's in store.'

Thanks!

Posted by: peiyun on November 10, 2009

Nous apprécions, Chris!

Posted by: Kate Condren on November 10, 2009

@Kate

de rien mes amies francaise!

Posted by: Chris M. on November 10, 2009

This reminds me of happier times. Lately, most of my conversations have been like: "did you study for that subject test," "how did the impromptu essay scholarship thing go," or the dreaded "no, I don't have time to play tennis. I have to revise my English paper." Now that have I finished my application, I hope I can relax and have happy, stimulating debates with my friends again.

Posted by: Dan on November 10, 2009

This is so INSPIRING!

Posted by: 0 on November 10, 2009

It is typical for young people between the ages of 18 and 25 to have these types of conversations. College, let alone MIT, do not hold the market on such.

You can probably find a list of notable alumni from every college. I know of two MIT graduates who are currently working as adjuncts at a community college. I am not saying that as a dis, by the way.

Yeah, some MIT students do cool stuff, but how many just go to class and don't do much else? I'll tell you -the majority of them. Most MIT students are just like every other college student. Do I need to mention that you can find at least one student working on some cool extra curricular project at the most podunk college?

Posted by: DeeDee on November 10, 2009

Apart from the washing-your-hair-less-than-once-a-week part, I am so loving MIT.
Hope I get to meet (and be one of =P)those amazing thinkers/dreamers/creators!
Really nice and in depth post, Chris. =)
PS I've seen the Go-kart video and it is absolutely AMAZING!! Sort of different from dropping pumkins off buildings though.

Posted by: Val'14? on November 11, 2009

That was stunning beautiful. Just made me even more conviced that this is the school I want to go to; these are the kind of people who would appreciate me, and I would appreciate them.

Keep it up and flying, Chris!!

Posted by: Banerjee on November 11, 2009

@DeeDee

It's hard for me to tell what you're experience with MIT students has been outside of your anecdote about the two working at a community college, but my experience leads me to respectfully disagree with you.

First of all, you're absolutely right in saying that creative conversations happen a lot in the 18-25 age bracket. You're also right to say that nearly every college will have a list of notable alumni.


Where we disagree is that the majority of MIT students do not simply just go to class and not much else. On the contrary, it would be pretty easy if you just went to class. What makes MIT hard is that nearly everyone is doing something else really cool on top of--and sometimes instead of--class. By the time they graduate, almost 85 percent of MIT students will have collaborated on and helped produce real, ground breaking research.

MIT students are definitely not like every other college student either. I've got friends at a diverse set of schools and from my experience it's easy to tell that MIT kids are a bit different.

That's not to say that everyone here will immediately win a nobel prize upon, nor that no one from any other college will. There are people at universities everywhere that are doing cool extra curricular projects, but the abundance of opportunities, both intellectual and physical are what set MIT apart. It's just a part of our culture to be interested in the cutting edge of science and technology.

Posted by: Chris on November 11, 2009

This is a nice post Chris. It captures something about MIT student life I was trying to get at over the summer in my UROP for the new HASS class on the history of MIT (STS.050). Hope you don't mind if I show this to the professor, he'd love it!

Posted by: Maryam on November 11, 2009

@ DeeDee

I concur with Chris; the claims made here perhaps only have a specificity to the MIT Experience.

It certainly does not mean that there is NOTHING happening at other universities elsewhere. Far from it, obviously.

MIT students simply like to think they are having so much fun and most therefore think there is no better place to be than at MIT.

They just think they are at the center of the action...

Posted by: 0 on November 11, 2009

Today, in class at university, we watched an MIT Open Courseware video of professor Walter Lewin teaching physics 8.02 and it was so much fun!!!

Brilliant and entertaining.

He was hanging balloons on the blackboards...

Posted by: Oce (Manchester, England) on November 13, 2009

Chris,

This part of MIT that you're talking about, the part that makes it unique from other colleges, is what really makes me want to go to MIT. At the same time, though, if I don't get in then I miss out on a truly innovative and creative community. Other schools may have incredible students, sure, but not on the community wide level that MIT does. So if I don't get in, am I doomed to miss out on a great 4 year college experience?

Posted by: Christian ('15?) on November 14, 2009

@Christian

No. The catch-22 of it all is that your college experience is entirely what you make of it. It's unfortunate that MIT isn't an infinitely large school, because there are a ton of gifted and creative people that aren't offered admission every year. These people aren't doomed to a life of mediocrity and missed opportunity. They go off and find ways to pursue what they're passionate about the same way they did in high school. MIT is only a means to an end, but certainly not the only way. There are lots of reasons why you might not want to come here too though, most of which I think are difficult to understand until you're actually enrolled in classes. But the simple answer to your question is an emphatic "no". My friends who didn't end up coming here LOVE where they are, and are doing incredible things. Find your passion, pick schools where you can develop that, and you will be happy wherever you end up.

Posted by: Chris on November 14, 2009

This is the reason I want to go to MIT, plain and simple.

Posted by: Alex on November 14, 2009

ILTFP

Posted by: Daniel '14 hopeful on November 17, 2009

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