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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

A Nerd’s Paradise by Paul B. '11

Phi is a "h" of a lot cooler than pi.

Ever since I first visited MIT in the summer of 2007, I knew that the Institute was quite literally like no other place on Earth. All I did was listen to an admissions presentation, take a campus tour, visit a lab, and talk to some of the current students. I was on campus for a grand total of five, maybe six hours at most. But even those brief experiences were more enough to convince me that MIT really was different. Given that our current social structure places so much emphasis on adhering to norms and following the status quo, I was amazed to find that MIT was continually and unabashedly pushing boundaries, breaking down needless conventions, and defying expectations. This mindset has, in my opinion, produced some truly incredible results – not only in terms of the groundbreaking research and new discoveries continually happening here, but also in the sheer quality of education MIT provides.

Out of everything I have experienced at MIT – my first classes, turning in my first p-set, the clubs I’ve become part of, fraternity rush, several awesome hacks, finding a UROP, more classes, more p-sets, more studying, more researching, more everything – the aspect of MIT that I enjoy the most is, quite simply, my fellow students. (Although the research opportunities are a close second.) Put it this way: I can learn organic chemistry in roughly the same format, with only a few minor variations, almost anywhere on earth. But MIT is the only place where I can find four thousand students who have so many different and fascinating ways of viewing the world, who are just as comfortable talking about quantum physics as the latest Red Sox victories, who are so dedicated to using their talents and abilities to actually making a difference in the world.

Over the past few months, I’ve become even more convinced that the greater part of MIT’s uniqueness stems directly from the energy, diversity, and passions of the student body. I once heard someone refer to MIT as a “nerd reservation,” and in my opinion that’s absolutely true. To be sure, I haven’t met anyone who fits the stereotypical image of a dorky guy in glasses with a slide rule that pops into most people’s heads when they hear the word “nerd” – but, deep down, all of us are genuinely excited about science, math, and technology in general…otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. In that regard, nerdiness (or geekiness, or love of knowledge, or whatever you want to call it) is one of the great unifying factors at MIT. If you’re not yet convinced of that, let me present you with some select pieces of evidence.

Exhibit #1: 1024. (Think about it. Now go read this entry.)

Exhibit #2: I am, right now, wearing this shirt. I bought it because I have a terrible weakness for geeky t-shirts, and since I have penchant for the color red anyway (maybe gold would have been more appropriate for this shirt, but that’s besides the point) I decided there was no downside whatsoever. So far, approximately ten people have gone out of their way to tell me how ridiculously yet awesomely nerdy my shirt is.

Exhibit #3: The MIT blogs, as a whole. Counting this one, right now the blogs consist of precisely 2203 entries, with a grand total of over 40,000 comments. Have you read them all? (It’s like Pokemon, only several orders of magnitude greater.)

57 responses to “A Nerd’s Paradise”

  1. Shruthi says:

    I want that shirt :D Awesome! And I can proudly say I’ve read all the blog entries!!!

    P.S – Would that give an edge in the admissions :D wink

  2. Shubhang says:

    Sorry for troubling you again, I just received my Toefl iBT test scores yesterrday (got a 105), the scores will not be reaching the Admissions Office till mid of next week (hopefully) what should i do? Should i wait till then or should i send a fax of the score available on the internet accompanied with a letter stating the scenario. Please reply at the earliest.

  3. AwayfromHome says:

    I didn’t directly think of 1024 as a power of 2. I did, however, think of it as a left thumb more than both hands.

    I think that’s acceptable.

  4. Ana says:

    Oh, my God! I was doing good until the blog part came in. I have not read all the posts from the previous years. Now MIT is going to reject me because I am not a perfect match. Mea culpa…

  5. Roy says:

    I loved the link to Sam M.’s 2005 blog entry! It is so true. My son (accepted EA for the fall)loves to read a Physics textbook just “for fun.” He’s a normal kid in many other ways, but there’s just that inner “math/science” geek in him and all of those who clearly are MIT material.

  6. Masud says:

    The title of your blog was a comment made by a student in the book ” The Da Vinci Code”, which was written by Dan Browne…did anyone else remember that, lolssss but it’s a pretty common saying so w/e.Just fyi-ing…

  7. Hey Paul,

    I just don’t know how to effectively say the words: “I’m soooooo glad you blogged this entry!!!!!”

    It reminds me of my high school days when I was always known as the the all-time geek. This was because of precisely the same reason you mentioned: I’m very crazy about Math and Science and I wanted to use scientific research (nanotechnology) to impact the lives of people whereas others only wanted to get through college and get any arbitrary job. Moreover, most people was interested in movies and film stars and fiction books whereas I was passionate about tennis, social entrepreneurs and reading self-improvement books (all of which everybody hated).

    Therefore, I was always sort of an odd man out and I was forcefully dubbed a geek but I stuck to my principles and refused to give in and stood firm on my passions.

    Reading this blog entry re-assures me that I did the right thing so, with all my heart, THANKS A TON PAUL!!!!

  8. Vytautas says:

    A paradise that I want in to…

  9. Anonymous says:

    i love this entry

  10. Paul says:

    Ana – Haha, I haven’t even read all the blog entries yet, so I think you’re fine. wink

    Lauren – I genuinely chuckled at that one. Very nice. smile Reminds me of this awesome cartoon

    Masud – That quote was, by far, the best part of The DaVinci Code.

    Shubhang – You should call the Admissions Office straightaway and see what they have to say (were you impacted by the problems with the December 15th TOEFL?). Best of luck.

  11. Lauren '12 says:

    Phi… a lot of people like it, and understandably so, but it’s just not quite *transcendental* enough for me. grin

    Still, cool shirt! I of course will not hold your preference of phi over pi against you – just means more PI for me! *Yum! Erm… I mean….*

    Anyway, cool shirt, cool post, etc! I have a friend with some pretty awesome geeky shirts. One says “Shrodinger’s cat is dead” on one side and “Schrodinger’s cat is alive” on the other side…

    Unfortunately I am lacking in geeky t-shirts! But that’s ok, perhaps I will work on that. I’m sure MIT will sufficiently cultivate my nerdiness in any case grin. (As though it really needed to be cultivated in the first place, hehe…)

  12. Oasis says:

    “That quote was, by far, the best part of The DaVinci Code.”

    I beg to differ. It was the part when the police officer was driving them (the guy and girl protagonists – alright, it’s been a few years since I read the book) out of the science complex? and he was posing as a common driver.

    The security guard stops him and asks the driver where he is headed. The police/driver accidentally flashed his Rolex at the security guard, and the security guard is like –

    “Do drivers wear Rolexes now?”

    “This piece of pirated crap? I got it from a Taiwanese vendor for 20 euros.”

    Now that was the best part…

    (sorry, I don’t know what this has to do with your entry, but I had to point it out =D)

  13. Shubhang says:

    No, paul, i had taken the Toefl test on the 9th of February , does that changes the matter or should i still call the admissions office regarding the same. Please reply at the earliest. Thanks for your good wishes

  14. Paul says:

    Shubhang – Yes, you should definitely still call.

    Oasis – I remember that part now. Yeah, that was good. ^_^

  15. Aditi says:

    I go around saying ‘I *heart* phi’ =D

    I should fit right in. *sigh*

    love the shirt =D

  16. bunny says:

    Hehe… Lauren, I was gonna say exactly the same thing smile Transcendental >> Not transcendental, imo.

    My favorite geeky t-shirt that I own is a picture of a mug with the molecular structure of caffeine superimposed over it, although there are a few others I’ve had my eyes on. Notably, the Xkcd tshirt of the rollychair sword fight that says “It’s ok, my code’s compiling.” on the back :D

    Anyways… 3 more weeks (ish) :/

  17. Libin Daniel says:

    I got one for 13.1809156 euros. LOL..Let me in and I will get them for whoever needs it. Deal? jk..

  18. Neil says:

    I just passed your admissions test! I instantly recognized 1024.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I wanted one of the Maxwell’s Equations shirts, even though it’s one of the most common geek shirt. It’s just so awesome!! AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT

  20. Zaira '11 says:

    “It’s like Pokemon, only several orders of magnitude greater.”

    I love that. I just can’t stop smiling. That sentence summarizes the whole point of your entry perfectly. Awww…. I love this place.

  21. ilovepaul says:

    i love ALL of your blogs!!! keep them coming mister.

  22. asm says:

    YES!!!! I heart Exhibit 1! Maybe it’s just because I’m a passionate programmer and I’m so used to the significance of that number, but man, MIT is the one of the only colleges in the world where people will respond to “1024?” instead of giving you weird looks. High five, Neil!


  23. Anonymous says:

    so should i feel inadequate for not recognizing 1024? :(

  24. Akshay says:

    Hey Paul!
    A very nerdy post :D

    By the way when you wrote Exhibit 1# 1024 I just said square of 32 in my mind.

    So I think I should be admitted to MIT.
    Admissions staff take me in!!!

  25. with all this blogging, you certainly make me work hard. but i do love it.

  26. Sam says:

    My math geek friend was born on 6/18. I’m so jealous. Also born on phi inverse day: Paul McCartney, Roger Ebert. So lucky.

  27. Nihar says:

    “..just as comfortable talking about quantum physics as the latest Red Sox victories..”

    -> Thats MIT for the world.

    Great post!

  28. EV says:

    OMG I’m so super freaked out about the day about two weeks from now. I keep checking this page every 10 minutes while I SHOULD be doing chemistry self-studying.

    I’m attend a wedding during most of the day, and will be checking the desicion on my cell phone during the evening.

    Oh well, if I don’t get in this year, I’ll build an awesome machine and apply to lots of colleges next year (as I only applied to MiT this year).

  29. Shannon says:

    How’s this for pathetic?

    #1: That’s power of two! I remember Sam blogging about that. Right. That was in 2005? How old was I then? Oh. Oh, dear.

    #3: If I actually remembered that blog post from when it was posted, I don’t even want to know how many I’ve read total.

    That was a shocking realization, let me tell you.

  30. a question says:

    Do you think any new information for the admissions office would be taken into account at this point? There are some cool things I’ve been doing in the past couple of weeks that I’d love to tell them about, but seeing as how its so close to decisions (ahhhh!!!), I don’t know if maybe they’ve come to pretty-much-final conclusions about everyone already. Just wondering.

  31. JR '11 says:

    I didn’t get in Paul. I thought “What course is 1024? Is that in his major? I’ve never heard of people falling in love with that one”.

    Gee, now MIT will kick me out thanks to you.

  32. Paul says:

    a question – You can still try (calling the Admissions Office and/or using fax would be the way to go), but generally the admissions office can’t accept any new information past mid-February.

    Shannon – What happened to #2? wink

  33. Anonymous says:

    @Paul, last paragraph, it should be “there *are* exactly 2203 blog entries.”

  34. Paul says:

    The grammar police strike again! smile Thanks, I fixed the typo…good to know my readers have a strong grasp on the intricacies of subject-verb agreement, even if I don’t. wink

  35. Shannon says:

    Fine, fine, that’s an awesome shirt, I’ve got to admit. And I’m not sure a golden yellow shirt would have looked as snappy, though it may have been more appropriate.

    Had I included all that in the last comment, though, it totally would have killed the continuity. Happy now? wink

  36. Reg says:

    I thought of 768 the second I saw 1024 raspberry I guess I’ve been playing around with graphics too much.

    out of 2203 entries, I think I’ve read about 1700? I’ve been stalking the blogs for a long long time after all (from the end of 2005-ish?)

  37. Hawkins says:

    “…who are so dedicated to using their talents and abilities to actually making a difference in the world.”

    That is what means the most to me about MIT. Like you said, the students make the Institvte what it is, and there are some amazing people there, yourself included. I can’t wait to join you in the fall!

    Oh, and I’ve definitely read every last one of those 2203 blog entries. Probably more than half of the total comments, too. *sigh* I’m in love.

  38. OmarA says:

    I once listened to an entire lecture about the golden ratio. Very interesting stuff. I think I might buy that shirt!

  39. Hyun Jin says:

    Ah, I don’t think i can top Karen’s story…

    My friend was talking about Oberlin college and I ended up asking exactly where that was. So when she said Ohio, my first immediate response was “Wow! that’s where the USAF museum is!”

    Which certified me as a nerd. Kinda. I think.

    So, has anyone read all existing blog entries and comments?

  40. Davorama says:

    When I would think of my top choices for schools and think “what would I chose if I were to get into all the schools I applied to?” the thing that’s pushing me to MIT is its originality. I know there are great educational opportunities, but there are other places to get an awesome education as well. I’m leaning toward MIT because it just seems like such an awesome place – other schools bore me a bit.

  41. Nick says:

    We had a math meet on Pi day last year… so I wore a Pi cape (exactly what it sounds like, a cape with pi on it). I also own 5 math related shirts, and want to buy this t-shirt.

    I am at peace with my nerdiness.

  42. I’ve read all of them since a point (some time before last summer).

    But hey, I got it, so thats like .. beating the elite four.. though I keep going on catching the pokémon (of blog reading) .. I’m not really as concerned with catching them all. Still the battle is fun ^_^


  43. Steph says:

    I love your shirt.

  44. Anonymous says:

    yes, 1 more month. then i will know. and i can’t stop that. aah.
    can i just say the my ring tone is somebody singing the digits of pi for 30 seconds?
    yes very good shirt. and i like what you say. smile
    oh, is anybody taking java from some ICT book?

  45. Anonymous says:

    Your Nerdy Shirt is really awesome, I’ve never seen the phi one before

  46. Scott '10 says:

    So… which do you prefer, phi or varphi?

  47. anon says:

    pi r squared

    Actually, they are usually round

  48. Karen says:

    I got called a nerd today at my FIRST competition – I was rummaging through my purse and our mentor was watching me with another mentor from another team, and I pulled out a circuit breaker.

    They commented, “I thought she was going to come up with lipstick or something…guess she’s a true electrician.”

    So…I got called a nerd at my high school robotics competition smile

  49. Shubhang says:

    “The application tracking portlet will no longer display in your MyMIT account, as it is now too late to submit any additional or missing application components.”
    so what next??

  50. I hate it when people use the word “nerd” as a stigma. Because it’s usually used by people too insecure with their own interests so that they have to demean others’ interests.

    Since when did science/math take a back seat to dumb movies and who’s wearing what to the stupid dance?

  51. Anonymous says:

    Could anyone tell me what exactly are P-Sets

  52. E. Rosser says:

    @Anonymous: Psets are “problem sets,” a clever euphenism for what we’ve come to dread when called “homework.” But psets are so much cooler than homework…

    “Phi” is an H of a lot cooler than “Pi!” Sorry, lame joke, but I heart the Golden Ratio rule. rocks for the ages!

  53. Steven says:

    I have a question for anyone willing to answer. I’m a freshman in high school, and I am looking for some tips on getting into MIT in the future. I know most of you go to MIT and have already been through the process, so i figured maybe there is a student out there willing to pass on some tips. Well, I will keep checking this board, but if you feel like emailing me my email is [email protected]. Or for a quicker response, hit up mymobile email at [email protected]. Well thanks for your time.

  54. I

    Oh, and to Karen, I knew that “all tech men carry batteries”, but I never realized that tech women carry circuit breakers.

  55. I always had this great idea for a T-shirt design… in the style of “I heart NY”, write “I heart psi-phi” with the Greek letters and all. Doubly nerdy.

    I personally own two pi shirts in the same fashion as your phi shirt, not to mention the countless nerdy shirts from math competitions. Rock on.

  56. Paul says:

    Donald – That is one of the nerdiest similes I’ve ever read. Nice. smile

    Karen – Awesome story. :D

    Scott – Actually, I generally prefer /varphi because it’s prettier, not to mention much easier to write in one stroke. ^_^

    Paul (HS ’09) – Can I steal that quote? No, seriously. That’s brilliant.

    Steven – I suggested some general application tips in an entry a while back, but the greatest advice I can give you right now is to enjoy high school. Pursue your passions, take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to you, strive to excel in all your classes. Don’t just aim for A’s; actually try and master every topic presented to you. Focus primarily on doing the best you can, not on getting into college. Don’t stress. Cherish your friends. And, most importantly of all, be yourself…not who you think MIT wants you to be.

  57. Zovi says:

    When I saw 1024, I thought of 2^10 ^_^

    This really makes me excited about this place. I do hope that admissions agrees with my passing of your admissions test smile