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MIT student blogger Snively '11

Danger Danger! by Snively '11

Listen to Burt, duck and cover!

MIT, being at the forefront of a lot of things, is a very neat place to be. It’s also a really dangerous place to be. No, no, don’t freak out, it’s not THAT dangerous. It’s just, well, it has some neat signs. Every once in a while you walk by a door with a sign on it and you wonder “What could possible be in that room?!”

Some are pretty easy to figure out, others aren’t. For instance,


It’s pretty safe to say that there is high voltage on the other sides of those signs, right? That probably means you shouldn’t open those doors. But, in case you’re a little thick, they also have another type of sign for high voltages:

If you open this door you will likely receive a shock to the palm of your hand (which, thanks to a guy named Ohm, means you’ll die). Your best bet is to stay out of this room.

Another sign I’ve seen around is this one.

Mmmmmmmmmm, you can practically smell the radiation. I think what really drives it home, however, are the colors of the sign. When yellow and red are on the same sign, together, you can bet that there’s some serious stuff going down behind that sign.

20 feet, just 20 feet, away from the radioactive sign is this sign

What’s a class 3b laser? It’s a laser that turns a game of laser tag into a game of “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! MY [insert name of body part that now has a hole burned in it]!!!!!”

Another 20 feet down the hall you run into one of these

I’m not an expert on Nitrogen, but I’m pretty convinced that that container is storing compressed gas. I’ve always been a little paranoid about compressed air, I always manage to see them as bombs. One wrong move and BOOM, you get pwnd in the face by Nitrogen. Surviving an explosion can often make for a good story, especially if it involves C4 or fertilizer, but you just can’t brag about surviving a blast of air to the face. Nitrogen containers, they’re just not worth it!

Don’t think for a second that MIT doesn’t put safety first. Scattered all around campus are little yellow boxes like this

There are our favorite colors again, red and yellow. As useful as that button seems to be, I’m not sure how much it could actually do for me if I just got lasered, radiated, electrocuted, and Nitrogen-ed.

The “Danger” icing on the cake, however, is a little shed sitting outside the infinite corridor.

It looks quite innocent, just sitting there in a parking lot, but looks can be deceiving. Have you ever seen this thing before?

It’s called the NFPA 704. It’s used to indicate danger levels of various areas. The three colors indicate:

Blue – Health
Red – Flammability
Yellow – Instability/Reactivity

A number is present in each color. A zero indicates that there is no hazard in that category. A four indicates the highest possible threat. The white area is home to various other warnings and cautions, including

  • W – reacts with Water in an unusual or dangerous manner (e.g. cesium, sodium)
  • OX or OXY – Oxidizer (e.g. potassium perchlorate, ammonium nitrate)
  • COR – Corrosive; strong acid or base (e.g. sulfuric acid, potassium hydroxide)
  • BIO – Biological hazard (e.g. smallpox virus)
  • POI – Poisonous (e.g. Spider Venom)
  • The Radioactive trefoil () – is radioactive (e.g. plutonium, uranium)
  • CRY or CRYO – Cryogenic

What’s on the door of this shed?

*Assume the fetal position, insert thumb in mouth, and sob quietly*

Completely ignoring the “Hazardous Waste Storage Area” sign, you are left with the NFPA 704. Here’s a quick translation of what this one means:

  • Very short exposure could cause death or major residual injury
  • Will rapidly or completely vaporize at normal atmospheric pressure and temperature, or is readily dispersed in air and will burn readily
  • Readily capable of detonation or explosive decomposition at normal temperatures and pressures
  • Reacts with Water in an unusual or dangerous manner
  • Oxidizer
  • Corrosive; strong acid or base

Nobody that I’ve talked to can figure out what might be in there. The closest we’ve got is a Dragon made of sodium with a bucket of nitroglycerin. Any guesses?

My last sign, the most dangerous of all of them, is the one that gets posted in the 38-600 lab as a warning for the cleaning staff. They really shouldn’t go into places they don’t belong, it can be unsafe.

Do you have any idea how many ohms that is?! It’s insane!

My words of advice? If the door has a sign on it that even partially resembles any of the signs I’ve shown you, don’t open it. You may get pwnd. Nobody likes getting pwnd.

40 responses to “Danger Danger!”

  1. Isshak says:

    Big red button…so tempting..

    Well, what can I say : wow. I did not know MIT was so dangerous ! They have lasers and nitrogen bombs in the hallways ? Neat.

  2. Piper says:

    Haha, this blog is amusing, and oh so true. The signs of danger are literally everywhere. (And the random nitrogen… I never really got that, though they do prove useful, don’t they?)

  3. Edgar says:

    Isshak, just look and walk. Do not let the big red button win!

    Great DANGER-ous post! grin

  4. Chris T says:


    Very entertaining!

    That last sign is hilarious!!!

  5. Star says:

    Wow, great post there! Too true about the nitrogen explosions; no fun bragging rights there. And yeah, nobody likes getting pwned by crazy dangerous exploding stuff… but, I mean it would make for an interesting blog post… just saying smile

  6. jinziling says:

    The last picture got me. Took me a while to realize that it says ‘ohm’ not ‘voltage’ lol

    Speaking of laser and N2 – how much do you actually get to use stuff like that? I know there’s lab and regular classes you can choose from, but what about projects that involve your own experiments for undergrads?

    Also, is anyone here familiar with Math Labs at MIT? (I guess that there should be one)I had some experience in HS and just fell in love with it, and would really appreciate it if someone could tell me what cool stuff’s going on in there.

  7. milena '11 says:


    I can’t believe you just went there.

  8. PS says:

    I haven’t seen an all-four NFPA sign around; And I just don’t want to, although it seems you won’t be far enough of those bombs =P

  9. Twilight Bob says:

    Wow. What an awesome place.

    “With a warning label this big, you know its gotta be fun!”

  10. EV says:

    I laughed so hard, great post Snively!

  11. Aditi says:


    MIT is CoooOOOl!

    you can actually blow up people you dont like (?)

    ok i’m just being crazy/demented but any campus with that much potential for disaster is pretty AMAZING !


  12. Keri says:

    The first thing I think of whenever I see any of those signs is the Electric Six song “Danger! High Voltage!” (OH HEY, I SPEND TOO MUCH TIME AT THE RADIO STATION NOW).

  13. Tanmay says:

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

    Snively, you have a TERRIFIC sense of humor! 8-)

  14. The “10,000 Megohms” sign reminded me of the scene in Back To The Future when Doc Brown runs around his house shouting “1.21 JIGAWATTS!!!”


  15. Marissa says:

    Haha, awesome.

  16. Scott '10 says:

    <a>Danger! High Voltage!</a>

  17. Anonymous says:

    lol I totally remember getting lost in that one hallway with the laser room on my campus visit

  18. Libin Daniel says:

    It’s hilarious to say the least. Seriously, which other blogs do such weird but fascinating stuff?
    hats off to all the bloggers especially you, Snively. Great work!

  19. Shruthi says:

    Lol… Nice post…!

  20. Hyun Jin says:

    Definitely one of the more creative-yet-MIT-relevant posts.
    I remember seeing a lot of liquid nitrogen tanks during my visit to MIT, and I felt slightly uneasy too.

  21. Rachel'12 says:

    Tee hee. I made a sign last year for my robotics team’s CNC mill that says:


    But we don’t have the mill this year, so the sign is above the drill press instead, and has consequently lost much of its original wit :(

  22. Alias C says:

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha …
    Very amusing and funny…
    He he he…
    Oh that hurts…
    pnewd??? Yeah heh!

  23. Sumaiya says:

    You’ve got me on the triple 4 o_O Google couldn’t find me anything, either. I think your dragon wins!

  24. Roberto says:

    It’s almost sad how I can picture EXACTLY where that particular nitrogen tank is. Actually…on second thought, it’s quite happy indeed.

  25. Nihar says:

    And yet…no one lives in constant fear of being electrocuted/vaporized/radiated?? smile

    Wow! but I think the real purpose of this post is to ward off any faint-hearted prospectives…BUT, let us make it clear today that we will not back down! We will never stop showing our obsession for fear of getting bombed! We will NOT be discouraged from coming to MIT for fear of being locked away in the 4-4-4 Shed! WE WILL NOT FEAR!!

    ……too much?:)

  26. sara '11 says:

    was burt the turtle in the BC i3?

  27. Evan '10 says:

    I just feel so bad for our poor dragon; he’s kept down in the hazardous waste disposal shed.

    And for all those of you who love the “10,000 Megohms” warning sign, another fun fact is that the cleaning staff never went into the room behind that sign again (it’s an office…).

  28. Josh says:

    Hmmm, I think that Nitrogen tank is actually storing liquid nitrogen – that kind of tank has intense vacuum-style insulation. If it was just N2, it’d be stored in a regular gas canister =).

    And – why are lots of Ohms dangerous? I thought Ohms was just resistance, and to measure such resistance, you only need an iddy bit of current. Feel free to slap me in the face for being completely wrong, though. =D

    Cool signs, though! I’m excited to run into as much danger @ MIT as possible!

  29. E. Rosser says:

    It’s all fun and games until they whip out “10,000 Mega Ohms” signs. How can something that handles that many Ohms even fit into an office?
    And the NFPA signs are awesome- I want one for my dorm room. No one would come knockin’- EVER!

  30. Reg says:

    compared to what’s inside, i’m much more interested in how people actually dump stuff in there… if it’s that dangerous, the cleaning staff must suffer badly every single time.

    why won’t someone just station a video camera some distance from the storage and wait until someone opens the door?

  31. Roshini says:

    You are the best blogger!!

  32. Sam R. '12 says:

    Wow, I had never seen a NFPA sign with such high levels in all the three squares. OHHHH, coool. I would also want to find out whats inside there (just the mere sign is luring). Really cool blog, very funny. I specially like that radioactive sign one. It would be cool to take a geiger counter and check how much it reads outside that room, just for the fun of it. Or talk one day about how it feels living next to a nuclear reactor, that would be a cool blog. Oh well, thanks for informing us of the dangers at MIT. Keep writing such great blogs!!
    -sam r.

  33. Monika says:

    Hi Snively,

    I remember your posts when we were in the application process and I think its worth you blog for “the next generation(s)”.

    Unfortunately(or not?:)) I didn’t make it into MIT, but I still remember visiting this site regularly…
    Dreaming of this school…

    Hope you are fine,

    Monika(from Germany)

  34. That shed is literally terrifying .. I am actually concerned. That is all


  35. Hawkins says:

    hahahaha, nice! I love that sign. I wonder if there are t-shirts with the NFPA symbol…

  36. Hawkins says:

    The only one I could find was on CafePress (here).

  37. Caro says:

    “Nitrogen-ed” or “Nitrogen-ized”… just a thought

    MIT >> those years of life that would be lost due to exposure to hazardous materials

  38. Anonymous says:


    You forgot another danger
    -lol to death due to your blog!

  39. Anonymous says:

    @Josh: Nope, you’d need a lot of voltage to measure that much. If whatever was used to measure it still lurks around.. I would run far away, lol.

    Haha, I’m actually tempted to touch whatever those signs are hiding. I’m the type of fool who used to hide behind those ‘Danger X,000 Volts’ doors or look at the bottom of my laser mouse.

    But I would not get near anything with a NFPA 704 rated above 2 or something with a big red and yellow radioactive sign. We all know from games and sci-fi that anything with the word radiation is bad raspberry

    Somehow, I get the feeling that the shed is a place that students would make out in..