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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

Happy New Year! by Chris Peterson SM '13

how i celebrated the coming apocalypse

Hello Internet! It’s been a while. I last blogged on EA Decision Day, 12/17/2011. But I actually wrote that post on the 16th, because on the morning of the 17th, when it went live, I was on a plane to Denver with my dad and two brothers for a few days of skiing at Breckenridge.

It was kinda nice:


In fact you may have seen this movie starring us.


NBD brah.


After returning from Colorado I went back up to New Hampshire to spend the holidays with my family.

As I’ve posted before, I come from a small town in the woods, a place where people generally agree that almost anything can be improved if it is shot out of a cannon and/or set on fire.


Ma! Pa! Big news from the big city!


This year, my uncle, who hosts our annual New Years Eve party, and is known by local fire rangers for his 512 cubic foot brush pile blaze:



decided he wanted a little something extra.

See, last year I had brought the potato cannon a few friends of mine and I had made back in college. It was made out of schedule 40 PVC and would shoot a potato roughly an eighth of a mile with an extremely satisfying report:




This year, my uncle Ken wanted to bring back the cannon, but with a firing range. In order to do that, though, we needed a safer, more accurate cannon, which could be handled by just about anyone, and which could reliably fire with a known and controlled rate of speed.

But I didn’t know how to make these, as my education in engineering potato cannons never progressed beyond the wildly unsafe and generally illegal combustion variety.

Enter Jack Queeney. Jack is an MIT freshman. He’s one of my academic advisees this year, and he builds potato cannons. Extremely epic potato cannons.



I told Jack about our plan, and he sent some helpful tips and schematics to my uncle and I. The key tip was to build a compressed air potato cannon, so that we could precisely control the pressure to make sure it stayed within a safe range and ejected the potatoes at a safe speed. Ken worked with glee over the coming weeks to assemble the cannon, test it for safety and reliability, and scavenge the town dump (the social center of some New Hampshire towns) for stuff for the firing range

And so came New Year’s Eve night, New Hampshire style:

A snack bar, made out of wooden construction pallets, old window trim, surplus lumber, and Christmas lights


A projector with the Bruins game.




An enormous bonfire (those logs in there are actually trees, and I’m standing a good way back). 


And of course, the main event:










Here’s my dad taking the first shot, with a rundown of the safety features and design performed by Ken’s friend Chris:



When the world ends and the zombies come as the Mayans foretold, I’m heading straigth to Ken’s. Somehow I think he’ll be just fine. And I’ll have a place to watch the (zombie) Bruins.



I hope you all had a similarly excellent holiday season. I’m going to head home and finish unpacking. By the end of the week I’ll be reading the first round of Regular Action apps. I can’t wait!

Happy New Year y’all

14 responses to “Happy New Year!”

  1. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    Preemptive first comment:


    that is OK. We have dozens of crates of mail and thousands of faxes to sort through. Stuff will be coming up in the coming weeks and we won’t read your application until we have sufficient information. I’ll post an RA update in a few days with more info, but just FYI.

  2. D says:

    Nice Led Zeppelin!

  3. Abhilasha Kamboj says:

    Happy New Year for you all ! Happy Successful year who applied ! Happy prosperous Year for economies and a peaceful year where turmoil is in the world ! Dengue, is more prevalent here in my state of Punjab, which comes to halt with the beginning of December . Collecting from the newspapers, millions were affected and a few thousands lost their lives. But I celebrated my 18th birthday last night in a restaurant with my aunt n a friend and had a sigh of relief after stressful period of making application ” Submit” Is it the same with everybody, as i m feeling,” I belong to MIT even without entering it ?

  4. Sudhanshu says:

    Same here Abhilasha. I also feel like I belong to MIT and when I was applying to other schools I felt like I will end at my neighbor’s place rather.
    Love you MIT.

  5. Devansh says:

    Hi !
    Till now ive not faxed my supplements because its not that easy to find an isd fax sending store in my town…
    So ill send them today, is it okay ?
    Also tell whether there is a specific time i have to sen fax or i can send it anytime
    As i tired yesterday n my fax call was not connected…

  6. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    You can fax it to us anytime Devansh, preferably by the end of this week or next.

  7. Devansh says:

    Thank you very much for your speedy reply !
    *a sigh of relief ! smile

  8. Linda Valencia says:

    Just a heads up: you admissions officers at MIT are so amazing. I don’t really know how you do such a good job and still keep up the cool factor, but at this point I’m just too awed for further comment.
    Good day to you, Mr. Peterson.

  9. Mom says:

    I’m so happy you had a great break! I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the care and attention you and the other bloggers give to hopeful applicants and new prefrosh. You have truly created a community and it is so unique and so supportive.

    To the hopeful applicants, good luck and to the bloggers, thank you so much for your patience and kindness.

  10. Cathy says:

    OMG… that cannon is awesome..

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ahh, MIT took all the cool people from the world

  12. Jorge Lacaba says:

    Happy new year everybody!!
    Hello Chris! Great post! I sent the letters of recommendation and Secondary School Report two weeks ago and MyMIT updated yesterday, but Secondary School Report isn’t still processed. Can you tell me if there’s any problem or if I must send it again? I think it’s not complete at all because in Spain there’s not a guidance counselor in colleges and the education system is different.
    Thank you for your answer and good luck everybody in your application!!

  13. Daniel says:

    Coming apocalypse? What are you talking about? The world ended 12 years and 4 days ago. :>

  14. Carfreak Gauve says:

    oooo…loved that bruins hockey rules video…and yep..i found answer to a question that i did not expect to find in this blog…hurray…

    @chris- sir the the very first text in entry mentions”skiing”…but the video that follows is for “surfing”……both have a difference of those rods( i dont know wat we call them since i never tried any..) as they are used in skiing and surfing is freestyle sort of thing without those rods…can you tell which one u tried skiing or surfin…