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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

In the News by Matt McGann '00

An NYT article on gifted education.

Once again, the New York Times has written about gifted education, this time a long and insightful article in the Sunday Magazine. Take some time and read it, you won’t regret it:

The Prodigy Puzzle

I’m glad the Times has seen fit to devote more inches to the topic of gifted education. I’m also glad that some terrific organizations, like the Davidson Institute for Talent Development and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY). I’m glad to see one of my favorite teachers from my undergrad days at MIT, Jeanne Bamberger, mentioned. And I’m glad it was the fourth most emailed story of the day — maybe people really do care about education and the future of this country.

Of course, I have some minor and not-so-minor quibbles with the article, which I won’t detail now. But overall, I thought the piece was thought-provoking and well researched article.

There was a nice section towards the end of the piece with some choice quotes:

[Longtime MIT Professor] Norbert Wiener, the founder of cybernetics and himself a prodigy who went to Tufts at 11 and Harvard at 15, wrote that prodigious children need to develop a “reasonably thick skin” – to feel they aren’t demonized and will find a niche, but not to expect the world to supply a spotlight. [Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton] speaks of the importance of being able to be “on the failure track for a while, take time off, take a real risk.” Creativity and innovation, he says he is convinced, depend on “exposure to the unusual, to the diverse, to heterogeneity,” which inspires a “recognition that there are a lot of different ways of looking at different things.” There are also all kinds of ways that this “awareness that there’s more than one possible world” can dawn.

For those of you intrigued by the program highlighted in the story, you should go learn more about the Davidson Fellows. Deadlines for this year’s honors start in early 2006.

And with the holiday season coming up, I should note that a home subscription to the New York Times makes for a great gift. Even in this Age of the Internet, I do enjoy reading the newspaper of record daily during my subway ride to MIT and during lunch. A few other print periodicals I might recommend include The Economist, The New Yorker, and Science. They can be a little pricey, but you really do get what you pay for.

My agenda for tomorrow: mostly reading more EA applications, followed by games at the house. Should be another good day.

19 responses to “In the News”

  1. Yeah, it’s possible, but it would probably be the size of my refrigerator. 10,000 for all of the airplane and supporting equipment isn’t much, IMO.

  2. Anonymous says:


    I know you said you would post an entry about the application reading soon, but I’d really like to know if you could take us (the prospective MIT students) *inside* the process…for instance, maybe chronicle the “life” of a single (anonymous) application, its journey from mailing room to individual readers to committee, etc. I’m just curious.



  3. I read it yesterday. It was really interesting.

    To all: Now let’s watch Mr. McGann get dozens of subscriptions of the New York Times to be delivered at the MIT office of Admissions! Also some scattered copies of The Economist and etc.

    You know,… now that he’s given us this great big hint and everything…


  4. SHABIN says:

    Hello Matt,

    Had it been last year, then I would have won the trophy for being the first to post the reply on your blog!

    It feels glad to see that you are “glad” four times in one paragraph!

    The $100 Laptop appears to be a great initiative! Hope that the aims set will be met early and earnestly.

    So, what may be the next thing to fly out into the world?

    A $ 100^2 AIRCRAFT !!!

    `The Economist’ is a very good magazine. `Science’ is one of the undisputed leaders of science and technology publishing, alongwith Nature. I love Nature, because Science is not easy to obtain in the library where I frequent. And that’s precisely why I visit other libraries.

    Don’t you think that the above mentioned publishing houses must give/sell/distribute reduced rate copies to students who may not be able to afford their costs, but are really interested in them?

    Yours truly


    Nov 21, 2oo5.

  5. SHABIN says:

    Dear All,

    Do you think that a $ 10,000 aircraft is feesible within the next 5 years?

    If yes, what may be the innovations and changes in the current systems required to make it a reality?

    If no, why?


    Yours truly,


    Nov 21, 2oo5.

  6. SHABIN says:

    ~Andy Toulouse : “Yeah, it’s possible, but it would probably be the size of my refrigerator. 10,000 for all of the airplane and supporting equipment isn’t much, IMO.”

    Well, in my opinion, the above quote will get into the list below, one day.

    – “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” (Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895)

    – “The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” (Western Union internal memo, 1876)

    – “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” (Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French commander of Allied forces during the closing months of World War I, 1918)

    – “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” (David Sarnoff’s associates, on investment in radio in the 1920’s)

    – “Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” (New York Times editorial on Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work, 1921)

    – “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” (Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927)

    – “The [flying] machine will eventually be fast; they will be used in sport, but they are not to be thought of as commercial carriers.” (Octave Chanute, aviation pioneer, 1904)

    – “Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them.”(Science Digest, August, 1948.)

    – “X rays are a hoax.”

    “Aircraft flight is impossible.”

    “Radio has no future.” (Physicist and mathematician Lord Kelvin (1824-1907))

    – “The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.” (Adm. William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Energy Project, 1945)

    – “As far as sinking a ship with a bomb is concerned, you just can’t do it.” (Rear Adm. Clark Woodward, US Navy, 1939)

    If the quote does not enter that list, then it may get into this shorter one, surely:

    – “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” (Thomas Watson, Chairman, IBM, 1943)

    – “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” (Popular Mechanics, 1949)

    – “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” (Ken Olsen, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977)

    And the best of it all, the icing on the cake:

    – “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” (Charles H. Duell, commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899)

    But, I go with this one:

    – “Aviation is proof that, given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.” (Edward Rickenbacker (1890-1973) US war hero and airline executive)

    And I go with it again, forever.




    Nov 22, 2oo5.

  7. SHABIN says:

    Dear Andy Toulouse,

    The above post is an unsupposedly intended serious shenanigan. So, take it seriously, but in the spirit of it.

    Andy Toulouse, what do you think will be the innovations and changes needed to make an aircraft cheaper than a Ferrari or Maybach? Here I am not speaking of an UAV or an Airbus A-380, but an aircraft that may the size of a car or a bit bigger.

    Already, there are many new additions coming into the Aeronautics field that gives a slight glimpse of the type of aircrafts that are to come in the future. For example, the amount of carbon fibre based materials being used in the Eurofighter Typhoon reduces it’s weight to great extents than had the materials been conventional.

    One very imortant aspect that may need addressing will be the Propulsion Systems. The newer system must be lighter and more fuel efficient. As far as the former is concerned, some indications in this direction are following in the form of Nested core engines. For the latter part, efficiency needs to be increased in the following areas of Propulsion systems:

    – Cost of production

    – Cost of operation

    – Cost of maintainance

    – Fuel efficiency

    – Weight optimization

    I agree that much things need to be done before a $10^2 aircraft can be made a reality. But then again:

    – “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” (Popular Mechanics, 1949)

    And now, look at the $100 Laptop, also.

    Yours truly,


    Nov 22, 2oo5.

  8. Marybeth Lee says:

    Does MIT look at any older applicants? Example:

    finish high school 1998, helped run family’s

    international business 7 years, no college classes.

    I know it says you are required to live on campus

    in one of MIT’s 11 residence halls, so prolly

    discourages people who aren’t normal undergrad age?

  9. Alissa says:

    haha I was thinking the same thing, Victoria. *chuckle*

  10. zoogies says:

    Matt, a few posts ago you mentioned 2 other schools you knew of who use admissions blogs. Case Western Reserve ( apparently also uses them, and probably more and more are coming onboard. It’s almost comical to see the huge explosion in blogging as it proliferates every sector of the internet. How soon before blogging is so diluted it’s completely ineffective?

    Anyway, I also wanted to point out the Rochester Institute of Technology (I believe) has their MyRIT portal, which I thought was very funny XD

  11. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mr. Mcgann

    I have an urgent problem. I have just tried to contact my EC here in Oslo, Norway, but recieved an email saying that my email could not be delivered to my EC’s address, as his username was unknown. I then contacted to company in which he is ’employed’, only to find that the receptionist does not even know of my EC.

    Therefore, I would like to ask you what you think my next course of action should be?

    Kind Regards

    Michael B. Berthelsen

  12. Eric Johnson says:

    Completely unrelated… I saw RENT… IT WAS THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN! It is truly an amazing film/musical. Skip Harry Potter- Rent will change your life.

  13. Sam says:

    I’m sorry for the off topic question, but what happens to the EA applicants that are defered to regualr admissions? Does their application get re-evaluated and can they send in more materials such as recomendations, videos, etc.?

  14. O.K…im sure plenty of prospective students have asked this question..anyways….I wanna honestly know exactly HOW much importance does the admission office put on high school grades. Cuz the way I see it, thats kind of the only thing I have working against me..SATs are pretty good..

    ~_~ ThE DrEaMy RoCkEr *_*

  15. and oh yea, i followed the link to ur older blog…any chance the rate of int’l admissions has increased from Less than 5% ?

  16. Zack Yang says:


    “[Longtime MIT Professor] Norbert Wiener, the founder of cybernetics and himself a prodigy who went to Tufts at 11 and Harvard at 15”

    Eleven years old and already in college. It’s amusing that after being a student at that OTHER school, he is now an MIT professor.

    I found a Wikipedia article on Wiener ( In the article was great anecdote:

    “Wiener was quite short, five foot even, in fact. He was also given to the kind of absent-mindedness for which academics are known. MIT corridors have, or at least used to have, wainscoting, that is, a strip of wood with a moulded groove in it running along a wall about three and a half feet off the ground. The nominal purpose of this is to prevent chair backs from scratching the paint on walls and to provide a boundary between the darker shade which the lower part of walls are usually painted and the lighter shade above. It was Wiener’s custom to stick his finger in this groove, close his eyes, lower his head in thought and walk down a corridor, guided by the wainscoting. Professors were told to close their classroom doors or Wiener would be apt to follow the corridor wainscoting to the door jamb of the classroom and pick up the trail of the wainscoting on the inside of the classroom, following it around the room until it led him back to the corridor.”


    “A few other print periodicals I might recommend include The Economist, The New Yorker, and Science.”

    Yes! I read both the Economist and Science, and they are both really, really good. I’ve also found that Time magazine makes for good light reading, and can be fairly informative (though they do have a tendency to dumb down articles regarding science).

  17. Justin says:

    Matt, I would like to reference your post about interviews from November 30, 2004.

    I had my interview on October 22, but it still is not processed yet. My interviewer told me that he had until November 15 to file EA interviews. The Conducted Interview form mentions that two weeks after the interview is the recommened time to fill it out, but should it be two weeks from when the report was submitted? In your post you mention how an I is the best and I would like to have my interview available rather than a C since it went well and lasted two hours. However, I really do not want a N on my E-3 card since I did actually have an interview. So, if I file the conducted interview form, can my interview still become processed at a later date or does the C remain permanent?

    To make the situation more complicated, why is a W better than a C? I was told that that I could get my interview waived, so if I have to settle for a C instead of an I on my E-3 card would it be better to get a W and if so how?

    Also would having my interview with someone other than my EC cause a processing delay?

    I would view this as the ultimate interview question. I find it interesting that I could possibly end up with any one of the four interview results.

  18. SHABIN, could it be those quotes came from “The Experts Speak,” a book reccommended someone-or-other in the pages of “The Salmon of Doubt”?

  19. renuka says:

    Hello Matt, What are the chances that the EA decisions would get sent out a day or two prior to Dec. 15? The reason I ask is, the deadline to apply for freshman admission at Stanford is December 15. I am sure there are many of us in the EA pool who would skip applying to other schools if we get a favorable decision from MIT. Knowing the result prior to Dec.15 gives us the possibiliy of saving on the application fee to other schools that have deadlines around that time. Thanks