Skip to content ↓
MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

MIT students do it all night. by Sam M. '07

A salute to sleep deprivation, Aztec philosophy, and grape-catching.


I didn’t actually write this entry on Tuesday, but it’s dedicated to Tuesday, because on Tuesday morning I pulled my first all-nighter of the fall term. Well, I don’t really believe in linear time anyway. Apparently, neither do the Aztecs. Wow, this is a really cool article.

Then on midnight of the 12th day of the festival, a prisoner was taken to the priest. The priest would watch in the night sky for the star of fire to reach the zenith. Once it did, the priest would remove the heart of this man, and replace it with a piece of wood, that was laid on a piece of turquoise. This is where the priest would start the new fire that would once again light the city.

Anyway, I digress. Here’s a salute to my top five favorite MIT all-nighters over the past two years.

1. The night before my final paper was due for 21L.009. This was my very first all-nighter at MIT; I made it through by drinking 12 glasses of tea throughout the night. That combination of caffeine and extreme discomfort kept me awake until around 6 AM. Actually, the assignment I was working on happened to be interesting enough that I shouldn’t have actually needed the tea–my professor, Peter Donaldson, developed a video-editing software such that we could write essays. I spent the night watching Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and comparing it to West Side Story, released in 1961. I’m a huge West Side Story fan, and I still ended up learning a lot about the directorial techniques and symbolism when I watched it closely. Also, did you know that the original lyrics to “What is a Youth?” in Romeo and Juliet were nearly identical to those of “Somewhere?”

2. November 21-23, 2004. Immediately before Thanksgiving vacation last fall, I pulled three consecutive all-nighters due to a bombing onslaught of MATLAB programming, BSO concert reviews, and quantitative potentiometric titration. On the third day, I limply made my way to South Station, sat down in a train bound for Philadelphia, and collapsed for six hours. Luckily, I was kept company on all three nights by Shannon Dong ’05, who was busily programming a robot to walk around a cave and pick up random stuff. Somehow that led her to a degree in Course XVI: Aeronautics and Astronautics. I don’t get those people.

3. August 29, 2004. Long story short, I had a less-than-ideal UROP experience the summer before I found my wonderful turkey waste conversion lab. My professor, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, wanted me to get a bunch of stuff done over the next term, but I didn’t really want to work during term. So, I decided I’d finish my entire project over the last five days of summer vacation and then seek employment elsewhere. The reactions I was doing took about six hours each to do, so I basically went in every six hours, with unfailing punctuality, to set up another reaction. Well, I went in at 3 AM, purified my product, broke into another lab to get ice, rotovapped it, added aryl grignard, and began a miserable walk home at 5 AM. When I got back, I opened my mailbox on a whim and found a postcard from my beloved high school friend Shana telling me how special I was and reprimanding me for purchasing a copy of Everything Is Illuminated. It was so beautiful and inspiring that I immediately took my bike down to the aquarium and watched the sunrise alone by the harbor. It was kind of transcendent… I think everybody needs to go down there and see it at some point in their MIT experience.

4. Every Thursday night from September 31, 2004 to December 2, 2004. Back in the dark ages when I was still contemplating a math major, I decided to take, against my better judgment, 18.701: Algebra I. Now, Freshman year was no walk in the park with 8.022, but 18.701 was the first class at MIT that completely and utterly destroyed me, threw me into a gorge, tap-danced on my face with cleats, poured lye into my open wounds, and ground my bones to make its bread. I have unlimited respect for anybody who managed to pass its evil older sister, 18.702. The Psets, due on Fridays, were incredibly long, and I was in general very short on time during the weeks, so I’d unfailingly stay awake until the wee hours of the morning every Thursday night. I ended up dropping it last-minute anyway because I wanted to go Christmas shopping instead of studying for the final.

This is a good advertisement for the sophomore exploratory option at MIT. Except for, you know, the three months of sleepless nights I had.

5. August 15, 2005. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to leave my entire room packed until move-out day, make a train reservation for 6 AM, and then go to 6 flags until midnight. Still, I have to give major credit here to Dave, who went above and beyond the call of a night security guard. I have to bake that man a cake.

Don’t get me wrong now; some of these may sound a little stressful, but it’s always an interesting experience to pull an all-nighter. one reason is that I have a river view and the sunrise is always spectacular behind the John Hancock building, reflecting off the otherwise-muddy Charles. That’s because of all the air pollution, I think. You never know what color it’s going to be! Like a box of chocolates!

The longest vertical distance from which a grape has been dropped and then caught in a human mouth was 788 feet. It was dropped off the roof of the John Hancock building.

3 responses to “MIT students do it all night.”

  1. Kate says:

    um…if I did the physics problem correctly, the grape was traveling at like 156mph when the dude caught it in his mouth. Ouch?

  2. Laura says:

    Sam, that grape fact is utterly fascinating. I wish I knew as much mindless trivia as you.

  3. Jessie says:

    You remember the dates of your all-nighters?

    Most of my academic all-nighters were during the Fall ’04 term, when my 9.00 papers, 9.01 papers, 18.03 psets, and 6.001 projects were all due on Fridays. It was a special time. I spent the whole week dreading the Thursdays Of Doom.