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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Nerd movie update by Matt McGann '00

Like many of you, I caught Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith this weekend. If you stayed through the credits, you saw the name of my old Baker House housemate, who was a Sequence Supervisor for special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). He was a Digital Effects Artist on the other two Star Wars prequels, and Revenge of the Sith was his 17th film with ILM.

Another MIT acquaintance of mine has started digital animation work on his first film. He is working at Pixar, and is a Technical Director on the forthcoming film Cars. Both my ILM friend and my Pixar friend majored in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS, or Course 6) at MIT, so if you’re interested in working on the next special effects blockbuster, you may want to check out this department.

I also caught The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy recently. Though I was a bit nervous going in, I thought the film did quite a good job; I enjoyed it. As I’m writing about the film, I’m reminded that Douglas Adams, the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide, spoke at MIT while I was still a student in 2000 (I missed the lecture). Not too long afterward, Adams passed away. Students commemorated his passing with a hack in Killian Court:

Banner in honor of Douglas Adams reads, “So long and thanks for all the wit,” hung beside a massively useful towel.

And on the subject of nerd movies and hacks, I’d be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t close this entry with one of my favorite MIT hacks from recent years. Two days before the opening of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999 (the first day of final exam week my junior year spring), MIT’s Great Dome was turned into R2-D2:

The “Great Droid”

A few choice quotes from the MIT News Office article:

MIT Campus Police discovered the red, white, blue and black lightweight mesh fabric panels representing the robot’s sensors and lights on the dome during routine patrol at 4:18am. At about the same time, the unofficial MIT Hack Hotline spread the news to selected members of the community by phone.

Assistant Safety and Environmental Officer David M. Barber received a memo that described the hack’s safety features, how it works, and how the panels are constructed and mounted, as well as directions on how to remove the cables. The memo, addressed to “Imperial Drones,” is signed “Rebel Scum.” A dozen donuts were also left at the scene for Mr. Barber and Gary F. Cunha of the Department of Facilities, who inspected the hack together.

“It’s one of the more professional hacks I’ve seen from a structural and safety standpoint,” said Mr. Barber. “They went to great pains to protect the dome. The material is very light and the wind will blow through it, not billow up behind. It is colorfast and won’t run in the event of rain. The whole thing is very well done.”

Local TV stations covered the police car hack and the segment was picked up by network news broadcasts [and Slashdot, of course -mm]. The story appeared in newspapers in California, Israel, Korea and points between. It was probably the most successful hack ever perpetrated.

For those of you who have seen Revenge of the Sith and Hitchhiker’s Guide, what did you think?

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