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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

Remember, Remember, the 17th of December… by Chris Peterson SM '13

things that happened

There has been some discussion on CollegeConfidential and in the comments on my post announcing the 12/17 12:17 EA decision release. Specifically discussion about the reasons we picked that date and time.

My favorite observation comes from optimistic-mom:

1217 and 2011 are prime numbers and MIT selects “prime” candidates – is that a reason for the date and time!


While Pharyngula on CollegeConfidential mused that perhaps it is an appeal to something which happened on a historically significant December 17th.

I am going to continue to keep our reasons a deep, dark secret, but following Pharyngula – and using their title – here are some other momentous events from history which occured on 12/17s past according to Wikipedia:

  • 546 – Gothic War: The Ostrogoths of King Totila conquer Rome by bribing the Byzantine garrison.
  • 1538 – Pope Paul III excommunicates Henry VIII of England.
  • 1777 – France formally recognizes the United States of America.
  • 1790 – Discovery of the Aztec calendar stone.
  • 1865 – First performance of the Unfinished Symphony by Franz Schubert.
  • 1903 – The Wright Brothers make their first powered and heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
  • 1935 – First flight of the Douglas DC-3 airplane.
  • 1947 – First flight of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber.
  • 1969 – Project Blue Book: The United States Air Force closes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of “A mild form of mass hysteria, Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, psychopathological persons, and misidentification of various conventional objects.”
  • 1989 – The first episode of television series The Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, airs in the United States.
  • 2003 – SpaceShipOne flight 11P, piloted by Brian Binnie, makes its first supersonic flight.
  • 2010 – Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. This act became the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution. The success of the Tunisian protests sparked protests in several other Arab countries.

Some of these events I’d really prefer our applicants not to emulate (please: don’t set yourself on fire or conquer any bastions of civilization ushering in centuries of dark ages tomorrow, anyone). Others would not be bad examples to follow (if you want to discover an ancient Aztec stone or fly a plane you invented, go ahead).

Do any of these things have anything to do with why we’re going live on 12/17 at 12:17? No.

What they have to with is this: history is awesome.

28 responses to “Remember, Remember, the 17th of December…”

  1. Tim says:

    First…..had to do it smile

  2. Brent says:

    On an unrelated note, why is the video on mitadmissions now the harvard v yale football hack?

  3. Chris Peterson SM '13 says:

    All will be clear in time, Brent.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Have you guys finished committee yet? smile

  5. Brent says:

    You really know how to keep my attention! This is exactly why I want to go here: you never know what will happen next!

  6. Obasi says:

    My brother (who goes to MIT) noted that 17 is the most common random number at MIT. I’m guessing that it’s in part because of its special random number qualities, and in part because you wanted to do it on a Saturday and you figured that it would be MIT-y to do it at the same time as the date? Whatever the case, good luck to all ye other MIT applicants!

  7. Tobi says:

    @Brent – Wow hahaa it looks like someone hacked the MIT website….no pun intended. Unless it was on purpose, in which case MIT now looks even more awesome.

  8. Ha Hyung Lee says:

    i think it’s because 12/17 is a week before the Christmas break, during which the admission office will close.
    Furthermore, 12/17 will give the lucky students the opportunities to get two of the greatest gifts within two-weeks interval.
    sorry if my deduction is too simple, but sure does make sense to me =)

    p.s. Happy early Holidays, and good luck, everybody wink

  9. Daniel says:

    Anthony L, you must not know what “random” really means if you use it in that context.

    Dmitri: You are probably at least half right.

  10. dlow says:

    17 is our most popular number:

    Dad’s birthday ———————- Feb 17th (02/17)
    Younger brother birthday——— Mar 17 (03/17)
    My birthday————————— Oct 17 (10/17)

    Tomorrow is our day !!!! 17

  11. Sherman says:

    Is anyone else shaking with nervousness? Good, me too smile

  12. oldKing says:

    Something that hits a little closer home for me: the death day of Simón Bolívar, “South American George Washington” and the father of Venezuela. Funny how that came to mind first raspberry

  13. John Harmon says:

    I was thinking about the time admissions decided on (12:17, 12/17) and actually thought up something pretty cool. If you take those 8 numbers and mirror one set of the four (so that the 2 kind of looks like a five and the top of the seven points right) and rearrange them, it spells M I T. The two 2s make an M the four 1s make the I and the two 7s make a T. Try it out I think you will like it.

  14. Kush Patel says:

    Aerospace Engineers FTW with 5 related events that happened on 12/17

    I, BTW, applied under AE…

  15. Meowster Stillbead says:

    Meow meow, good luck to all, meow meow!

  16. Andrew says:

    I thought maybe the the numbers were there to represent MIT admititing 1217 applicants at 12:17pm on 12/17. Although 1217 may be a little too many to admit early.

  17. I used to think PZ Myers was the bomb-dot-com when I was in high school. *procrastinates studying for finals by catching up on Pharyngula* SCIENCE!!!

  18. May says:

    I am the optimistic-mom Chris mentioned, because tomorrow 12/17 is my birthday, and my son applied early action, sure we’ll have a double celebration!!

  19. Kevin says:


  20. mcheung says:

    When can us lucky admitted folks expect to receive our MIT tubes? (I’m in Los Angeles)

  21. Dimitri Mata says:

    My guess is that at 12:17 pm est on 12/17 there will be notification that 1,217 students were admitted.

  22. itsawand says:

    @dmitri: i like that logic

    @chris, i actually wiki’d historical things for this date before you posted this

  23. itsawand says:

    also, i’m loving the v for vendetta style

  24. Ashwin says:

    I thought Pharyngula meant PZ Meyers too!

  25. MILLIN says:

    Hey Chris,
    I am international student and have applied for regular action .
    I am giving SAT subject tests on 28 Jan .THIS IS MY FIRST SAT. If I send SAT score after result is out will it be too late or it will work because in site it is written that

  26. MILLIN says:

    *Written that you must give Jan SAT as last test