That phrase is probably the most uttered string of words I hear. It’s 0400 Saturday morning, and my roommate and I sit listening to whatever Pandora has queued up for us, sipping homemade sweet tea and tossing ideas around like basketballs of our more athletically inclined friends. We’ve spent hours at a time like this, discussing topics ranging from Computer Science to Student Life, the best way to get free food and every tangent in between.
It’s in these aloof conversations that I really appreciate one of the more unsung parts of MIT:
People here are very clever.
You see, let’s be honest here for a second. There are plenty of very respectable universities that you can go to for your education. It’s not like MIT teaches some secret form of Math that no one else knows about. Heck you can even kill yourself with homework if you really want to try and emulate what it’s like to be here (as a sidenote, I recently learned that going for 35 hours without sleeping makes your thoughts indistinguishable from someone with a severe mental disorder in an MRI. This makes me want to wear a tactical vest and be very nice to everyone on campus).
But what really sets MIT apart from other institutions is the incredibly stimulating thinktank nature of people around here. Thinking is a hobby for many people around here, and for the hard stuff, they’re really good at it. The more trivial things, like “Does orange plaid match with a floral green print?” or “Should I wash my hair this week?” seem to stump some people, but given that they could make a supercomputer using nothing but soda cans, hairspray, 3 rubber bands, and Karmic Koala; it’s definitely forgivable.
You needn’t click further than the Notable Alumni page to see a good number of people who’s accomplishments I’d venture to say started off as the sort of humble ideas that populate the dialogue of students around here.
But it doesn’t even have to be serious stuff. People here drop pumpkins off buildings for fun, and turn grocery carts into high speed go-karts for no other reason than because they can. It’s a sort of art really, engineering as expression. It’s no surprise then to see this creativity transfer to problem solving, seeing people win grants and contests is a such a regular occurence that it’s not until I’m away from campus that it really sinks in how cool that is.
That’s nothing short of exhilarating to me, to know that the people eating lunch at Subway next to me are future Nobel Laureates (scientific ones nonetheless. You know, the ones that are hard to get), engineers of advances in space travel, and doctors who will cure cancer. The guy getting his bagel from LaVerdes could be a MacArthur fellow, whose annoyance with the local price discrepancy (read: gouging) spurs him to invent a bagel tree that solves world hunger. Who knows what paradigm shifting idea is starting right now in someone’s room or the coffee table in lobby 7. This is a place of dreamers, thinkers, and creators. The impossible’s dying breath is “you know what would be cool?” because with it comes the beginning of ingenuity so profound that it makes the all the hours spent reading, tooling, and being awake well worth it.