MIT corridors have, or at least used to have, wainscoting, that is, a strip of wood with a molded 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.This story may well just be an urban legend, but in that case I'm inclined to use the phrase "fake, but accurate" in a positive sense since such total lack of awareness of how one's behavior might be viewed or affect others was and is rampant at MIT and the story is so utterly plausible, even if not actually true.
So it is of no surprise that a young female MIT student follows in a long tradition of obliviousness in her recent visit to the Boston airport to pick up her boyfriend:
An MIT student with what police feared was a fake bomb attached to her chest was arrested at gunpoint Friday at Logan International Airport and later claimed it was artwork, officials said.The circuit board had flashing LEDs and a battery. But keep in mind that MIT students and faculty also have a long history of wearing batteries:
Star Simpson, 19, had a computer circuit board and wiring in plain view over a black hooded sweat shirt she was wearing, said State Police Maj. Scott Pare, the commanding officer at the airport.
One notable hack attempt targeting the 1948 Harvard-Yale football game involved the use of primer cord. One night shortly before the game MIT students snuck into the Harvard stadium and buried primer cord just under the field. The plan was to burn the letters MIT into the middle of the field during the game. However, their work was uncovered by groundskeepers and disabled. During the game the hackers were apprehended while wearing heavy coats on a fair-weather day. The coats were lined with batteries, obviously intended to be used to detonate the primer cord. An MIT dean came to their defense, opening his own battery-lined coat and claiming that "all Tech men carry batteries".Apparently all Tech women carry batteries too. The thing that was suspicious to me was not the circuit board or batteries, but rather the playdough:
She was holding a lump of what looked like putty in her hands.The response was swift and deadly serious:
The trooper, joined by others with submachine guns, confronted her in front of the terminal.Shooting her would've probably been overkill (so to speak). Probably everybody is lucky she didn't end up in the morgue. A headline that read something like "Police kill young MIT student because she was carrying a circuit board" really wouldn't've done much for the reputation of the police and would've only hampered real law enforcement needs in the future.
"She was immediately told to stop, to raise her hands and not to make any movement, so we could observe all her movements to see if she was trying to trip any type of device," Pare said. "Had she not followed the protocol, we might have used deadly force."
He added, "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."
The student is being charged with criminally negligent joking:
Simpson was charged with possessing a hoax device and was arraigned today East Boston Municipal Court. She was held on $750 cash bail and ordered to return to court Oct. 29.With all the laptops, cell phones, and circuit boards for my robots that I've carried into airports, it's a miracle I've never been charge with possessing a hoax device. I've probably even had play dough with me for some of my trips with the kids. Perhaps I've had circuit boards, LEDs, batteries and play dough all at the same time! Clearly shocking:
"I'm shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of device to an airport," Pare said.I can understand the "appalled" part, but "shocked"? He had never met an MIT student before during all the years he lived in Boston? Personally, I agree with her defense attorney:
"I would characterize it as almost being paranoid at this point," Schreiber said of authorities' response.Unfortunately for her, the key word is "almost". It wasn't quite paranoid, and as a result, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this poor oblivious MIT student is convicted.