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MIT Hackers Appropriate Caltech Cannon 329

Posted by Zonk
from the those-wacky-nerds dept.
Bob Hearn writes "Some Slashdotters might remember the story Caltech Pranks MIT's Prefrosh Weekend from a year ago. MIT Hackers have gotten even. Sometime in the middle of the night, Caltech's famous cannon appeared at the base of MIT's Green building. A plaque in front of it reads: 'CALTECH CANNON April 6, 2006 MIT hackers posing as the Howe & Ser Moving Company Appropriated this cannon on March 28, 2006. It later appeared on MIT's campus with the addition of a large brass rat made of gold-plated aluminum. In honor of its previous owners, the cannon points towards Padadena, CA.' The brass rat (MIT ring) is really a rather impressive bit of aluminum machining. Harvey Mudd College previously stole the cannon, in 1986, but later had to give it back."
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MIT Hackers Appropriate Caltech Cannon

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  • As dean of your University, I have worked with the financial office and the office of the provost to appropriate two grants.

    The first will be a large scale grant to beef up our offensive against all other universities by using the rocket and aerodynamic sciences departments to further develop a V3-Schneider program. Remember, we care not about the surrounding buildings of our targets, but only require a half mile 'radius of terror' so that we can effectively instill fear into the hearts of other academic institutions.

    The second grant will go to the physics department so that they can develop hilarious Rube Goldberg booby traps around our V3-Schneider platform in an effort to reduce sabotage. Another part of it will go into a free weight old fashion stationary trebuchet aimed at the one lone road into the University. In the event of an invasion, all incoming vehicles will have flying refrigerators to contend with.

    Remember people, this is war and we will not waver or falter.
  • Love the rat! A+ pronk on that :-)
    -nB
  • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:07PM (#15077567)

    Come on, it's either aluminium or gold plated - there's no brass in there at all.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The name of the ring is the brass rat. It doesn't matter if the [actual] rings are gold or steel, everyone calls it the brass rat.

      The brass rat on the cannon is gold plated aluminum.
    • by CrazyWingman (683127) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:16PM (#15077653) Journal
      The ring itself is referred to as a "brass rat" [wikipedia.org] around MIT because it's gold (brass-ish colored) with a beaver (rat) on the face. The version on the cannon is gold-plated aluminum.
    • Come on, it's either aluminium or gold plated - there's no brass in there at all.

      I think the blurb is misleading in not making it clear the the Brass Rat [mit.edu] is a proper noun. Specifically, it is the amusing name given to the MIT class ring, which traditionally pictures a beaver, nature's engineer. Capitalize proper names, you tards! Oh, but I guess that would be considered "editing", and they don;t do that around here...

    • Next fall, Caltech will offer undergraduate course 93A: "Preventing Homoerotic Cannon Theft". Lectures will be given in 201 E. Bridge by Nobel-prize winner Dr. A. Troll. Lab work will count as 50% of the final grade. TAs will demonstrate how to recognize a brass rat from a gold-plated aluminum rat using simplified mass spectrometry, or possibly a bathtub filled with water. Knowledge of quaternions is strongly recommended, however, skill with card pranks is an acceptable substitute. May not be taken Pass/Fa
  • MIT hacks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:15PM (#15077643)
    Ahhh, the one reason why I would have considered going to MIT. So many of their hacks [mit.edu] are truely inspirational.

    IHTFP : Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People
  • ... the social engineering in convincing most people (and silencing the others) that the cannon had not belonged to MIT in the first place, and then been stolen by Caltech. Then it gets really funny when they convince a bunch of MITers to steal it and put it back right where it was in the first place. I mean seriously, who falls for a cannon being native to California? Were we a big part of the civil war?
  • by nullspin (873332) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:19PM (#15077678)
    Now MIT can truly claim more bang for the buck.
  • *Scoff* (Score:5, Funny)

    by inphinity (681284) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:20PM (#15077681) Homepage
    MIT's website slashdotted in only ten minutes?

    What kind of sysadmins are they!?

  • a big relief (Score:5, Informative)

    by DCTsunami (966614) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:20PM (#15077682)
    It's actually a big relief to us to hear that MIT has it. For the last week, we've been wondering where the hell it got off to. The administration thought filed a police report for grand theft. MIT stole it in the early hours masquerading as contractors. Security stopped them, but they social-engineered their way out of it, and security let them go.
    • What? Tech geeks have enough verbal ability to get past security??
    • Re:a big relief (Score:5, Informative)

      by pz (113803) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:57PM (#15078040) Journal
      I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have attended both MIT and Caltech, and spent sufficiently many years at both to have understood the hacker culture and the relative prowess of the campus constabulatory.

      Bottom line: Caltech's security guards are rent-a-cops; MIT's are policemen. I cannot recall a single incident in my six years at Caltech where security responded to a call fast enough to see perpetrators. I personally committed a number of, ah, acts at leisurely pace because there was no reason to hurry. I've been to the rooftops in the middle of the day countless times. It's no big deal. You cannot do the same thing at MIT with such cavalier ease because the campus has been hardened against hacking, and the MIT Campus Police are reasonably quick to respond, and reasonably quick-witted.

      Kudos to the MIT group for pulling off an impressive feat!
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I know whenever there is a comparison between Caltech and MIT, the first thing I want to know is the quality of their police force.
      • by gkuz (706134) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:10PM (#15078163)
        Bottom line: Caltech's security guards are rent-a-cops; MIT's are policemen.

        Never been to Caltech, but when I was at MIT [mumble-mumble] years ago, I think the primary job of the Campus Police was to make sure we didn't get arrested by the Cambridge Police.

  • by HoosierPeschke (887362) <hoosierpeschke@comcast.net> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:21PM (#15077696) Homepage
    See Subject: Howe & Ser Moving Co. [caltechcannon.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:22PM (#15077705)
    Subject: Caltech cannon
    Date: 28 March 06 19:56:34 PST
    To: [HMC internal mailing list]

    Howdy,

    Did anyone steal the Caltech cannon Monday night/Tuesday
    morning?  They called and said it was stolen and were hoping it was here.

    Chris Sundberg
    Associate Dean of Students
    Harvey Mudd College
    • I know it's real because I am the internal all-students mailing list moderator and I approved it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:23PM (#15077719)
    I can't rtfa because it's slashdotted. Stealing a cannon isn't particularly clever. On the other hand, if I understand correctly, MIT is on the east coast and CalTech is on the west coast. These guys get an 'A' for effort.

    My own favorite first year engineering trick: Many years ago people arrived at the main building of the University of Manitoba to find a stump in the middle of the lawn. Everyone was up in arms. Who cut down the stately old pine? It was quite a while before someone realized: "Hey, there was no tree there in the first place."
    • by scovetta (632629) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:45PM (#15078498) Homepage
      Wouldn't it be interesting if they created a duplicate cannon, and hid the original one somewhere near Caltech? Last I checked, airlines don't let you check cannons, and a 3,000 mile drive wouldn't be my favorite thing to do (though they had time to do it).

    • Not overly impressive regardless of the distance, the only hard part is getting it off the campus, once it is off Caltech campus doesn't matter how far away you need to move it. It is just driving a truck cross country, I've done it before, not exactly rocket science.

      Not much of a hack regardless, just simple theft. A for effort, F for creativity.
  • Gets stolen a lot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bromskloss (750445)
    This one really cracks me up!
    Harvey Mudd College previously stole the cannon, in 1986, but later had to give it back.
    Haha, an often stolen object. :-) Grmpfs!! They have stolen it again! Now, you give it back, I say, GIVE IT BACK! Hmbrpf.. you naughty hackers.
  • News Update (Score:5, Funny)

    by cloudkj (685320) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:25PM (#15077735)
    This just in.... Caltech responds by posting the story to Slashdot to bring down MIT servers.
  • by jfengel (409917) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:32PM (#15077794) Homepage Journal
    If you pronounce the "&" as the Latin "et" (from which the & letterform was based) it's "How et Ser Moving Company". And they don't even force Latin on the MIT students any more.
  • Response (Score:5, Funny)

    by mattwarden (699984) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:32PM (#15077795) Homepage
    In response, Caltech destroyed MIT's web servers by submitting the story to Slashdot. Caltech: 2, MIT: 1.
  • Weighting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mizhi (186984) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:35PM (#15077835) Homepage
    I note that the http://www.caltechvsmit.com/ [caltechvsmit.com] seems updated to reflect this hack. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but if not I have a question.

    Caltech pulls a number of silly little pranks that, to be quite honest, no one really noticed, and garners 6 points for their "feud" with MIT... MIT students socially engineer themselves into being able to steal and drive Caltech's cannon across the United States, point it back at Caltech and install a large (really well made) brass rat onto the barrel of the cannon and create a plaque commemorating the heist.

    All that's worth one point? Pff.

    Not that I really care or anything; it's like my attitude towards the Red Sox... it's not until they're in the playoffs or the series that I pay attention.
  • Pictures Mirrored (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zackbass (457384) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:35PM (#15077836)
    Since you all killed our webserver I put the pics up on our personal server: http://donkeykong.mit.edu/cannon/ [mit.edu]. It's only an old AlphaServer DS20 so play nice.
  • Flickr Pictures Here (Score:3, Informative)

    by OlivierB (709839) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:35PM (#15077840)
    Pictures here [flickr.com]
  • Caltech is in Pasadena.
    • So I missed a key, so sue me! I also capitalized "Appropriated." And I found www.howeandser.com after submitting.

      • Bob Hearn said:

        So I missed a key, so sue me!

        Bob,
        We all miss keys on occasion but some of us go back and proofread what we've written and try to fix our mistakes out of curtesy and respect for our reader(s).

        This is especially important when there is a typo in a proper name such as Pasadena. You know it is Pasadena and the people at Cal-Tech know it is Pasadena but it makes you appear somewhat arrogant and self-centered when you seem to assume that everyone in the world (who reads Slashdot) knows th

  • by deblau (68023)
    They RF'ed our cannon! Those poor, dumb bastards at MIT have no idea what they've done. Now how are all the poor frosh going to know that rotation is over? They'll be left to fend for themselves! We might lose up to 10% in the first wave alone. And finals will never end, so no one will graduate! This is a disaster!
  • ...unless my eyes mistake me, it's a brass beaver.
  • by Mr. BS (788514)
    Nice to see that Wikipedia is already updated [wikipedia.org] to reflect this change of location!

    Props to MIT... good show!
    • by Bob Hearn (61879) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:04PM (#15078110) Homepage
      Wikipedia was already updated even before the Slashdot submission. The really interesting bit is this [wikipedia.org] change history of that page. The current text replaces this:

      "It is rumored that Harvey Mudd will attempt to steal the cannon again this year in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their original theft. Be warned. Thankfully Dabney house has planned ahead, and relocated the cannon to a safehouse in Compton."

      So, was this "relocation" the actual MIT appropriation?
  • At my school there was a fraternity with a large Confederate era cannon on its front lawn. Some friends and I thought it would be hugely funny to sneak over the night before their formal ball and paint the thing pink. Fortunately, someone did some checking and discovered that the cannon was on the national historic register, and that messing with it would be a FEDERAL crime. So instead we painted their front door pink. Windows and all.
    • Well see you were guilty of destruction of private property (or govt property had it been the cannon) Basically, you committed a crime. MIT participated in a rivalry and Caltech will not want charges pressed if they found out who it was. See the difference between implied consent to "borrow" things when it is a fun rivalry and mindless vandalism
  • by RonDiggity (796879) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:09PM (#15078148)
    I've polled various Caltech alumni, and here's a snippet of their reactions:
    • That's awesome!
    • That's awesome!
    • That's awesome!
    • This is an outrage! I can't believe they let this happen! <grumble grumble>
    (I give you zero guesses as to which one used to live in the house to which that cannon is most closely identified.)

    I hope this gets current Caltech students off their collective keister to do something. No notable pranks in recent years, and they're most currently known for hiking up Mt. Wilson without appropriate equipment (come on, even alumni know that it's c-o-o-o-ld up on Mt. Wilson). If this causes an increase in Caltech-MIT prank warfare, then I'm all for it. Let the arms race, um, continue!

    As an alum myself (BSEE, 2000) I say let MIT have it. It belongs to Harvey Mudd anyway.

  • Did anyone else remark that the metal tag rivited onto the carriage of the cannon bears the following text:

    No. 42
    Model of 1896
    Rock Island Arsenal
    1900
    JWB

    Of course MIT wanted this cannon. It must obviously shoot forth with great power the answer to Life, The Universe, And Everything!
  • by kurthr (30155) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:20PM (#15078250)
    Well, I can tell you that 6/7ths of caltech (undergrads) is happy about this (OK actually the caltech majority graduate students don't care, because they've been in lab for the last 24hrs). The cannon belongs only to a single undergraduate house (a mandatory housing system based on dining halls from a Harvard tradition, named for the guys who funded the buildings). That house of Freudian Fame is Fleming, whose denizens are known for walking around in red athletic shirts with Big White "F"s on them (yep, no kidding). They were the jocks when I was there, and retained more of the fraternity look and feel, though Page house may well have out done them in the last year by trying to haze their freshmen in the mountains. It's amazing what the socially inept, and impractical minded will lamely copy from others.

    The cannon has been RF'ed (HaXXored) a bunch of times (yes, I served time at the Institute). Mostly this has been done by the other caltech students (shock!, awe?), but it was determined to be one of a very few objects that were un-touchable by the administration to prevent on-going student horse play. It was one of the few things you could be expelled permanently from school for (or simultaneously blow several heads off with large quantities of spaghetti). Instead we bricked in the front of Fleming one night, or changed the Hollywood sign, or flooded and froze the hallways, and we got in trouble, but not big trouble. The cannon has been turned around to face Fleming (on one night before they were set to fire it... they still get 4 times a year?), and everyone (from another house) has wanted to apply more permanent silence by the use of LN2 (use your brain), but it was forbidden by the honor code. Not only you, but your house would be punished. The Flems can go get it for all I care.

    The truly sad thing is that the administration seems to have taken a line in the last 10 years against any pranks. Anything interesting has largely been forbidden by the Administration (by which I mean, when the police come after you the Institute attorneys won't be on your side). Unfortunately, caltech isn't big enough for the Administration to trip over its own feet enough, it's a bit too nimble and "all knowing" for the Institutes good. Plausible deniability can be a good thing. As I mentioned to the deans when I left (low these many years ago), I felt it had turned from a school of higher learning, to an Institute of lower liability. (On that topic, has anyone noticed how that guy from Numbers is trying to look just like Gary Lorden?). It's sad to see, but they've tried to stop lock picking, tunneling, bon fires, and every other form of fun... I hope they wake up now, and realize that if the students don't train security regularly, the Institute will be publicly humiliated for it.

    p.s. for reference caltech is never capitalized except in formal communications
    p.s. the Board of Directors will try to get the LA times not to run any story related to this

    Parentheses, braces, brackets, and other standard forms of indicating meta information have ceased to function. Ceasing communication.
  • Impressive (Score:3, Informative)

    by rdwald (831442) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:23PM (#15078282)
    As a Caltech student, I feel the need to respond to all the "On noes! Grand theft cannon! Involve the police!" comments. By any measure, this was a good prank. I have nothing but admiration for MIT for doing this. Admiration and the need to get even, of course. But no hard feelings.
  • Ever since the 1986 theft, Caltech became a bit more vigilant. The cannon was literally locked [kailiu.com] to the ground. How did they break that lock without drawing attention? And how did they move that cannon around without drawing attention? And finally, when HMC did it, they posed as a cleaning crew that needed to move the cannon for maintenance... if the MIT people used a moving company excuse to deflect any attention that they did draw, I'm surprised that Caltech fell for what amounted to a similar trick.

    Any
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:28PM (#15078344) Journal
    A BRASS rat. whose composition includes neither copper nor zinc.

    MIT's materials science program sure has come a long way...
  • I can tell you that that is not a rat, but a beaver.
  • by Aaron England (681534) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @05:12PM (#15079930)
    What prevents them from going to MIT and just taking it back by force?
    • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kf6auf (719514)
      What do we want to take it back for? It's right where we want to use it.

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