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The World's Largest Scavenger Hunt 201

illuminatedwax writes "Every spring, University of Chicago students attempt to cast off their bookish tendencies and hold the world's largest scavenger hunt. Now, the event has been filmed by the student film group, Fire Escape, as a documentary, and is being sold on DVD and VHS from Periphrastic Films. The film follows the various teams and their effort to procure the off-the-wall 300+ items. For those who haven't heard of the University of Chicago Scav Hunt, its biggest claim to fame is from the 1999 hunt, when students built a working breeder reactor. Items during the 2002 Scav Hunt featured in the film include "Passports stamped by all three axes of evil", building "terrorist base camps" on the University quads, and students competing in a game show-style contest, featuring a DDR contest, and trivia like "Digits of Pi" and "Taylor Series." The Scav Hunt lists can be found here, and the 2002 list here."
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The World's Largest Scavenger Hunt

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  • by airrage ( 514164 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:42PM (#4829029) Homepage Journal
    221. Slick looking Linux Interface
    222. A secure Windows Web Server
    223. A geek with a girlfriend
    224. A slashdot firstpost
  • lol... (Score:4, Funny)

    by pr0c ( 604875 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:42PM (#4829031)
    Hahaha Great stuff "Take a lap around the block in Greektown with your brand new ``Red Wings Suck, Yzerman Swallows'' t-shirt. Lettering should be in clearly legible bold letters at least 4" in height. [78 points]" "Stand on top of the big JEEP with your top down. [23 points]" We should all wait around and see which way the women interperate that :)
    • Re:lol... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wdr1 ( 31310 )
      Probably wouldn't be quite what you would expect it to be there. Fraternies at the U of C are... well, still at the U of C.

      Not that that's bad. It's just instead instead of sitting up drinking until 4 am talking about Red Wings, etc., we'd stay up drinking until 4am talking about if Socrates had a death wish at his trial, and how closely Calvin & Hobbes represented their respective namesakes, 17th century philosphers, John Calvin & Thomas Hobbes.

      I should know: I was item #153 (complete with flock of sheep) for the 1993 [] Hunt. Got us (Snell-Hitchcock []) 165 points, the win, & my picture in the Chicago Sun-Times. :-)

      (Of course, I was glad my mother couldn't make out what exactly the picture was supposed to be off or what was going on.)

      • The part about Greektown is referring to the traditionally Greek neighborhood in Chicago (think of it as the Greek equivalent of Chinatown). Sure you may have gone to the U of C but I guess you didn't get around Chicago if you didn't know that. FYI, it's a few blocks on the West Loop in Chicago.

        • Actually, you both have it wrong. That item was a roadtrip item. It was Greek Town (yes, a predominantly Greek neighborhood) in Detroit, MI that the item was referencing. That is why the particular sayings on the jersey were about the Red Wings player.

      • LOL, dressing as a shepard and herding sheep is bad enough(BTW: Where the hell did you get the sheep?), but what I want to know is wether or not you were holding a copy of Clinton's proposed budget and grinning!
  • Scav Hunt!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonny-mt ( 631306 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:42PM (#4829034) Homepage
    Wow, something about my school! Nice :) In case you don't know, Chicago can get a bit depressing in the Winter. The University does a bit to alleviate that, including giving us a day off in the middle of Winter quarter. Well, if Winter is depressing, then Spring is freedom. It gets warm, you take easy starts to feel like a real college. Scav Hunt is basically a four-day long party. You stay up late, skip classes, wine and dine the judges, throw a massive party in the middle of the quad, and go on cross-country trips. I think this film is a great treatment of a really unique experience, something you can only really do at University of Chicago.
    • Re:Scav Hunt!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by djmitche ( 536135 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:51PM (#4829105) Homepage

      Scavhunt has also included successful procurement of such fantastic items as a fully-suited hazmat team, live elephants, weapons-grade uranium (before The War On Terror(tm) started; IIRC it was made from the insides of flourescent light bulbs), and such trivialities as goldfish consumed alive, survivor islands on the quads, etc.

      For a campus that prides itself of being bookish, and where Kant and Freud are a discussion topic at every party, scavhunt is a chance to get out in the bitter cold of Chicago and be, well, flamboyantly bookish :-)

    • by fhqwhgads ( 603131 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:09PM (#4829282)
      ScavHunt can be a little detrimental, though. I was actually in the film, apparently dressed up as a Chaotic Evil Half-Elf Ranger. What's not on film is that immediately prior to that I was taking my Organic Chemistry midterm. Now, I don't know about many of the other participants, but since the list of items was released the previous night, I was up reading the list, instead of studying for my exam. And I'm a Chemistry major. So that kinda hurt my grade. But I can say with a decent amount of confidence that I am the only person to have ever taken an Organic Chemistry exam dressed as an elf, with cardboard ears, and with a sword by my side.
      • ...And that's just one of the 1001 excuses you'll find in our new book, 1001 Excuses for a Lousy GPA!

        1001 Excuses for a Lousy GPA is perfect for job interviews, college and grad school applications, and report-card chats with the parents. Order yours TODAY!
  • ... more fun than finals.

    You'd think UC students would be too busy to play DDR, or is that hope? It seems no campus is safe from this geeky scourge.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by bravehamster ( 44836 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:45PM (#4829057) Homepage Journal
    It took me about 5 minutes to figure out that DDR == Dance Dance Revolutions, not DDR == Double Data Rate. I was trying to figure out how you had a DDR contest. Compare bandwidths, access rates and error checking? Let the man with the best CAS 2 Corsair win? Please tell me I'm not the only one.

    • sorry about it, but you ARE the weakest link....etc. etc.
    • You're not the only one.
    • You're not the only one, but that doesn't make it any less sad. We didn't think of doing something geeky (Dance Dance Revolution contest) because we were thinking about something far geekier.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:59PM (#4829193) Journal
      It took me about 5 minutes to figure out that DDR == Dance Dance Revolutions

      It took me a second too. I guess I'm just too old, but to me DDR still means the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, i.e., Communist East Germany.
    • I'm not the only one.
  • was an endangered species. How come they are hunting them?
  • What do you win? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dagg ( 153577 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:50PM (#4829098) Journal
    I looked everywhere to try to figure out what you win. The best I could find is this in a PDF doc:

    11. Prizes. Prizes are money. And a trophy, apparently.

    So I wonder how much money?
    • Re:What do you win? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Remik ( 412425 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:52PM (#4829123)
      It's a negligable amount. About $500 for first place, which is at most 1/5th of the teams funds spent on the competition.

      I was involved in the making of the Periphrastic film 'The Hunt' as a camera man and assistant. I must say it was the most fun I've had outside competition in the Hunt itself.

      • It's a negligable amount. About $500 for first place, which is at most 1/5th of the teams funds spent on the competition.

        Not so, my friend! Dare you slander the mighty F.I.S.T.* so? We took fourth place, which came with an (I think, payout still pending AFAIK) $150 prize. Whatever it was, we got together after the film screening and decided that the prize money came out to about half of our total budget. Goes to show what real dumpster-diving legwork can get you.

        *F.I.S.T. = The Lush Puppies Mk. II: Federation of Independent Scavhunt Teams. Basically we decided that the little five-person teams that never stood a chance against the big dorms were being oppressed, so rather than be Borged by the big guys, we banded together to form a team of our own. I think our best moment (sadly not caught on the film) was after judging and cleanup finished, some of the FIST headed out behind Ida Noyes to dumpster dive the other teams' scraps for use next year.

  • How to join this? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I go to university of chicago but I have no idea how to join this. Is it just for students or what are the rules?
    • Just find a team. There are usually meetings starting in the beginning of May, the locations and times for which are posted, and everyone(including non-students) is welcome. Most teams are associated with a specific dorm, but F.I.S.T.(Federation of Independent ScavHunt Teams) is a successful loose coalition.
      • I'm a grad student at Caltech. Am I eligible? And can I wear a "Kobe sucks Shaq's pencildi*k" T-shirt through Compton instead of the Yzerman t-shirt?
        • Re:Can I too? (Score:2, Informative)

          The Scavenger Hunt is open to anyone who wants to play. That means people from other schools, people who aren't in school, people from Mars, we don't care. Any help is welcome, and especially so if help can bring his or her own tools.
    • Anybody who wants, can play. And plenty of people who didn't necessarily want, also wind up playing. :-) If you have special talents, cool tools, or unusual friends, there's a good chance that you will be found and recruited.

      If you live in a dorm, your choice of team will probably be quite clear; look for signs going up in late spring as to meeting places for planning powwows and the like.

      If you want to have more fun, and avoid the regimentation of the big dorms, check out the Federation of Independent Scavhunt Teams (F.I.S.T. for really short, our full name is currently running towards a paragraph.) Our philosophy is, let's have major fun, as cheaply as possible, and devote ourselves religiously to what we consider one of the greatest games ever invented for four days. We're looking to start recruiting new talent sometime shortly after winter break, so keep your eyes open.

      We're also probably the most geographically diverse team: all over campus, of course, but we've even got some hardcore players who drive in from other states.
  • Scary (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So umm, any one team get the Nuclear Reactor AND passports with stamps from the 3 "Axis of Evil" nations?

    yea yeah, two different hunts i know, but still!
    • Re:Scary (Score:5, Informative)

      by Remik ( 412425 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:59PM (#4829197)
      Yes, the nuclear breeder reactor was working before the judges made the team disassemble it. It was built on the steps of one of the University's main classroom buildings by the members of 'Matthews House' team in the Spring '99.

      The people involved were physics majors, working in jobs with access to nuclear material.
      • "The people involved were physics majors, working in jobs with access to nuclear material." ...seems to be a sort of unfair advantage. Hmmm. Unless the other contestants were (get ready for gratuitous plug) slashdot readers.

      • Oh, building a working nuclear reactor isn't so hard. All you need is nuclear material, a big tank of water (a dump truck is probably a big enough container), and some sort of stand to put the nuclear material on inside the water. If the water gets surprisingly warm, you've done it.
  • by Landaras ( 159892 ) <neil&wehneman,com> on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:54PM (#4829145) Homepage

    That really doesn't sound that tough. How difficult is it to fly to...
    • One) []
      1330 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Suite 300
      Washington, D.C. 20036

    • Two) []
      15503 Ventura Blvd.
      Encino, California 91436


    • Three) []
      One Microsoft Way
      Redmond, WA 98052-6399
    Oh, wait. They must be referencing the President's State of the Union address. My bad...

  • Reactor (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gutboy ( 587531 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:56PM (#4829162)
    when students built a working breeder reactor.

    According to the article, they build a "working nuclear reactor", an fairly easy task if you know how, not a "working breeder reactor", a very complicated task requiring multi-million dollar processing plants and weapons grade plutonium.
    • So, could you tell me where I might be able to get the supplies for a "working nuclear reactor", an fairly easy task if you know how.

      Seems to me that the level of difficulty is about the same.
      • Re:Reactor (Score:2, Informative)

        by Gutboy ( 587531 )
        Several universities have uranium used for physics, chemistry, and nuclear engineering purposes. When I went to school, we could obtain samples for use (I majored in Nuclear Engineering). Get weapons grade plutonium was a different matter.
    • Re:Reactor (Score:5, Funny)

      by Helpadingoatemybaby ( 629248 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:02PM (#4829226)
      Oh fantastic, you tell me that after . Now what do I do with this dang breeder reactor in my dorm room!!

      I already got in trouble for the coffee mug hotplate.

    • Re:Reactor (Score:3, Informative)

      by Remik ( 412425 )
      To the best of my recollection, the reactor used fisile material to create radioactive isotopes which could be used for medical purposes. Thus, in a loose sense of the term, it was a breeder reactor.
    • ...a boy scout built a working breeder [] from junk he scrounged (for a merit badge no less!); why not two physics majors?
    • More info in the previous Slashdot story at 6&mode=thread&tid=134. As far as I've heard, their Resident Masters had connections with the physics department. The BJ team has always been a little nutso like that. But it's better than being kinda sucky, like the Shoreland team (mine).
      • Re:Reactor (Score:2, Informative)

        by fhqwhgads ( 603131 )
        Damn, I lose coolness points.

        Students Build Reactor For Scavenger Hunt []
      • I've heard, their Resident Masters had connections with the physics department. The BJ team has always been a little nutso like that.

        This is pure bullshit. I was a member of the team which built the reactor. First off, the team was the Mathews House Team; we were not part of the BJ team. Second, the resident masters at the time were a classics professor (Chris Faerone) & his wife (Susan). They had no connections at all with the physics department. Nor did the resident heads in Mathews House; Kathy Christofferson taught in Little Red School House. Her husband is a carpenter.

        Fred & Justin got the idea for their reactor design while guzzling coffee in the dining hall Friday morning, spent the day gathering materials, and assembled it in the wee hours of Saturday. They did this with no help from anyone. Most of the materials they used they found in various corners of their double.
    • ...after building a 'breeder' reactor, you are no longer able to breed.

      In Soviet Russia, breeder reactor builds YOU!
    • Re:Reactor (Score:5, Informative)

      by Captn Pepe ( 139650 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @08:45PM (#4829963)
      This story comes up every so often, and is met with the same incredulity. I was there, on the team that built the reactor, so take it from me when I say that we did it. (Well, not so much we, as Fred and Justin did it with their mighty ninja atomic physicist powers; I was a first-year at the time, so my major contribution there was listening to them explain the scheme at breakfast.)

      The fact is, a breeder reactor is just anything that is making plutonium, at least as far as the judges were concerned. So they made plutonium, by irradiating thorium from lantern mantles with a source they "borrowed" from the student labs. The tricky part was convincing the physics department to lend them a $20K proportional counter so they could detect the relaxation photons and thus prove plutonium production. After 36 hours of running they had a few hundred events that we figured corresponded to a total yield of 100K atoms or so.

      Yes, purification would have been harder. No, we're not actually sure what eventually happened to the reactor.

      A breeder reactor produces plutonium. That's all that's required.

      A commercial breeder reactor fissions U-235, just like ordinary PWRs. But surrounding the core is a blanket of non-chain-reaction-sustaining U-238. The U-238 captures the thermal neutrons coming from the U-235 fission reaction, and transmutes to Pu-239, which is also usable as fission fuel.
  • Royko's Socks (Score:5, Informative)

    by nightsweat ( 604367 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @06:59PM (#4829198)
    For years and years, we put columnist Mike Royko's socks on the list. He had moved from the Sun-Times to the Tribune and done a commercial that ran something like -

    "So, Mike, now that you're at the Tribune have you changed anything?"
    "Only my socks."

    The year they ran this commercial we put his socks on the list, figuring it was a good gag for one year. Royko, however, was really mean to the first group to ask him for his socks and printed a column berating the Scavenger Hunt and the U of C.

    That's all it took. Pretty much until he died, Mike Royko's socks were on the list, guaranteeing he'd be bothered by geeks every year.

  • I wonder what the apparent obsession with the Chenguin pantheon is all about...To those who aren't in the know, that would include Chenguin, Chunk, Chove, and Chixson. More info can be found here:

    Chenguin site []

    • It's the 'Road Trip Theme'...there's one every year, afaik. There's also a theme song.

      Recent Theme Songs:

      1998 Weather Girls, "It's Raining Men"

      1999 Vengaboys, "We Like to Party"

      2000 Positive K, "I Gotta Man"

      2001 The Charlie Daniels Band, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"

      2002 Andrew W.K., "Party Hard"

  • DUde. WHat the hell happend to stealing street signs. Shouldnt this be one of the primary signs that a scavenger hunt needs to be toned down?

    150. a rubber duck
    151. a watermellon
    152. a hommemade nuclear reactor
    153. a sample of the china syndrome in progress
    154. george bush
    • Don't worry, they've still got that too.
      310. The Buick City has become the Hard Rock city... Hard Crack Rock, that is. Prove it by bringing us back a ``Warning: Illegal Drug Area,'' sign: you know, the green ones with the white syringes on the front. And don't piss off the Manley men. [44 points]
  • Only someone with "bookish tendencies" would think of/participate in the world's largest scavenger hunt. And sell DVDs under the name "Periphrastic Films."

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Peace in the Middle East ... 2 points!
  • I'm a veteran (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chuckaluphagus ( 111487 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:09PM (#4829283)
    I was on one of the top teams(Pierce) for my first three years, and a cameraman for the documentary this past year. Scav Hunt is one of the most enjoyable things I've ever had the luck to be part of. Four and a half days of caffeine, power tools, lewd behavior, and insanity.


    The above-mentioned breeder reactor. A bunch of advanced physics students cobbled, jury-rigged, and "borrowed" the necessary components. It was of the type used to make medical radio-isotopes, and therefore didn't receive full points, but it was real and scary as hell. The builders were known for wanting to build their own high-energy weapons for personal use.

    "Fisher-Price Baby's First Flamethrower", a device that had to appeal to children and be operable by a three-year old. I'm quite proud of my work on that. Somewhere, we have the photos of that thing shooting out gouts of flame like a scene from a WW2 movie.

    Sharlene, our "Chewing Gum Cannon". A device to launch a kilo of chewed gum. Points for distance and shortest time to launch. We used shells and produced a mortar with a range of 75 yards, easy.

    A simulated air strike on Slobodan Milosevic. Involved more fireworks going off at one time than I ever want to see again. I have adrenalin-imprinted memories of running very fast in the opposite direction from the initial blast crater, roman candles scorching the air as they passed my head. The cops showed up and laughed until they had tears streaming down their faces.

    If you're ever in Chicago on Mother's Day(the Day of Judgment every year), head down to the University to see what's been built/found/destroyed.
    • Re:I'm a veteran (Score:5, Informative)

      by bobol6 ( 571258 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:53PM (#4829589)

      The above-mentioned breeder reactor. A bunch of advanced physics students cobbled, jury-rigged, and "borrowed" the necessary components.

      This article brings back such lovely memories... I lived in Mathews House when Fred & Justin built their reactor. I've got a photo somewhere of the two of them, standing in front of the shed which housed the reactor, dressed in yellow radiation suits, drinking cheap champagne & Baily's, smoking cigarettes, and grinning like maniacs.

      The builders were known for wanting to build their own high-energy weapons for personal use.

      wanting to build? Fred & Justin had a lab on the 3rd floor of Kirsten; they used to spend nights in there drinking, smoking cigarettes, and building low-budget lasers, plasma cannons, and other implements of destruction. It's amazing what you can do with a 20,000 Volt power supply, a centiFarad capacitor, and your own custom pulse-forming network.

      • Re:I'm a veteran (Score:4, Informative)

        by Captn Pepe ( 139650 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @08:55PM (#4830012)
        wanting to build? Fred & Justin had a lab on the 3rd floor of Kirsten; they used to spend nights in there drinking, smoking cigarettes, and building low-budget lasers, plasma cannons, and other implements of destruction.

        And oddly enough, the physics dept. basically sealed off the 3rd floor "student lab" after they left. By the time I managed to get back in there, it had been stripped bare and was going to be used for teaching space. Of course, one of them apparently left bits of their stuff as "presents" hidden around the Research Institute. Took me two years, but I eventually found the guts of the pulse forming network (I think) stashed in the sub-basement of the Accelerator building next to some discarded-crated-and-encased-in-fiberglass NASA hardware.

        Never did find much of great use, though. On the other hand, claiming to have some leftover Fred TechTM on hand is still a good way to scare a few points out of the judges. A schematic for the plasma cannon was all it took to get partial credit for the "Deface the surface of the moon" item a couple of years ago.

  • This really is quite an experience. My fondest memory is running around the Harrah's East Casino in Gary, Indiana looking for "petri from Harrah's". Got a High Roller card out of it. FYI, it was a pet rock, not a dish for fungus-growing. Go Snell-Hitchcock!
    • Or Snithcock-Hell as we fondly referred to it.

      'course, in my day they were gender separated. I had the job of making people sign the "Who's banging whom" book between the two dorms after 10:00pm.

      Work-study forever!

  • #75 is find an alfred or jeeves at Butler University...didn't think that there were any here but according to the noc list (the webmail addy book that conatins all students and faculty)...there are no jeeves here...but there are 3 alfreds here at this wonderful campus in indiana
  • by Remik ( 412425 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:25PM (#4829406)
    On Campus; It's that season at Chicago, and Ph.D.'s have taken a back seat to a degree of silliness.
    By Andrew Bluth

    ''People think of the University of Chicago and they think the students are weird,'' says Tom Howe, a junior from Atlanta. Having taken off his chicken suit, he is wearing a cardboard crown from a Burger King Kid's Meal. ''We want to show that intellectual doesn't necessarily mean stuffy.''

    It is this philosophy -- that Chicago students can have fun if they really put their minds to it -- that gave birth to the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt, a yearly celebration of looniness at a campus far better known for its Nobel laureates.

    Putting aside term papers for a long weekend, hundreds of undergraduates in teams representing dormitories and student organizations range around the campus -- and, this year, the North American continent -- in search of items that will never be found in a course catalogue. The grand prize is $500, but the goal, says Mr. Howe, is loftier: ''to make the participants maximize their intellectual creativity.''

    These were among the 339 items on the list for this year's scavenger hunt, released at the stroke of midnight on May 6:

    No. 123: A computer suffering a year 2000 problem.

    No. 262: Five Mensa membership cards.

    No. 167: A 15-foot-tall monument to Grimace, the McDonald's Happy Meal character.

    No. 40: A tenured professor willing to recite profane lyrics from a gangsta rap song.

    Each team works from an identical list; items are assigned points, based on difficulty, and the team with the most points by Sunday afternoon is the winner. The wording of certain clues often suggests a trip to a far-flung destination -- having a team member photographed with an Ontario police officer, for instance.

    Teams are often elaborately organized, with ''page masters'' assigned to each page of the list and at least one person operating a computer long after midnight in search of Web sites that will lead the team to cubic zirconia (20 points) or Chicago Bulls season tickets (15 points) or an autographed photograph of the Food Network star Jacqui Malouf (30 points).

    ''One of the items on the list was the 'street value of Mount Everest,' '' said Sam Hunt, a freshman competing for his dorm, Shoreland Hall. ''So we posted it on Ebay, and made it look pretty, with a nice picture of the mountain and everything. The bidding got up to $180 before we got kicked off the site.''

    The Shoreland team is run out of sixth-floor dormitory room of its captain, Ryan Miller. By the end of the weekend, Thai food containers litter the floor and at least three trash cans are overflowing with empty soda cans. The members have slept little if at all, and the room is a nest of cables that wire no fewer than six personal computers.

    When the phone rings, it is answered with a curt ''Command central'' and calls are kept short so that the line can be free for a check-in from the road-trip group, probably somewhere in Canada.

    ''From what we can gather, the road-trip team is doing really well,'' Mr. Miller says. ''Except last time they checked in, they sounded drunk.''

    Other items on this year's list included building a nuclear reactor from scratch (one team was actually successful -- this is the University of Chicago, after all), an edible iMac computer and a ticket to a local theater for a certain movie opening May 19. (To these students, the date needs no further explanation.)

    No one is really sure how or when the scavenger hunt began, but they do know it is a welcome break from economics exams and Shakespeare papers -- a way to demonstrate, in Mr. Howe's words, that ''we actually can have fun on this campus.''

    And how do you say fun on a college campus better than a keg toss? As part of the Scavolympics, a string of a dozen events before the final judging that teams compete for points in, all 13 teams came together to recreate a battle of the Civil War, to demonstrate a fight between Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth, and, yes, to toss a keg.

    Competing for his dorm, Hitchcock-Snell, 23-year-old Niyi Omojola, after minutes earlier winning the competition that called for contestants to eat an entire bottle of squeeze cheese, won the keg toss. While others had grabbed the kegs with two hands, taken a few steps and heaved, he held it with one hand, arm extended, and spun around like a discus thrower, propelling the keg beyond the other teams' markers.

    ''I was trying to get some torque,'' said Mr. Omojola, a junior. ''If you can direct that torque in a straight line, you can throw it pretty far. People were trying to muscle it, and that's not going to work.''

    And if you can't say fun at the U. of C., with a little torque and a keg toss, certainly you can with a nuclear reactor.

    Two physics majors, Justin Kasper and Fred Niell, gathered up some spare junk from their physics labs and dorm rooms and built a plutonium-producing reactor.

    ''It's kind of scary how easy it was to do,'' said Mr. Niell, assuring onlookers that there was only a trace of plutonium -- nothing harmful. ''It only took us about a day to build it. We've been thinking about it for a few days and we gathered the parts, and last night we assembled it. In Justin's room -- he lost the coin toss.''

  • by Syncdata ( 596941 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:28PM (#4829424) Journal
    The makes me all the more sure in my belief that my children had better get a damned fine scholarship, because there is no way in hell I'm paying 20k a year for my kid to do this, and drink beer through a funnel. I did all this at my local community college for 13 bucks a unit, thanks.
    • by nightsweat ( 604367 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:31PM (#4829443)
      Yeah,you're probably right. All we did was turn out a manufacturing Company President, two VP's of IT, three medical doctors, a chemist, a writer, and a statistics professor from our core group of friends there.

    • I got a fantastic education at the University of Chicago, and the Scavenger Hunt was part of it. It teaches you how to be creative and practical, make quick decisions, and work well with a lot of other people. And it's fun.

      How in the world can you regard this as a bad thing? Hell, I'll pay more to let my children go to a college that has this sort of event.
      • Mea Culpa. I am aware of UofC's fine standing as an academic institution. I would be pleased to have my children go to a school so accomplished. I was merely trying to elicit a chuckle I thought it would be fairly obvious I was not serious, in comparing UofC dis-favorably with a Community College, but aparantly UofC grads are touchy. I was not trolling, though it appears to have had that effect.
      • Don't worry about it. We've caught real flack like this for the ScavHunt before, it's probably made me somewhat twitchy.
  • Congress at Work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2002 @07:49PM (#4829562)
    271. Have a member of the US Congress wish your team best of luck in the ``antient and honorable Scavenger Hunt at the University of Chicago'' on the floor of the House. [435 points. 100 bonus points for a Senator. 50 bonus points for getting both a Republican and Democrat. 100 bonus points for getting Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, or Hillary and Strom to do it]

    Unfortunately, no senators, but...

    This item can be found in the Congressional Record (available at Search for "scavenger hunt" and "University of Chicago"
  • More on the reactor (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rufus211 ( 221883 ) <[gro.hsikcah] [ta] [todhsals-sufur]> on Friday December 06, 2002 @08:29PM (#4829845) Homepage
    In case anyone wants more info about that reactor everyone's talking about, Slashdot actually covered it back in '99. Here's the link: l []
  • here's a respons from the creator of the reactor to some web board back in '99 when they did it:

    Alright, I just want to set a couple things straight, so here are some
    responses to oft heard comments the last few days:

    1. "I assume they used U-238 to get to Pu-239..." we did not start
    with any uranium or plutonium, that would have ruined the fun, and the
    point was to make fissionable materials. Our starting material was
    thorium, which can be found at any hardware store. we happened to have
    some in our dorm room... The final products were Uranium 233 and
    Plutonium 238. I'm not going to spoon feed the decay chains to anyone,
    you can figure it out yourself if you really need to.

    2. "You endangered the life of my son!" We created a neutron source
    using some shit we pulled out of a trash can. This source was safer and
    less radioactive than the radioisotope Americium 241 found in the smoke
    detector in each of your rooms.

    3. "Someone said your roommate lost his job because he built a nuclear
    reactor" Neither I nor my rommmate have lost our jobs since doing this.

    4. "I hear you paid another group to steal Plutonium for you" We did
    not steal Uranium or Plutonium from anywhere. Nor did we have anyone
    else steal some for us.

    5. "but to qualify as a true breeder, doesn't the reaction have to be
    self-sustaining?" No. A breeder reactor just means taking advantage of
    all those tasty neutrons flying off from whatever source you have, be it
    a sustained fission reaction or a naturally radioactive source. The
    best neutron source on campus would be the Physics Dept's neutron
    howitzer. But since the howitzer produces neutrons from the decay of
    Plutonium, you have to agree it would be silly to use it to try and make

    6. "(I'll be really impressed if the two come up with a micro-fusion
    reactor.)" We'd fly back next year just for that one...

    - Juniper Tasks

    Just some clarification for the readers who've forgotten their nuclear

    U-235 is the fissionable used in the Hiroshima bomb and Pu-239
    in the Nagasaki bomb. U-238 is used in fast breeder reactors
    to make weapons grade Pu-239. (U-238 is also used in fission-fusion-fission
    bombs, so technically it is fissionable with a net gain of energy
    but you need really fast neutrons).

    Thorium was to have been used in slow breeder reactor technology which
    turns out U-233 as its fissionable. (Is Pu-238 fissionable at low neutron
    energies with a net gain? The even Z makes me think not...)

    I thought you had started with depleted uranium to make a fast breeder;
    didn't know the thorium isotope available from hardware stores was the
    one used in slow breeders.
    Well, with a small sample of thorium and a neutron source, you can make
    the U-233. But with a fully functioning breeder don't you need some of the
    U-233 created to fission and transform the rest of the thorium without
    running away and slagging the reactor or damping out so you never
    end up with more thorium than whatever's directly exposed to your
    neutron source? I suppose the nuclear engineering definition of a
    breeder has to be more pragmatic.

    Fred and Justin didn't begin with any uranium.
    (Uranium, after all, ain't a commonly available thing.) They began with some
    thorium and an alpha source, which they just happened to have lying
    around. They used the alpha source to make a neutron source, and bombarded
    the thorium. This induced a chain of reactions, the final products of
    which were fissionable uranium and plutonium.
  • But the Road Trip! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mtpruitt ( 561752 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @08:42PM (#4829940) Homepage
    The best part of this is always the road trip, and that has not been mentioned really. You have about four days to get someplace far, far away and back with a ton of stuff. One year we went to New Orleans and NYC the next (in a rented Neon) in a whirlwind tour of taking photos and items, all in a rush to decipher where to go along the route. (If they told you outright where you were going and where you had to stop, it wouldn't be fun.) Definitely the best part.
    • Being a "starving" graduate student myself, I never understood where students get the money do to things like 4-day road trips and the rest of the zany things that this hunt requires. Must have something to do with old money at UofC. Mind you, I also can't imagine living in the opulant frat houses as-seen-on-TV. Perhaps there really is something to the cost-of-living divide between Canada and the US. I guess I better increase my minimum bribe amount for the next course I TA...

    • One of the more egregious items was "gravel from the roof of the Minnesota State Caital building".

      We were sure there was somethign "special" about the gravel that would identify it. Nope. Just rocks.

  • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @09:56PM (#4830272) Homepage
    The Univerisy of Waterloo also had a bomb ass scavenger hunt every year, until some guy died trying to climb the exhaust pipe of the uni's envrionmental control building. (Anyone remember the Onion article, "Thre stupid kids spoil toy for everyone else"?)

    So the University banned Scavenger Hunts.

    Now we have Havenger Scunts (take that, laywers!), and every year has a new theme. The year I remember best was the 70s blaxpliotation theme. My shirt "Funky Scunt, 99'" gets a lot of double-takes if you read it quickly.
  • by KristsInferno ( 630282 ) on Friday December 06, 2002 @10:01PM (#4830300)
    First off:
    It will not count against you if your guitarists are dressed as ninjas, which are cool. And by cool, we mean totally sweet
    Goddamn, I knw I should have gone to Chicago instead of the University of Maine!!!

    The Frankenchrist LP and the Party Music CD, with both containing their original album artworks. [53 points per item]
    Completely impossible, unless you are me! Frankenchrist originally came with a painting called 'Penis Landscape' by H.R. Giger (you all know Him) that was one of the first PMRC cases that was pulled from production (Which I purchased when I was 12, so I could have won 53 points!). Nice Punk Rock Pop Quiz (please say point number one out loud for me). Thank you.
    • actually, a "party music" album with original ablum cover would be all but impossible to come by as well as the original album cover was to look like
      this [] (ironically to be printed on sept. 11th, it eventually became this [][note burning manhatten, basically the same thing, just a bit more subtle and this time, much more direct]).

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll