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Build a Robot out of a Car? 264

SomeRobotGuy writes "A researcher in the U.K. is in the process of building an autonomous biped robot out of a Mini Cooper r50. Its functions are controlled by six computers running RTLinux and it's powered by an internal combustion engine. And the thing's not tiny, at over 10 feet tall! The site includes videos showing some impressive results."
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Build a Robot out of a Car?

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  • by mod_critical ( 699118 ) * on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:41PM (#8549444)

    Now it just needs a loudspeaker and a recording of "BITE MY SHINY METAL ASS!"

  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by TapTapTheChisler ( 691570 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:43PM (#8549450)
    They could have picked any transformer and they pick BUMBLEBEE?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

      by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @12:18AM (#8549850)
      Transformer Refuses To Change Back Into Volkswagen

      CYBERTRON -- Following an intense battle with Megatron and his evil Decepticons Monday, former robot-in-disguise Bumblebee refused to revert to his natural state as a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. "I hid my existence in this world by taking the form of a vehicle! I revealed my true nature when I was called upon to protect earth!" said Bumblebee, a member of Optimus Prime's heroic Autobots force. "I refuse to change back into a humiliating bubble-shaped compact car!" Bumblebee added that Megatron arrived on earth with one goal: Destruction!

      (from The Onion [])
  • I dub him Bumblebee...
  • Next up (Score:5, Funny)

    by bartyboy ( 99076 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:44PM (#8549454)
    They should use a red tractor trailer to build Optimus Prime.
  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by AssProphet ( 757870 ) * on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:44PM (#8549457) Homepage Journal
    The things you can do with photoshop...
  • by RadicalBender ( 734280 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:44PM (#8549459) Homepage
    Holy crap! It's a Motoslave []!
  • by Richard N. Bush ( 759628 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:44PM (#8549461)
    ... and After Effects.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:46PM (#8549467)
    The site is well camouflaged to make it seem real. The CG work is well done. It wouldn't suprise me if this is a site created by MINI. They have a long history of non-traditional advertising. They have put a MINI in the stands at a Giants Baseball game. They put them into Malls on a platform with coin slots saying $16,995 in quaters for a ride.
    There best known one was putting the MINI on the roof of a Chevy Suburban and driving it arround San Francisco.

    It was also recently revealed that the Weekly World News article with BatBoy Stealing a MINI was a planted article by MINI USA.
  • Sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by srcosmo ( 73503 )
    Fifteen comments and the server appears to have bit the dust.
    Slashdot should come up with some automatic link-cacheing system or something...
  • by Akki ( 722261 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:48PM (#8549481)
    For something claiming to be "the fastest Web server ever" []. It certainly doesn't seem to be standing up to a slashdotting very well.
  • Geez. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Azureflare ( 645778 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:48PM (#8549482)
    That's great. Link to a small site with a bunch of medium mpeg files. Give them no warning. Has slashdot no shame???

    Seems like it's become a custom around here to destroy small hobbyist sites. *sigh*

    From what I got to see of it, it is truly awesome! The amount of work this guy has put into this project is just amazing. Makes me realize even more how much I want to get into the field of robotics.

    • Re:Geez. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by introverted ( 675306 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:17PM (#8549603)
      Seems like it's become a custom around here to destroy small hobbyist sites.

      I wonder if perhaps that's a sign that the small hobbyist sites are the only ones doing "cool" stuff anymore.

    • OT:Geez. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <> on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:42PM (#8549703) Homepage Journal
      That's great. Link to a small site with a bunch of medium mpeg files. Give them no warning. Has slashdot no shame??? Seems like it's become a custom around here to destroy small hobbyist sites. *sigh*
      I agree that this might inconvenience many small sites, and in the case of those who (for whatever awful reason) have bandwidth overage charges instead of an auto-cutoff it might even put them in the poor house. However the current /. system works pretty well, especially when a subscriber takes it upon themselves (throwing caution and probably several legalities to the wind) to mirror the content or Google caches the site so we can at least read the text. And for quite some time on the Internet the reality is that any site, on any subject, anywhere geographically, can be /.'ed by MANY different news/aggregator sites if they link to it. And with the high content value on small sites that concentrate on a single subject (esp if it's the original author/design team/etc's site) there is a much higher probablility that it will be selected to be /.'ed by the world at large. Of course hardly anyone at these small sites actually considers that they might get blasted by a "friendly DDOS", and even the ones who think/pray for the attention of a giant like /. probably don't go the extra bit and make sure their sites can either withstand it or fail gracefully (without the aforementioned bandwidth overage charges). Seems to me some of these "build a basic website" primers need to add a section on ALL the various things that can happen to even hobby websites; not only /.'ing but also defacement, etc.

      Of course I agree it's a problem, just giving my thoughts on the situation...

      Jonah Hex
    • Re:Geez. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! ( 70830 )
      >Seems like it's become a custom around here to destroy small hobbyist sites.

      In this case 'small hobbyist' turns out to be guerrilla/deceptive marketers and the /. effect is great weapon to use on these assholes. []
  • HOLA! (Score:4, Funny)

    by GoMMiX ( 748510 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:49PM (#8549484)
    Now THAT is a toy!!

    I'll take a dozen!
  • It would be way cooler if it was a transforming robot.
    • No way man! A BattleMech is way cooler than any fruity ass robot that transforms into a refridgerator. Put a .50 cal on it, some recoilless rockets, maybe a laser or two and send it out looking for Osama bin laden.
  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:55PM (#8549512)
    server on the cooper engine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:57PM (#8549522)
    I would hate to be the other robot when this thing makes it to battle bots.
  • by d0st03vsky ( 550442 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:57PM (#8549526) Homepage, I mean /.-ed...
  • Clearly, this is an unacceptable use of an automobile.
  • by brain1 ( 699194 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:00PM (#8549536)
    This thing looks like a cross between a Gundam and Robocop. I think that Jesse James should have built this on Monster Garage. OK. Now what does it REALLY do?
  • Bad idea here, no not creating a robot out of a mini. No the bad idea was creating something that resembled a transformer and not hosting it on a well configured webserver on high end hardware with lots of bandwidth. See what happens is slashdot gets wind of such a thing, and with many geeks having fond memories of transformers, the next thing you know the fire chief wants to have a word with the CTO. Bad idea.
  • DARPA?? (Score:2, Funny)

    by pvt_medic ( 715692 )
    i wonder if it would qualify for the Darpa competition. I think it would be an interesting twist if it did.
  • FAKE! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:04PM (#8549558)
    Watch the "Battery Test" video, if that isn't CGI then I'm a monkey's uncle.
    • Re:FAKE! (Score:5, Informative)

      by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:32PM (#8549658)
      You're right, it's a dead giveaway. Notice the guy holding the clipboard, the lighting is camera left since the clipboard casts a shadow on his chest. But the fake CG shadows from the "robot" indicate the model was lit from the camera upper right. And none of the background objects (i.e. the cart) casts shadows anywhere near as distinct as the "robot."
      Come on fakers, don't you know that your lighting has to be consistent between composited layers?
  • The real scoop (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The site is well camouflaged to make it seem real. The CG work is well done. It wouldn't suprise me if this is a site created by MINI. They have a long history of non-traditional advertising. They have put a MINI in the stands at a Giants Baseball game. They put them into Malls on a platform with coin slots saying $16,995 in quaters for a ride.
    There best known one was putting the MINI on the roof of a Chevy Suburban and driving it arround San Francisco.

    It was also recently revealed that the Weekly World Ne
  • by Catnapster ( 531547 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:05PM (#8549561) Homepage
    Take an F-15 and turn it into Starscream.

    Or, optionally, find a thirty-foot-long alien ray gun and turn it into Shockwave.

    Don't forget Unicron! []
  • It's Not Real (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:17PM (#8549607)
    There is nothing but fluff on that site. The "sketches" have the stink of marketing all over them. Now, whenever I see a Mini Cooper, I'll be reminded of their pathetic "me too" attempt to get some attention. At least Honda's Cog ad actually entailed some technological brilliance and real work to make happen. All this does is raise the question of where the line should be drawn when it comes to making false claims of research and development in order to get free advertising. Isn't that illegal? What's the difference between what Mini is doing and what we'd think of a drug company that fabricated a bunch of bogus "technology" to imply that it had a cure for cancer for the purpose of getting free advertising?

    Yeah, I guess I don't like the feeling of being duped by a marketing department.
    • Yeah, well Honda's cog ad was plagiarized from a famous 1987 performance art film, "Der Lauf der Dinge" (The Way Things Go) by Fischli & Weiss. So "brilliant" and "real work" are not words you could apply to the Honda ad, unless you think stealing someone elses original idea is real work and a brilliant idea.
  • Mini? (Score:2, Funny)

    Six computers in a Cooper Mini? Hell, they'd never fit. This must be fake.
  • Red Green (Score:5, Funny)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:21PM (#8549623) Homepage
    Red Green already did this with a K-Car. And a few rolls of duct tape.
  • by aexandria1 ( 748486 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:25PM (#8549634)
    when they called it KITT. All they need now is a couple of LEDs on the front of the car and William Daniels in the trunk.
  • Something like this? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrdaveb ( 239909 )
    The /. effect got to the page before I did... But I wonder if the robot looks something like this: pg []
  • Slashdotted already! (Score:2, Informative)

    by xandroid ( 680978 )

    Here's the image [] on the one page I could access. Below it was the text:

    "Here is r50r without the protective bonnet plate. I was a bit hesitant to post this because you can see some of the details of my mechanics. But I don't think it gives away too many secrets."

  • by rasafras ( 637995 ) <> on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:29PM (#8549651) Homepage were real. This is basically a less cool version of the VW bug transformer video, which can be found here [] (sorry about the format). The creator of the video has an interview here [], though the original site is down.

    I'm surprised this slipped through, editors.
  • Welcome our new autonomous automotive overlords...
  • Of watching way to much Junkyard Wars... I wanna see this bad boy compete in any robot competition... the intimidation value alone should insure victory...

  • by nherc ( 530930 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @11:43PM (#8549707) Journal
    I just came across a reply from the creator regarding its authenicty [] on Google Groups:

    From: Chris S. (
    Subject: Re: Robot built from a Mini Cooper?
    View: Complete Thread (9 articles)
    Original Format
    Newsgroups: comp.robotics.misc
    Date: 2004-03-11 13:08:35 PST

    I'm not so sure. I really want to believe this thing's for real, but I
    have some serious doubts. Here's the response I got from Colin Mayhew,
    the robot's inventor:

    Colin Mayhew wrote:

    >I can assure you that the Cooper project is a real and
    >very tangible one. Your suspicion is perhaps
    >understandable because the leaps we've made are rather
    >significant compared to the current state of
    >commercial AI. As Mr. Clarke wrote in Technology and
    >the Future, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is
    >indistinguishable from magic." What's important to
    >remember in this famous quotation is not that the
    >technology becomes magic, but rather that technology
    >seems magical only to those who don't understand the
    >details or are not knowledgeable of the history of a
    >technology's development. It's for that reason that
    >I've placed notes online and have included videos from
    >different stages of the project. Have you seen videos
    >of people interacting with the Kismet robot? That
    >robot uses a fairly simple emotional model, yet people
    >bond to it and treat it as a 'living' creature! It has
    >become something magical from bits of aluminum and
    >electrons whizzing inside silicon. Your experiences in
    >the research sector I'm sure have shown you how
    >disconnected the public can be from the realities of
    >technology. There are autonomous machines (be they in
    >medicine or oil well drilling) so removed from our
    >daily lives that when we finally learn of them, we are
    >shocked and amazed---far more so than had we followed
    >the gradual steps and wrong turns the engineers made
    >developing and finessing the technology. This project
    >is real, and it, and the systems I've developed for it
    >are going to change the way we live our lives. The
    >most recent software revision I've tested on the robot
    >has some powerful reasoning capabilities, a large step
    >more powerful and versatile than that employed on the
    >robot when I recorded the videos you may have seen
    >online. They are perhaps powerful enough to seem like
    >magic, but both devil and the angel of creativity are
    >in the details. Soon enough, these little creatures
    >will be animating the robots all around us and making
    >our lives safer and more fulfilling.
    > --- "Chris S." wrote: > Is your
    >Mini Cooper powered robotic biped a real
    >>project? Your site
    >>seems detailed enough, but the videos look
    >>suspiciously like computer
    >>generations. Either way, it's an entertaining feat.
    >>Chris S.

    Take it for what you will. I just can't believe someone built something like that essentially alone in just a few years. It just does too much and it moves too fluidily. For instance watch the video where it stops a run-away Car [].
    • He Quoted Arthur C. Clarke! I Love Him!
    • After seeing that video I'm shocked anyone on /. actually believes this is real! The thing moves with the greatest of ease, yet it's what, a good 1500-2000 lbs? Give me a break! Remember the Walking Dinosaur At Disney Park []? Even with a car sized "basket" of electric equipment and power, with Disney's funding and talent the thing did little more than walk, and it didn't even do that fluidly.

      So now you expect me to believe some guy, alone, built a 1,500 robot that bends over and stops a car as easily as

      • Where's the Star Trek fans?? Haven't you learned anything from Spock? "An ancestor of mine maintained, that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

        For those of us that live in the this world, not on Enterprise few hundred years into the future, that's first used by Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes (maybe Spock considers all other fictional characters his ancestors) and is more or less based on Occam's Razor.
  • The shadows tell all. FAKE, now why the hell hasn't the article description been modified?
  • What could the significance of the Doors be?

    Wouldn't the robot be much more functional (based on the generally known 'Mech specs) without car-doors attached to it's hands?

    Car doors attached to the hands might be useful to give it more credibility as actually having been built "from an automobile". I'm not sure what the value of that could be other than the wow/marketing factor.

    Hmmm, marketing from a car maker maybe...?

    Regardless, I can't help but think that my Aibo could take this thing in a battle ro
  • It's a little tiny web site, with one picture (and a note that he almost didn't want to show it because it would show his "secrets") and a few videos that are supposedly taken from this robot's head cameras.

    Yea okay.

    I think that if this were legit, there would be more then a little cheezy web page and no other documentation. If the guy really wanted to service the public with his "traffic" bot then he wouldn't be so secretive about it anyways..
  • by nherc ( 530930 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @12:45AM (#8549923) Journal
    Here is what Colin Mayhew's Personal Yahoo! freebie website (in case it goes away again) says, since when I first looked it was out of bandwidth.

    Welcome to the homepage
    of Colin Mayhew
    [picture of our good doctor]
    Welcome. My name is Dr. Colin Mayhew, and you are visitor number

    I'm hoping to make this web site a place where I can share information about myself, my family and my interests.

    I hold a doctorate degree in engineering and worked for 30 years in the UK. Since my retirement, I have spent much of my free time in my laboratory. My other interests include reading, miniature locomotives and applied physics. To see my collection of miniature locomotives, click here. For engineering and applied physics links and downloads, click here.

    Thanks for your interest.

    This site was last updated 01/02/99


    [The 2 linked pages are below]
    [Locomotive link, each description has a black and white photo]

    Pictures back to home

    Scene at Greywood North terminal (circa. 1951) before the departure of the 3.10pm 'special' (locomotive on left of picture). This is a K5 (2-6-0) class loco. On right is an 'Immingham' class (4-6-0) loco owned by a drummer in a local pop group at the time.

    My father (wearing his Canadian Pacific Railway hat) is sitting on the edge of the turntable pit in front of the purpose built engine shed. The engine on the far left is a 'Sterling' class single (2-2-2), Dad's hand is resting on the Immingham loco as shown in pic. 1.

    This is me driving my own loco 'Eureka' which is a Pacific class (4-6-2) over the mere bridge viaduct. Riding in the train behind is my sister Jane and school buddy Charles. Noral were the company which supplied all the 'Dural' aluminium alloy railway track for the GCR.

    A K5 loco on the turntable in steam and ready to go.

    A friend with my loco Eureka on the turntable.

    This is me (age about 8) steaming up my own engine. I dont know who the little enthusiast is on the left - he is probably Chairman of a London bank by now!

    My father is sitting on Eureka on the turntable ready to go. In the background is another engine owner, 'Woody' who was a veterinary surgeon; he is leaning over his own locomotive - another Pacific class 4-6-2.

    This is the skeleton tunnel or flyover with Eureka on the top level. The railway was sold in 1962 after my father's death and was reconstructed on a nearby farm estate.
    Underneath the flyover is the Royal Scot class (4-6-2) driven.

    This site was last updated 01/02/99

    [Physics and downloads link]

    Links back to home

    History of quantum mechanics. Nicely details Kirchoff's theorem of blackbody radiation.

    Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR).

    Institute of Nanotechnology. Excellent venue to keep up on current events.

    I highly recommend this abstact to anyone working on computing the area and centroid of multiple intensity-coded objects. Click here to download.
    [links from above] istTopic s/The_Quantum_age_begins.html
    http://www.cs.washi ml
    http://uk.geocities.c om/colinmayhewphd/brajovic_vl adimir_2001_1.pdf
    This site was last updated 01/02/99

    Someone spent a decent amount of time on this if fake.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: The last update of this site is in 1999 if that is to be believed. I suppose it's either the real last modified date along with a real Doc Mayhew or it is another part of the hoax. Thoughts?
    • I don't mean to reply to myself, but the site looks to be coded in Frontpage 3 when looking at the source. That sounds about right for this time frame. Again, either a very detailed hoax or a damn cool robot and a very smart guy.
      • Last one... hehehe.

        The name of the photo with the text next to it saying "Welcome to the Homepage of Colin Mayhew" is "dave.jpg"

        Also, interestingly the two domains found for r50rd.* ( and com) are registered to a "David Mayhew".

        Not necessarily proof either way... but another odd inconsistancy.

        Oh, and the two subpages were made with Frontpage5, not 3 as the main page is (or at least what it says in the HTML). But, that's still right when FP5 became available.
  • []

    I saw this cool ass music video by Pato Fu on WorldLink TV, "Made in Japan" and this cooper thing reminds me of it. This is a damn cool video, tune to linktv [] and see it sometime.

  • He either wants this to be widely known about or not. If he doesn't want it to be widely known about, he wouldn't have set up a website about it. So he must want a lot of people to know about it. But yet he is disturbingly secretive about how, exactly, this device does what he claims it does.

    The only reason he would have for not wanting any secrets about its operation to get out is if he was intending to apply for a patent, but hadn't yet. Once the patent application is filed, he's in the clear... he'

    • I'm with you, it looks fake. But if it's fake, then it's probably an advertisement. If it's an advertisement, why didn't it hold up to the slashdot effect more ... effectively? If it were real, then the site going down is a realistic outcome.

      Maybe they just didn't account for the slashdot effect, or had no idea what it was. Or maybe they knew and expected it, and knew that if they survived, it would lend less credibility.

      If it is CG, it's the most realistic CG I've ever seen. So are they advertising
  • This thing looks like a photo of a plastic model composited with another scene. Can anybody identify the transformer toy?

    It's not even a good design. Notice that locations which need big actuators, like hip joints, show no sign of them.

    It's quite possible to build a legged robot out of auto parts. Mark Pauline of SRL built a 12-foot high walking quadruped in the 1980s. I've seen it work, and have visited his shop. Nice piece of work. The control system was all time-delay relays and R/C gear. No compu

  • Obviously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Whelzorn ( 761799 )
    Think about this: It took Honda years, and millions of dollars to create the ASIMO robot, which does nothing compared to what this one did stopping the car, and unscrewing the bolt from the wheel (robot arm dexterity test). ASIMO was also created by a huge team of mechanics, scientists, and programmers. This guy actually wants us to believe that he 1. built the thing, 2. programmed all the fast, complex motions, and 3. built it out of a cooper? bullshit. I dont even think that with the weight of the car app
    • Don't forget, though, his wife is an "analog power circuit guru" who was also responsible for most of the "middleware". I guess that's the software in the robot's midsection, as opposed to the "footware" in the lower extremities.
  • mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by xWh3lPx ( 761842 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @02:38AM (#8550283)
    managed to mirror it here [].
  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:21AM (#8550422) Homepage Journal
    Have you guys heard of "Stealth Marketing"? 60 Minutes covered it a few months back, but basically, imagine this scenario.

    You're walking down times square, and a pretty couple with exotic accents, who look and act like tourists asks you to take their photo. They hand you their digital camera. You notice it's one you've never seen or heard of before, so you snap the photo, and then ask about it, and they proceed to tell you how cool this camera is.

    You've just been 'Stealth Marketed' -- the tourists are fake, actors hired to stand in Times Square asking people to take their photo.

    You're sitting in Starbucks and you see a guy playing a cool game on his laptop. Pretty soon, he's letting you try the game and you're hooked. Turns out he's also an actor hired to sit in the coffee shop and get people to try the game.

    This looks to me like a Stealth Marketing campaign diliberately directed at the Slashdot crowd. Note the post came from "SomeRobotGuy", who, I'll bet, is also in on this gag.

    The server was supposed to get slashdotted to hell and not work properly, as that lends an air of credibility to the hack.

    You're all part of a campaign directed at people like us who read Slashdot, ArsTechnica, HardOCP, and Wired. Chances are this site will make the rounds on all the hardcore tech sites, and if it makes a few people consider buying a Mini-Cooper, then the Stealth Marketing guys have done their job.

    Believe me, this won't be the last time you're "hacked" by Marketing types who are getting more clever about how to direct an advertising campaign at you without you even realising you're being advertised to.

  • For a long time I have had this idea of reducing the single biggest cost to our production, labor. Don't get me wrong, it has been a tough row to hoe, between providing high-paying jobs and making the mine work by somehow cutting costs. Because in mining, that is the only option, since one can rarely charge more than the spot price of the product (gold nuggets and specimens are the exception). So, if it costs us $270 to produce and sell an ounce of gold, and it is selling for $390, we only make $120/ounce.
  • Isn't it amazing? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:26AM (#8550593) Journal
    You hear all kinds of noises in those videos, but none at all from its footsteps.

    A 1500 lb anything is not going to be particularly quiet when it's moving... heck, I have a cat that makes more noise than that thing does.

    This is about as real as a 9 dollar bill.

  • Scaling laws (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bender_ ( 179208 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @06:02AM (#8550819) Journal
    Simple scaling laws that should be known by any engineer tell why bipeds of that size are not a good idea to begin with.

    With increasing size the time constant of motion changes (froude number) making larger robots inherently slower. Also other laws indicate that the influence of gravition grows larger, make the robot difficult to control and prone to damage.

    There are reasons why nature has not created bipeds of that size.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant