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Caltech Pranks MIT's Prefrosh Weekend 530

doughnuthole writes "Caltech students ventured to Massachusetts this past Wednesday to unleash a series of pranks at MIT's prefrosh weekend. They distributed shirts with MIT on the front and '...because not everyone can go to Caltech' on the back. They placed inflatable palm trees in the infamous Tomb of the Unknown Tool and around the great dome and floated Caltech balloons in building seven. A banner transformed Massachusetts Institute of Technology into That Other Institute of Technology. Saturday night a LASER spelling the letters C-A-L-T-E-C-H was directed at the top of the Green building. A full account of the pranks is located at"
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Caltech Pranks MIT's Prefrosh Weekend

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  • Re:this is news ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XanC ( 644172 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:25AM (#12198202)
    This is news for nerds. If we don't keep up with the MIT / Cal Tech rivalry, who will??
  • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:38AM (#12198271)
    Being just a dirty foreigner, the name "Caltech" doesn't ring a bell.

    On the other hand, I know about MIT damn well. When I've been to the ACM world finals, those bastards defeated my team (through pure luck, I'm sure). Two other our teams fixed that stain on honour later, of course.

    And Caltech... who's Caltech?
  • I just love these (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrondS ( 732720 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:54AM (#12198330)
    Say what you want, but pranks and happenings such as these really spice up the students days and I love reading about them. We used to do similar pranks when I was studying, several made it to the news. Our favourites included installing elevator music in the elevators, bashing the Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology students (we were electronics) and their train (they had one train, we had one on tracks that actually works). One night we made two "full size" garden gnomes out of paper mache and placed them on two readily available points. We made the news in several newspapers for that. See the pics here tml?i=1 [] 16 pictures total.
  • Re:Sophomoric pranks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vagodin ( 606853 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:58AM (#12198351)
    Dude, it was really fun. Definitely worth the plane flight. Also, the weather turned out to be pretty warm. Today was warm enough for shorts, t-shirts, and frisbee tossing. We'll be back in sunny CA soon enough, though, don't you worry!
  • by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:16AM (#12198415) Journal
    Travel 4k+ miles to put balloons up and put on a laser show? When I was in college all we ever did was get drunk and have sex, I am glad I never turned in my app to CalTech.

    Yeah, but the prospect of getting laid by a fellow nerd girl, that is much better than banging some loose sorority girl who puts as much thought into riding a guy as washing the dishes. Just going throught the motions. Now imagine a nerd girl, laughing through her nose when you tell her a joke, getting goosebumps when you touch her, one that has never been penetrated before. That is why the Cal Tech guys traveld 4,000+ miles to MIT. And anyone who knows anything about getting Nerd girls, knows there is a competition at the end that usually ends with synthasizer music and a robot dance.

    MIT = Revenge of the Nerds

    Cal Tech = Real Genius

    Take your pick. Dance with bugger grabbing a moo-moo's ass, or have someone put a micro-speaker in your tooth and tell you "this is god, stop playing with yourself".

    Ahhh... the highjinks of college life.

  • by lakmiseiru ( 635364 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:27AM (#12198451) Journal
    This event [Big Screw] is still run; this year's event happened this week.

    See here [] for a slightly outdated list of winners and charities; Chuck Vest (Make a Wish Foundation) won in 2004 and Prof. George Verghese (Doctors Without Borders) won in 2003. The 2005 winner will be announced tomorrow evening, and will be presented with the four foot long, left-handed aluminum wood screw.
  • Re:Sophomoric pranks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LegoEvan ( 772742 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:28AM (#12198452) Homepage
    I suppose you don't know of the Campus Preview Weekend (CPW) myth. It has been beautiful weather for the last 10 or so CPWs, with nasty weather on either side. Rumor has it that the administration has a weather machine. Who really knows what that big round thing on top of the Green Building is anyway, considering it's illegal to go there.
  • by _defiant_ ( 120560 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:36AM (#12198479)

    I still think the 1961 Rosebowl prank [] is one of the very best. But yeah, these latest MIT ones were lame.

  • Eyewitness (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AtomSmasher10 ( 875043 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:38AM (#12198485)
    As one of the Caltech students who was at MIT this weekend, I'd just like to point out that regardless of how lame the MIT hackers may think our pranks were - and I know from talking to many of them personally that a large faction of them were actually quite impressed - I haven't seen MIT doing anything better in the past 10 years.
  • Prank war rules (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:41AM (#12198493) Journal
    Because most slashdotters probably won't actually browse around the site, I think it's important to repeat some of the rules of this prank war. The intent of this is good-natured fun, which seems to be missed by some of the commenters here.

    From []:

    Both Caltech and MIT require that students put in a lot of hard work studying math and science. Because the stress is so intense, we students at Caltech believe that pranks are an important, if not essential, way to relax and have a little fun. We are familiar with MIT's tradition of hacks and hope that we can merge the cultures at the two schools, if only for a short time.

    We propose that MIT joins us in a pranking/hacking war. As you may have already noticed, we struck first, so now it is MIT's turn. Obviously the distance between schools poses a great difficulty, but we believe that MIT students will find that this difficulty can be overcome. In fact all of the pranks need not even be on the other school's campus so long as the pranks are made public enough through the media.

    The rules of the contest are simple and are essentially the same as Caltech's prank ethics and MIT's hackers' code. Pranks should be reversible. No permanent damage should be done and the pranksters must provide some sort of contact information on a note so they can be contacted if things are damaged. The note need not contain names, but it must be a reliable way to contact the pranksters.

    Pranks should be creative and display some form of originality. Novel ideas, particularly novel ideas involving technology, are generally well received, but repeats are strictly discouraged. We suggest that those wanting to participate make themselves very familiar with the history of pranks and hacks at both schools in order to prevent repeating pranks.

    Finally, we wish to inform MIT students that Caltech Prefrosh Weekend is next weekend. It may not be possible to organize something so quickly, but we have faith in the ingenuity of MIT students. We hope to see you all in Pasadena soon.

    As a side note, denial of service attacks are lame. Anybody can do that. Wouldn't your time be better spent trying to put a '2' on the scoreboard?
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:50AM (#12198523)
    I'm not going to get into which is a better school, that's rather subjective when you get down to it better how) but they are worse because they pull pranks? HArdly, Caltech is known to be the king of pranks, this pales in comparies to their ultimate, the ultimate prank if you asked me.

    The year was 1961, and it was the Rose Bowl, which is held in Pasadena California. Now this is also where Caltech is located. Now Caltech doesn't play in the Rose Bowl ever, they don't play 1A ball for that matter, but some students form there decided to get in anyhow.

    That year, the Washington Huskies had an elobrate halftime show planned. It involved not only the band, but a set of cards that the audience would display. The way it worked was audience members sitting in the selected section had a bunch of coloured cards, and a sheet of instructions, telling them which colour to hold up on which cue. The cheerleaders then called cues, and the cards went up to form pictures.

    Well a group of Caltech students, later known as the Fiendish Fourteen, decided to alter what happened. They broke in to the room where the instructions sheets were stored, took them, made alterations, made copies, ageded the copies, then replaced them. Nobody noticed that a switch had been made.

    On game day the modified sheets were distributed and during halftime the show commenced. Most of the images were left largely unaltered, expect for minor changes, so no one knew what was happening. PRoblems started on the 12th image. It was supposed to be a huskie, but had been altered to look somewhat like a beaver (Caltech's mascot). The 13th image was worse, it was to spell out "HUSKIES" but Caltech reversed it to say "SEIKSUH". Seeing this, and figuring it for a fuckup, the cheerleaders quickly called for the next image, which read "CALTECH" in block letters.

    The band stopped playing, the stadium went silent, and the announcers were speechless. It couldn't have been more perfect, as the cameras were focuesd on the crowd at the time (halftime shows were broadcast then) and it went out on national TV. After a few moments silecnt, laguhter broke out. The band left the field, and the final image was never called.

    Now that, my friend, is a prank, and it's one of the things Caltech is known for. It's an odd university, with a somewhat different sense of humour, but that certianly doesn't make it bad. That they traveled to MIT to pull a prank is not supprising, like I said, they've done better.

    FYI: If this stuff intrests you, read If At All Possible Involve a Cow by Neil Steinberg. It was there that I orignally heard of this great prank.
  • Re:Eyewitness (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AtomSmasher10 ( 875043 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:56AM (#12198537)
    Although the Wright Brothers replica was tastefully done, I will point out that pranking another school is slightly more difficult than doing a prank at your own - particularly if you're pranking another school that's on the other side of the country. And the fact that we pranked MIT's CPW event does add a certain special element to it :-).
  • Source of the laser? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by __aaijsn7246 ( 86192 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @04:27AM (#12198615)
    "The Jacks began searching for the source of our laser, which they shortly found but could not shut off without risking costly damage to MIT equipment."

    Anyone know how this is so?
  • Caltech cannon heist (Score:5, Interesting)

    by droche ( 816897 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @04:50AM (#12198672)

    I think the first cannon attempt goes back to '74 or even '72. They once got it on a pickup truck only to break the axle. Another time the fire hose was turned on them. By the mid 80's there was still a buzz about the cannon, but no serious efforts had been made for awhile. Mark Moeglein and I made a trial run as a frosh, with a pick up truck and a pair of bolt cutters, but all we did was cut the lock -- I don't know how we would have gotten it on the truck.

    In '86 I was ASHMC president and had a bit of a prank reputation. ( I was nearly expelled for moving the stakes of New II/ 7th/ Case Dorm early in construction ). Jeff Hong and Steve Olson revived the idea of stealing the cannon and had made a few observational runs. They knew it was a big job and that it would take some money (hopefully ASHMC's) so they brought me in. I got some covert help from the administration -- the phone number of an alum, Bob DePietro, who had a construction engineering company -- and a promise to post bail if we got busted.

    The DePietro connection was critical. We used his name to rent a flat bed truck and a fork lift in Pasadena. I don't think they would have given it to a 21 year college student with a visa card. There were so many logistics. We had to find 2 people with class 2 drivers licences to drive the truck and the fork lift off site -- Greg Felton and Tom Jed.

    We also had the problem of where to park the fork lift. We planned an early Saturday morning raid. But had to pick up the forklift by 5 on Friday. The forklift was huge and clearly could make a trip on the 210 between Claremont and Pasadena. So I scouted around and found some road construction where they left the equipment over night. We picked the fork lift right at 5 and fortunately the work crew quit a little early. Tom Jed just drove it in behind the Pasadena equipment, parked it and took the key. Well, actually it wasn't that simple. Tom ran into a BMW on the way! As we would later discover, the hydrolic steering on the forklift was defective.

    OK, so we had the hardware, but how we're we going to pull it off. We picked an early Saturday morning when most of Fleming House was off on a dorm ski trip. But still we needed cover. We decided to go in daylight and pose as a construction crew. Joe, after a stint in the army, was a bald 27 year-old Mudder. He was made foreman and H&M construction was born. Phony work orders were made and blue workshirts, overalls, and workmen flannels were aqcuired.

    We could not think of one story that would fool everyone, so we came up with two stories. We told campus security that we had be contracted to take the barrel for polishing. There was no way would that the students have bought that lame story. So we told them we're just moving it to get access to a broken water main that was below. Still a little fishy, so we added some decoys. Tom, Steve, and Eric went in 15 minutes before to pose as Caltech students. Two playing catch and one reading. I think this was critical. Each time someone would come along, they would be suspicious. But then they looked around and saw other "techies" who seemed to think all was right so they moved along. And to add insult to injury, Byrne Sanford hid inside the dorm and shot 8 rolls of photos of the whole event.

    Of course it wasn't all so smooth. Campus security was called almost immediately upon our arrival. I thought we were busted. But Joe our foreman played his role beautifully and made our story hold up. Once campus security was pacified, we knew we were going to make it. Also there was a Fleming house frosh who was up early and chatting with us. He gave us a bit of a scare, but by the end he was telling us stories of how people had tried to steal the cannon in the past. Poor frosh.

    Unfortunately, the steering on the forklift was no good and we had to do it by hand -- two of us on each wheel, back and forth trying to back into a corner so we could lift the cannon. The wheels were so rotte
  • Re:MIT Email (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2005 @05:09AM (#12198736)
    I think that was a very elegant way of reporting on the hack. Acknowledging Caltech, yet having some fun with it.

    Actually, as an MIT alum, I think most of the hacks and hack-backs were in fairly good taste.

    I'd say that I would consider the timing not quite the nicest. If I were in on such a prank, I would have advocated that they be done just before CPW, so that the story would be in the tech during CPW.

    I'd say that most were on the easy side, but that's not necessarily bad. For example, I think the T-shirts was by far the most elegant, and a worthy prank to start the rivalty.

    "The Other" banner was a bit lame (very easy, low quailty banner), but the CITers should get some allowances for doing it on a foreign campus. And the quick hack back ("The Only") was pretty good considering the time constraints.

    The redeaming aspect of the balloons was that they might have been hard to remove. Fortunately, the current MIT students rose to the challenge.

    I'm not quite clear on the laser on the green building and the safety concerns. So I'll reserve judgement there. Actually, lasers are a bit of a touchy issue at MIT, so the CITers are lucky that they didn't get in a some trouble for that one. Many of the campus police at MIT were former secret service, so there have been instances in which a laser pointer resulted in campus police tackling people (out of instinct) to protect them from snipers. Also, a previous prank attempt with a laser pointer got preempted by CPs due to safety concerns, so at least while I was at MIT, there was an informal agreement to avoid such pranks.

    Also, I'd be interested in hearing more about the attempted prank that was averted by the MIT students.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2005 @05:44AM (#12198840)
    Speaking of pranks, here's one Yale pulled on Harvard in November:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2005 @06:00AM (#12198876)
    A grad student (who had gone to caltech undergrad) was babysitting the projector. The MIT sudents who traced it to its source basically said, "gotcha" and were ready to take the laser (which belonged to an MIT lab), but the grad student shut it off and said he was done. Everyone had a good laugh and left, and then the grad student cleverly turned the projector back on.

    A few indirect methods for killing the projector were considered, but were dismissed as either too risky or ineffective. (For example, flipping a circuit breaker would have been effective, but the possibility of disrupting an experiment collecting data overnight was an unacceptable risk, and hanging a curtain on the outside of the window would be easily circumvented by moving the projector.)
  • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:22AM (#12199692) Journal
    ...Dave Rosum, Emu founder and Caltech Alum, hacked the Rosebowl scoreboard when Nixon was in office. The hack was going to display various Caltech-centric messages on the scoreboard as the game progressend. To make it difficult to disable, Rosum hid his hacked circuits in a tube and buried the tube in a bunch of cables.

    Nixon was a big football fan and decided to go see the Rosebowl game that year which meant the Secret Service had to scour the Rosebowl. As part of their checkout, they powered up the scoreboard and because Rosum had scrimped on his relays, they blew his circuit out. Debugging the blown scoreboard led them to his fried, and smoking, circuit. That would have been the end of it except some other Techies decided independently to pull the same prank. Except they didn't know the Secret Service was waiting for the first prankster to come fix his prank. Guess who ended up getting caught?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2005 @09:24AM (#12199706)
    Guess where those Yale students got that idea from? The famous Rose Bowl Parade prank from the 60's or whenever, done by... you guessed it... Caltech students.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • Re:BS... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anitra ( 99093 ) <slashdot.anitra@fastmail@fm> on Monday April 11, 2005 @10:56AM (#12200477) Homepage Journal
    I had a similar experience to you. MIT struck me as being very cold and impersonal. I wanted a great engineering/tech education, but that didn't seem like the right place for me.

    Instead, I went to WPI [], jokingly referred to as "that other tech school in Massachusetts". It's a fairly small school, focused on teaching undergraduates. The people are friendly, and just as nerdy as they are at MIT. A degree from WPI is pretty well-recognized within the Northeast, and I know a few undergraduates here who managed to get their MQP (aka senior thesis) published in a scientific journal.

    In the end, I feel that I made the right choice. I picked a school that was small and personal, so I could excel in my studies, have a personal life, and still get a great education. I'm sure that would have been possible at MIT, too - but I don't regret the choice I made.
  • by jfaughnan ( 115062 ) <> on Monday April 11, 2005 @11:14AM (#12200628) Homepage
    Back in the 1980s I wrote a letter to Scientific American complaining about their spelling of Caltech.

    They wrote back and told me I was wrong -- the official abbreviation is Cal Tech. Sigh. At least as of 1980 they were right and I was wrong.

    I doubt that's changed.

    We all used Caltech (t-shirts, stationery, etc) -- but technically it's probably still Cal Tech.

    In the 80s we did use CIT on occasion.

    As to the MIT/Caltech comparisons, I think most people who know both would agree that the 'top 120 SAT scorers' in an MIT class are very comparable in personality and academic inclinations to a Caltech class (used to be about 120). MIT, however, has another pool of students that's more diverse and not as physics-focused as the Caltech students. I do think we were (still are based on the single visit I've made back there in 25 years) the geekiest student body that ever lived. (When I was a member of the Caltech Y I championed a "Nerd Pride" event. If you can't beat it ...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 11, 2005 @12:36PM (#12201668)
    I was at the game. It was definitely legible.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Monday April 11, 2005 @03:52PM (#12204441) Journal
    Caltech is known to be the king of pranks

    You've obviously never been to If the only Caltech prank worth talking about (which I assume it must be since two separate people felt the need to put the whole story on here) was 35 years ago, that's sad.

    If this stuff intrests you, read If At All Possible Involve a Cow by Neil Steinberg.

    This book also mentions some MIT hacks. But if you're more interested, check out the three [] separate [] books [] that have been written solely about MIT's hacks.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein