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MIT Hackers Appropriate Caltech Cannon 329

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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  • 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.

  • Gets stolen a lot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bromskloss ( 750445 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> ... erdda.yrailixua>> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:23PM (#15077723)
    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.
  • by Tweekster ( 949766 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:29PM (#15077771)
    too bad it isnt theft. There is an understanding between the schools
  • 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.
  • Weighting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mizhi ( 186984 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:35PM (#15077835)
    I note that the [] 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.
  • by molotov303 ( 182638 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @01:50PM (#15077990)
    It's real. I received it too.

    Jeff (HMC '02)
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by warpSpeed ( 67927 ) <> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:53PM (#15078576) Homepage Journal
    I noticed the typo after submission, but since we don't have the capacity to EDIT OUR POSTS, we do not have to measure up to any sort of editorial standard.

    That button next to the "Submit" button, the one called "Preview", is typicaly used for editing.

  • Re:a big relief (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Joe Decker ( 3806 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:44PM (#15079074) Homepage
    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'd agree with the generalization, but they did get me once, with a group trying to RF "Saturn and the Mind of Man", which was a bunch of guys pontificating (on TV, from Beckman) on the deep meaning of sending a probe to Saturn. What had caught our attention was poor Carl Sagan, who looked quite put off by the situation.

    Having no time for planning left us a little unclever, but we got cuaght by Security after sneaking into the back of Beckman (still during the telecast.) Still just got told to go away after collecting our student ID numbers, they were being more careful that day, we later discovered that the governor had been in the audience.

    And a big "hat's off" to MIT, nice hack. :)

  • by w3woody ( 44457 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:06PM (#15079259) Homepage
    The primary difference between the Caltech cannon and your car is that the Caltech cannon has been tacitly agreed to by all parties as a legitimate target of "pranksterism"--with the understanding that eventually either Caltech will be given the opportunity to get the cannon back through some sort of stealth, or the MIT students will pay to return the cannon in perfect shape. (Meaning that the MIT students are presumed to be willing to make Caltech "whole" by returning the cannon.)

    This is different from your car, where the car is understood to belong to you, is your personal property, and is not tacitly understood by anyone to be a suitable target of prankerism.

    The fact that the Canon was taken from Caltech means that it is being used in the manner which everyone invisioned it would be used.

    Note, by the way, that Caltech demanded Harvey Mudd to return the cannon on threat of legal action only after Caltech students attempted to negotiate with Harvey Mudd's administration in good faith for a number of ways to recapture the cannon--including air-lifting it and moving it in the middle of the night. When Harvey Mudd declined all such negotations, it was clear that Harvey Mudd wasn't playing along, that the act of "prankerism" became an act of theft, and that's when the lawyers were called in.
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kf6auf ( 719514 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:54PM (#15081045)
    What do we want to take it back for? It's right where we want to use it.

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"