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Our own unit of measurement

Harvard Bridge

MIT students used to have a problem. Returning home from a night of carousing in Boston via the Harvard Bridge (which doesn't go to Harvard), they found it hard to tell far away they were from the MIT campus whenever the fog descended on the Charles River basin.

In 1958, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity solved the problem by marking off the Harvard Bridge with one Oliver Smoot, a pledge. They picked him up, marked off another Smoot, and continued until done - learning in the process that the bridge was exactly 364.4 smoots and an ear. Today, the bridge is annually re-marked every 10 smoots.

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Posted by Josh
October 4, 2006 11:47 AM

When I was in high school, my math teacher was an MIT alum. One day he told us the story about Oliver Smoot and the Harvard bridge. I, of course, didn't really think anything of it until, 6 or 7 years later, I was walking back to Central Square after a night out in Boston with my now fiancee, looked down at the ground momentary and said, 'Holy crap, it's the smoot bridge!'.

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