Yvonne Carts-Powell

Inventional Wisdom

In Science, technology on January 19, 2011 at 3:12 am

The wind tunnel model of downtown Boston helped determine why windows kept popping out of the John Hancock building (tall red structure). Part of the MIT Museum's 150 exhibit. Credit: Yvonne Carts-Powell.


MIT’s 150th birthday is coming up, and the festivities started this month. I dropped in on the concise speech by MIT President Susan Hockfield and a tour of the MIT Museum exhibit, “150”.

The exhibit includes 150 “evocative objects selected to reveal the extraordinary qualities of the Institute throughout its history.” Unsurprisingly, there are pocket calculators and early computers, but also futuristic city car models, art, MIT-alum-founded company products including Rock Band and Zipcar… And also, uniquely MIT college hijinks like the remants of a piano from the yearly spring piano drop on the last day of the class drop period. (I hadn’t thought much about the failure mechanisms of a piano dropped from 5 floors before, but I was surprised to see that the soundboard and wires survived pretty much intact. Debbie Douglas, the curator for the event, says that upright pianos work best. Also, the students do not use working pianos.)

Douglas said:

The collaborative process yielded unexpected insights and many ideas for artifacts that show what for 150 years has made the MIT environment so distinctive, so innovative and so nurturing for those interested in answering the question: “What do we not yet know?”.

More info: http://mit150.mit.edu/

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