What’s A Smoot?

The Origin Of The Smoot

Several internet sources say that back in October, 1958, Oliver R. Smoot was a first year student at MIT, trying to join a fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. During “pledge week,” wannabe frat boys were asked to do semi-insane things to demonstrate their willingness to be humiliated by upper classmen, a test of character for certain fraternities.

In Oliver’s case, the assignment was to go with a bunch of other pledges to a bridge — the Harvard Bridge that spans the Charles River — and measure its length, but not in the usual way, says Mr. Cairns:

[T]hey were told to use one of their number as a ‘ruler.’ Smoot was chosen for the job because he was the shortest — which would make the task longer and more arduous — and because he had the silliest name, which was already [thought of as sounding a bit like] an obscure unit of some sort anyway.

The measurement was done by getting Smoot to lie down, marking his height with chalk and paint, then getting him to stand up, move one length further along and get down again, and again, and again. For a while, Smoot did it under his own steam but after a hundred or so times he became tired and his companions ended up simply dragging him from one space to the next.

In this way, it was determined that the bridge was 364.4 smooots long “plus epsilon,” although this was later recorded as 364.4 smoots plus an ear.

And so the “smoot” was born. A smoot is the length of one 17 year old Oliver R. Smoot — which translates to five feet seven inches, exactly.

(Fuente: NPR)

23 notas, Octubre 6, 2011

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