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This article is about the non-standard unit of measure. For other uses, see Smoot (disambiguation).
1 smoot =
SI units
1.70180 m 170.180 cm
US customary / Imperial units
5.58333 ft 67.0000 in

The smoot /ˈsmt/ is a nonstandard unit of length created as part of an MIT fraternity prank. It is named after Oliver R. Smoot, a fraternity pledge to Lambda Chi Alpha, who in October 1958 lay on the Harvard Bridge (between Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts), and was used by his fraternity brothers to measure the length of the bridge.

Unit description[edit]

The Harvard Bridge, looking towards Boston.
In a photo dated 2009, the painted inscription reads: "364.4 SMOOTS + 1 EAR"

One smoot is equal to Oliver Smoot's height at the time of the prank (five feet and seven inches ~1.70 m).[1] The bridge's length was measured to be 364.4 smoots (620.1 m) plus or minus one ear, with the "plus or minus" intended to express uncertainty of measurement.[2] Over the years the "or minus" portion has gone astray in many citations, including the markings at the site itself, but has now been enshrined in stone by Smoot's college class.[3]

History[edit]

To implement his use as a unit of measure, Oliver Smoot repeatedly lay down on the bridge, let his companions mark his new position in chalk or paint, and then got up again. Eventually, he got tired from all this exercise and was carried thereafter by the fraternity brothers to each new position.[4][5]

Oliver Smoot graduated from MIT with the class of 1962, became a lawyer, and later became chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI, 2001-2002)[6] and then, president of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO, 2003-2004).[7] He is the cousin of Nobel Prize winner George Smoot. The prank's fiftieth anniversary was commemorated on October 4, 2008 as Smoot Celebration Day at MIT, which Smoot attended.[5]

In 2011, "smoot" was one of the 10,000 new words added to the fifth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary.[8][9]

Practical use[edit]

The 100 smoot mark

People walking across the bridge today can see painted markings indicating how many smoots there are from where the sidewalk begins on the Boston river bank. The marks are repainted each semester by the incoming associate member class (similar to pledge class) of Lambda Chi Alpha.[10]

Markings typically appear every 10 smoots, but additional marks appear at other numbers in between. For example, the 70-smoot mark is omitted in favor of a mark for 69.[11] The 182.2-smoot mark is accompanied by the words "Halfway to Hell" and an arrow pointing towards MIT. Each class also paints a special mark for their graduating year.[citation needed]

The markings have become well accepted by the public, to the degree that during the bridge renovations that occurred in the 1980s, the Cambridge Police department requested that the markings be maintained, since they had become useful for identifying the location of accidents on the bridge.[12] The renovators went one better, by scoring the concrete surface of the sidewalk on the bridge at 5 foot 7 inch intervals, instead of the conventional six feet.[13]

Google Calculator also incorporates smoots, which it reckons at exactly 67 inches (1.7018 meters).[1] Google also uses the smoot as an optional unit of measurement in their Google Earth software and Google Maps distance measurement tool.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Google: "1 smoot in meters"
  2. ^ Tavernor, Robert, Smoot's Ear: The Measure of Humanity, Yale University Press (2007), ISBN 978-0-300-12492-7, Preface, pp. xi-xvi
  3. ^ "Smoot in Stone". MIT News. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2010-07-20. "Specifically noting the bridge's length of 364.4 Smoots (+/- 1 ear), the plaque, a gift of the MIT Class of 1962, honors the prank's 50th anniversary." 
  4. ^ Kostoulas, Andy (1999-10-12). "This Month In MIT History". The Tech. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  5. ^ a b Smoot Day on October 4, 2008
  6. ^ Oliver R. Smoot
  7. ^ MIT - a salute to Smoot
  8. ^ Cornish, Audie (2011-11-13). "Looking Up Words In A Book Not So Strange Yet". National Public Radio. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  9. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary entry". American Heritage Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) (1987). Harvard Bridge, Spanning Charles River at Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Suffolk County, MA. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Department of the Interior. p. 5. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.ma1293. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  11. ^ Photo from the location
  12. ^ Keyser describes his top five hacks - MIT News Office
  13. ^ Fahrenthold, David A. "The Measure of This Man Is in the Smoot". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  14. ^ Google Maps distance measurement tool

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoot — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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951 news items

 
al.com
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 05:22:30 -0700

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A hearing could be held this week to determine whether challenger Shelia Smoot should be declared the winner in this month's Jefferson County Commission District 2 race. The hearing is contingent upon a $7,500 deposit from a ...
 
Washington Post (blog)
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0700

“There's a total difference,” Smoot said. “My grandma always told me, 'If you knew better, you'd do better. Well evidently, this guy don't know no better, because he continues to do the same thing every offseason. I'm watching Russell Wilson, just come ...
 
al.com
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:20:17 -0700

The election may not be over for Smoot. She has several options including paying out of her pocket for a recount which could cost between $6,500 and $10,000 or she can contest the election which could involve a large sum in legal fees. "There's more to ...
 
al.com
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:23:22 -0700

Smoot said she is not represented by a lawyer. Espy confirmed that a "statement of contest" was filed by Ervin P. Hill, a voter, over the election results. "Commissioner Brown has worked hard, she has won the election, the people have spoken and we ...
 
al.com
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:22:30 -0700

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Incumbent Sandra Little Brown declared victory Tuesday night with a slim 31-vote margin over challenger Shelia Smoot in Jefferson County Commission District 2 race while Smoot refused to concede until all the votes were counted ...
 
al.com
Sun, 13 Jul 2014 06:09:22 -0700

"If you were so concerned about Jefferson County why didn't you stay here and try to fix the problems rather than being a part of the problem," Brown said of Smoot. "She knew there were problems in Jefferson County. They had lost occupational tax at ...
 
Mount Airy News
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 07:03:45 -0700

Since her birth, Smoot lived through the “Great Depression,” two world wars, numerous international conflicts and, for better or for worse, survived through 17 presidencies. Her daughter, Anna Lee Smoot Koefoed of New Lenox, Ill., recalled what it was ...
 
al.com
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 04:26:15 -0700

Smoot confirmed the sale was off and declined additional comment except to say the matter went farther than it should have. Smoot has a lien in the amount of $3,862 on the condo, according to probate court records. The lien "includes Association fees, ...
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