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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 units (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]

The 100 smoot mark

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]

Smoot mark 69 on the upstream (west) side of the Harvard Bridge

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. 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 by Lambda Zeta, the MIT chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha which created and maintains the Smoots, since they had become useful for identifying the location of accidents on the bridge.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

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. ^ Keyser describes his top five hacks - MIT News Office
  12. ^ Fahrenthold, David A. "The Measure of This Man Is in the Smoot". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  13. ^ 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.

10430 news items

WVNS-TV

WVNS-TV
Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:31:15 -0700

UPDATE: Beckley Police said they are looking for an SUV in connection with the Smoot Avenue shooting. Detectives said they believe the suspects were in a black Lincoln Navigator. Witnesses said three black men exited a vehicle matching this description ...

ABC Action News

ABC Action News
Wed, 01 Apr 2015 14:27:14 -0700

Sydney Smoot's speech has gone viral since she made it two weeks ago, with more than 750,000 views. “This testing looks at me as a number. One test defines me as either a failure or a success through a numbered rubric. One test at the end of the year ...

Washington Post (blog)

Washington Post (blog)
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 01:06:12 -0700

Meet Sydney Smoot, a 9-year-old fourth grader in Hernando County, Fla., who has more confidence than many adults. Smoot wrote (with help from her mom) and powerfully delivered (all by herself) a speech about Florida's new standardized test, the FSA, ...

SaukValley.com

SaukValley.com
Sun, 19 Apr 2015 14:00:00 -0700

... concert, pep and marching bands, and will study occupational therapy at Maryville University in St. Louis. Kestrel Smoot, 18, of Sterling, is one of Sterling High School's February Students of the Month. She is the daughter of Carolyn and Gary ...

Bustle

Bustle
Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:19:24 -0700

Meet your new role model: Her name is Sydney Smoot and she is nine years old, and she is a total rock star. The fourth grader recently made an impassioned speech in front of the Hernando County School Board in Florida to protest the overreliance of ...
 
Newsday
Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:17:44 -0700

She could hardly reach the microphone, but that didn't stop her from sharing her opinions at a Hernando County School Board meeting. "Hello fellow members of the school board. Today I will express my concerns about the FSA testing," Sydney Smoot, ...

TheBlaze.com

TheBlaze.com
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 07:36:23 -0700

“I consider myself a well-educated young lady,” she began, as poised as someone three times her age. Sydney Smoot, a 9-year-old fourth-grader in Hernando County, Florida, delivered a powerful speech last month to her school board in opposition to the ...
 
Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette
Sun, 29 Mar 2015 21:07:30 -0700

20, a game where Smoot recorded a career-best six tackles, including two sacks, to go along with a quarterback hurry. But the hybrid defensive end/linebacker for Illinois didn't register another sack the rest of the season. His two tackles for loss ...
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