Saturday, September 30, 2006

3 Tests!

I have three tests next week, so I'm studying a lot this weekend. Check back next week for a blog update!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An Awesome Hack (Fire Trucks Anyone?)

MIT has a "hacking" culture. For those of you who do not know, "hacking" is another word for "pulling a prank." There are a number of other meanings, too (like exploring buildings, etc.). So, at MIT a prank is called a "hack." There are acually many rules for hacking (people have to be respectful, and most people are), so most of the hacks are actually very well done and do not disrupt the flow of the university.

Yesterday on the morning of 9/11 (say a prayer for all of those who were affected on that terrifying day), a fire truck appeared on the top of the Great Dome! Not a full-fledged one, mind you, but a large truck nonetheless. A similar hack was pulled quite a few years ago with a car, and it is one of the most memorable hacks in the Institute's history.
(Update) It was verifed in The Tech (MIT's newspaper) that the hack was to commemorate the 5th anniversary of 9/11. A painted seal on the door states "Meminimus" which is Latin for "We remember." There are also toy dalmations sitting on the outside of the truck. The hack has been getting quite a bit of publicity lately. It was supposed to be taken down from 10-11 today, but it was still up at 3:30. I think this hack will be remembered for a long time to come.

To read the Tech article, go here:
Here are some more pictures of the hack:

MIT Ranked 1st in Engineering by USNews

This was announced a few weeks ago, but I never discussed it. MIT moved up in the USNews college rankings from #6 to #4 overall (of course we all think it should be #1) and was ranked 1st in Engineering!

U.S. News:
MIT Article:


Saturday, September 09, 2006

New MIT website!

I just finished making a new website about MIT! It has a FAQ and lots of other things to explore. Go to to visit it!. The website is called Smoots: Student Life At MIT and it aims to provide information to prospective students, incoming freshman, parents, and other people curious about MIT.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fall Term Classes

Classes started on September 6th! It is strange that school is starting up again, but I know I feel much more comfortable than the new freshman. This term I am taking four academic classes (with a total of 51 units, most classes are 12 units each) and an exercise class (running at 7 in the morning!). I am Course 10 (Chemical Engineering), so I’m taking two chemistry/cheme related classes this semester.

10.10 Introduction to Chemical Engineering [H. H. Sawin]

This class has two psets each week. I really hope they don’t take a long time (I’ve heard the class is pretty difficult)! It introduces basic chemical engineering concepts using Matlab (a programming language). The lecturer so far seems great, I have yet to start falling asleep!

5.60 Thermodynamics and Kinetics [R. W. Field]

I’ve heard good and bad things about this class. I’ve heard it’s boring, and also interesting. I've also heard it is easy, but also hard. I suppose parts are interesting and parts are boring. I wanted to take 5.07 (Biochemistry I) instead, but the course 10 administrators changed when a higher level class was offered, so I need to take 5.60 this semester. It doesn’t seem bad so far…the first pset doesn’t look too hard.

6.001 Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs [W. E. L. Grimson]

If you remember one class at MIT, remember this one (pronounced six-double-oh-one). 6.001 is 15 units instead of 12. A large portion of the student population is course 6 (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), and this is the introductory class that all those people, and then some, take. Instead of focusing on learning a specific language, this class teaches people how to program in general, and how a computer language works, so basically, how to think like a programmer. It seems very good so far and I’ve heard it takes a lot of work but it is worth it. I wanted to take a course 6 class so I could learn more about computers and electronics, and I also wanted to keep my options open in case I don’t like chemical engineering.

21.M011 Introduction to Western Music [M. Marks]

At MIT 8 humanities (HASS) classes are required to graduate. This means you should take one per semester. I do not know a whole lot about music, although I took piano and drums when I was younger. This class will teach me about the vocabulary for music and how to listen and analyze music. It is fun so far! I enjoy listening to the Gregorian chants on the CD they gave us, it’s quite relaxing. The main focus of the class will be on Classical music, but right now we’re starting at the year 1000 A.D.

This semester looks the most challenging one yet, but also fun. I think I’ll enjoy all of these classes and learn many new things.

Friday, September 01, 2006

My Room!

REX: Choosing a Dorm

I’m finally back at MIT! I miss my parents but I’m very glad to see my friends again. Annelise and I have had a lot of fun planning our room and figuring out where to put our furniture (I ordered a rug, a little table, and a fridge before I came back, that’s how excited I was!). The past week has been very very busy, since it was Residential Exploration for the freshman. In order for me to come back to MIT early (school starts on September 6th), I had to help out with REX. Gus is in charge of it along with his friend Nunu, so it really wasn’t a bad thing :-).

MIT is unique compared to other colleges because they give you a lot of control over where you live. Each dorm is very different, so you should look around thoroughly. Before arriving at MIT, the frosh receive information about all the different dorms and they rank all of them in order of preference. During part of orientation, they are put in a “temp” dorm (based on their preferences and a lottery that is held). REX started last Friday and ended this Wednesday. During orientation/REX, there are a lot of activities that each dorm puts on. This allows freshman to go around the dorms and decide where they would feel most comfortable. If they do not want to stay in their temp dorm, they have to enter a second lottery (the same as the first lottery) to determine their dormitory. Most people get one of their tops choices. Yesterday Simmons’ residents found out their permanent room assignments. Within Simmons, we also have another preference sheet so the freshman have as much control as possible over what room they get. On the preference sheet you have to rank in order of importance to you: curvy vs. straight walls, size of room, Cambridge side or Boston side, which floor, etc. You can also choose a roommate, but if you don’t have anyone to room with you can fill out a roommate preference sheet too.

Here are the activities we did last week for the freshman:

-In the morning, we greeted freshman at the entrance to Simmons, there were donuts!
- We took some frosh out to dinner. My group went to Royal East, a Chinese restaurant.


- In the morning, we greeted freshman at the entrance to Simmons
-We had a barbeque outside for lunch and there was a water slide (I got all wet because Gus threw me in it :-).
-There was a Star Wars movie marathon that lasted until about 4 in the morning. We started at 8:00 with episodes IV, V, and VI. Our plan was to watch Episodes I, II, and III after that but I guess people went to sleep after Episode I.

-The housemasters served brunch to freshman
-We tie-dyed boxers, thongs, and t-shirts in the afternoon
-We gave tours of Simmons to parents and freshman
-There was a water war between East and West Campus, but it was raining so I don’t think many people went.
-Fluorescent party (including a DJ and glow in the dark stuff!) and capture the flag in Simmons at night
-We served waffles at midnight along with ice cream and other goodies (mmmm soooo yummy!)

-We went paint balling, it was awesome!

-We invited the freshman to do a 3.5 mile run along the river at 7:00 in the morning :-)

-Freshman know what dormitory they are staying in
-Simmons orientation, freshman met the different GRTs

-Simmons Mystery Hunt (puzzle solving competition!)

I had a lot of fun meeting the freshman and helping out with the events (I did almost all of them!). It was stressful at times but definitely worth it. We had a great REX this year thanks to all the Early Returns and Gus and Nunu!

Minor Planets and Huge Telescopes

Before I left for MIT (which was on the 23rd of August), my family planned a surprise for me. One of the science competitions I went to actually named “minor planets” after all the participants. A minor planet is similar to an asteroid. If you put “amberhess” in Google it will actually come right up. My “minor planet” is number 21431. Here’s some more information about minor planets:

There is a place called “MIRA” (Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy) near where I live. We drove up to the top of a mountain to visit the telescope they have there! It was so cool! The view was spectacular (the sunset was gorgeous), the telescope was huge, and I got to see my minor planet! I don’t have any pictures of the planet right now, but I should be getting some soon. When I do, I’ll post them!

In order to find “amberhess” we took multiple pictures using the telescope of the place we knew it should be. Since the other stars/galaxies and planets have such a larger orbit, they appear to be standing still. My asteroid orbits around the sun, and so the asteroid moves quite a bit in just a few minutes. So the bright dot that moves a bit from one picture to the next was my minor planet! Luckily there were not other asteroids in the area we photographed.

It was a very memorable experience and I thank my family and the researchers at MIRA for making it possible.