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Proposed merger[edit]

The proposed merger of this page with list of strange units of measurement does not make sense. The two pages are not duplicates; i.e. they are not two separate articles on the same topic. The existence of a page that lists strange units of measurement is no reason why there should not be separate articles on those strange units. To regard the smoot as something of interests merely because it is a strange unit of measurement misses the point. It is of interest because it is a part of MIT lore, not because it is a strange unit of measurement. No one looking for MIT lore who is unfamiliar with this unit is going to think of looking at list of strange units of measurement. Michael Hardy 20:01, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Point taken, and mine withdrawn. I saw the LSUM page including smoot on it, and elsewhere, I saw the Smoot page, and figured the two had been made independently, but there is in fact a link on LSUM to Smoot. So I am a shmuck, and removing the merge tag now. Jonpin 23:06, Oct 18, 2004 (UTC)

Lambda Chi Alpha[edit]

Lambda Chi Alpha no longer has pledge classes. The are offically called 'Associate Member' (AM) classes. I changed the comment 'The marks are repainted each year by the incoming pledge class of Lambda Chi Alpha.' to reflect this. BeastRHIT — Preceding undated comment added 13:12, August 18, 2005

Police use[edit]

Has anyone verified that the police actually use Smoot measurements to indicate locations of accidents? That seems unlikely to me. Josebove 12:00, Nov 08, 2005 (EST)

December 2005 edits[edit]

1. FIJI is no longer a Fraternity at MIT, and while they used to paint over the smoot marks, obviously don't anymore. I changed the tense to reflect this.

2. Added reference to the Harvard Bridge itself being normalized to smoots, with the sidewalk scored at 5'7" intervals instead of the conventional 6'

3. The police using smoots to indicate accidents is actually attributed directly to the Cambridge Police, who requested the markings remain after the renovations in the 1980s. (Radiomanlaughs 16:32, 19 December 2005 (UTC))

later career in standards and measurement[edit]

This was only the beginning of Smoot's career in standards and measurement; he later became Chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Wait, am I reading Wikipedia or Uncyclopedia? this is hardly factual.

It's strange but true. I added references. --Fagles 15:44, 16 April 2006 (UTC)
Come on Fagles, one of those references is from the MIT website. This must be a hack.
This from the ANSI website verifies Smoot's tenure as president of ISO: --Jere7my 00:35, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced: Smoots may only be used in horizontal measurement, as they must be taken lying down.

I guess, it was no happenstance that the person who gave name to a unit later became chairman of an organization for standardization. Perhaps he showed special interest in standardization matters already in very young years and that was the reason the prank had to do with measures. --::Slomox:: >< 00:06, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Head over heels?[edit]

According to several of the references cited, including the NPR interview with Smoot himself, the original measurements were not made by rolling Smoot "head over heels" as the article states. Rather, he laboriously got up and lay down again at each Smoot interval, eventually tiring so much that his fraternity brothers started carrying him from position to position. PavelCurtis 18:06, 4 January 2007 (UTC)


Could he have been born in 1958 and been in the class of 1962? I know these MIT kids are smart but . . .

Presumably, '58 was his freshman year, not his year of birth. I don't think the article implies otherwise. Also, please sign your comments using ~~~~. — gogobera (talk) 20:42, 27 June 2007 (UTC)


Why don't I use ~~~~ ?

Because the resulting date format is non-compliant with ISO 8601.

When standard date formats are available, I find it highly improper to impose any ugly, illogical, non-compliant format on editors. Personally, I wouldn't bother to complain about the differences between 2007 September 26 and 2007-09-26. The latter is arguably superior, but the former has a point or two in its favor. (In particular, "September" often reminds me of the septentriones, one of the more pleasant parts of the neighborhood). I think both formats incomparably better than the internally inconsistent 26 September 2007.

I have withdrawn my earlier comments under this heading. One reason is that they fail to convey the playfulness and earnestness which I bring to the subject and may be misinterpreted as intemperate. I don't wish to disrespect anyone. I will try to bring my relatively weak communication skills to the subject. Please see my first effort, a new comment in Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers).

Walter Nissen 2007-09-27 01:10

Actually, 8601 covers a number of date formats, with the one used here included. - Denimadept (talk) 16:53, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

Avoiding needless complication, in
we read:
"ISO 8601 advises numeric representation of dates and times on an internationally agreed basis. It represents elements from the largest to the smallest element: year-month-day:

  • Calendar date is the most common date representation. It is:

The new format has already been adopted by many organizations worldwide. And many more should do so – to make their own lives simpler. And everybody else's.
Why don't you?"
Walter Nissen (talk) 2010-07-23 22:03

I've got a copy of 8601 right here, and it's not news to me. From what I've seen, you can select what you wish to use in the Preferences. I selected YYYY-MM-DD long ago. - Denimadept (talk) 22:13, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

Both sides[edit]

The claim in the article that "Everyone walking across the bridge today sees painted markings" was not true in the past (c. 1970). Then, only the eastern sidewalk was painted. Has that changed?

Walter Nissen 2007-09-25 03:05

Not to my knowledge. I have edited the text to reflect your recollection and mine. Thanks for the heads up on this. Marking the western sidewalk would introduce ambiguity and create confusion; according to Google Earth it is about 30 smoots (about 8%) longer than the published figure, because it extends inland on the Boston side, over Storrow Drive. I have never seen such a longer figure mentioned. Hertz1888 03:57, 25 September 2007 (UTC)
Last I looked, in 2009, the marks were on both sidewalks. It doesn't matter that the bridge may be different lengths on each sidewalk, as the marks stop in the same place on both sides, and the bridge length in smoots does not match, by quite a way, the actual length of the bridge. I'm not putting any of this in the article because it's Original Research. - Denimadept (talk) 08:48, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

Tension or compression?[edit]

When Mr. Smoot's height is listed as the length of a smoot, it makes me figure he was measured under compression. However, since he measured at least part of the bridge (where he was being carried) under tension, was he measured for length as well as height? - Denimadept (talk) 22:47, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Police Jurisdiction for the Harvard Bridge[edit]

I suspect that it was actually the MDC (The old Metropolitan District Commission) that requested that the Smoots be repainted when the bridge was rebuilt. I'm pretty sure that it was the MDC police which had jurisdiction over the bridge at the time it was rebuilt, and not the Cambridge city police. If there is someone could confirm this? Oldtool (talk) 23:40, 4 March 2008 (UTC)


Does anyone know if this is pronounced the same as "smut" (thus rhyming with "foot" in my English accent) or with an elongated vowel (rhyming with "fruit"). Sorry, I don't currently know IPA. AndyKali (talk) 07:14, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

It's pronounced exactly as it's spelled, with an ooooooo sound. - Denimadept (talk) 16:27, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
To clarify - as it is in an American city/college, I would assume it is pronounced with some sort of American accent, and given the way Boston folks emphasize their vowels, I would say it is pronounced with an "ooh". (talk) 05:10, 14 June 2012 (UTC)
I just found that if I hoover my mouse pointer over the characters in the IPA spelling, it explains just what it means. - Denimadept (talk) 05:50, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

Prank link[edit]

The link to fraternity prank redirects to hazing. Clearly this doesn't fall into that category. The general prank page redirects to practical joke, which seems more fitting (and even has a photo of a prank at MIT). In lieu of a fraternity prank page that distinguishes from regular pranks, I'd like to link this to prank by one of these:

  • changing fraternity prank to redirect to prank instead of hazing (and let it bounce to practical joke)
  • directly linking to prank here (and let it bounce to practical joke)
  • disambiguation page for fraternity prank (may be overkill)

I'll do the first unless there are objections. Also, wasn't sure whether to put this on the empty fraternity prank talk page too. Thanks. goodeye (talk) 01:01, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

No need for a "bounce" when the link can go directly, like this: fraternity prank (a version of the first option). Not a good idea to link to a disambig. page. Hertz1888 (talk) 01:14, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
That'll work - this was a direct link to hazing (not a redirect as I misstated above), so I'll change it to a direct link to practical joke. Separately, I'll make fraternity prank a disambiguation page to highlight good/bad connotations, since it exists already - but I understand about not linking to a disambig page - it'll still only show up from a search. goodeye (talk) 03:45, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

Bridge length[edit]

At Oliver_R._Smoot and its talk page, I've challenged the phrase "364.4 smoots plus or minus one ear" based on strong sources which support "364.4 + 1 ear". Walter Nissen 2010-07-08 08:37 08:37, 8 July 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Walter Nissen (talkcontribs)

Given that the source you included says "±1 ear" itself, I don't see this as a challenge, but as confirmation. Thanks for the additional source, sir! - Denimadept (talk) 16:03, 8 July 2010 (UTC)
Whoops, correction: that source was added by Hertz1888. Mr. Nissen, we've got a bunch of sources which say ± for this context. If you like, you're welcome to check them out, as they're included on the smoot page. - Denimadept (talk) 16:06, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

I've responded over at Talk:Oliver_R._Smoot. Walter Nissen 2010-07-10 01:05 01:05, 10 July 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Walter Nissen (talkcontribs)

Structure of the article[edit]

Is there some policy reason why there has to be a section titled "Unit description"?
Could the definition, his height, 5'7", be put in the lede and the history start where it belongs, under "History"? Walter Nissen (talk) 2010-07-23 15:47

Minor edit[edit]

A para should perhaps begin instead as:
Markings typically appear every 10 smoots, but additional marks _sometimes_ appear at other numbers in between. _As a special exception_, the 70-smoot mark ... Walter Nissen (talk) 2010-07-23 15:47

Police Jurisdiction[edit]

I think all or virtually all the references to the Boston Police and Cambridge Police in connection with the bridge are mistaken.
But that could be checked, probably at a local library.
I think in 1958, the MDC police had jurisdiction and now Troop H of the Massachusetts State Police.
Also checkable. Walter Nissen (talk) 2010-07-23 15:47

The MDC/State Police would not have the resources to station an officer on the bridge at all times. Because half of the bridge is in Cambridge, Cambridge police also have jurisdiction over it. Anyway, in Massachusetts, police may arrest someone outside of their jurisdiction, esp. if the person committed a crime in their jurisdiction and then left it, or if the other city's police asked for their help. So in practice, the Harvard Bridge is policed by the Cambridge and Boston police. Bostoner (talk) 20:13, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

enshrined in stone[edit]

But the plaque that "enshrines", i.e., records for posterity, the plus/minus is not stone, but metal. Bmclaughlin9 (talk) 21:47, 7 September 2010 (UTC)

Sources that can be used to expand article[edit]

The three sources at the end of this section can both be used to expand this article. — Lentower (talk) 20:46, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

References in Literature[edit]

"100 Smoots" is referenced by Paul Beatty in his 2015 book "The Sellout: A Novel" (talk) 20:02, 28 October 2016 (UTC)

The WP article you refer to does not mention this. - Denimadept (talk) 10:27, 29 October 2016 (UTC)