top of page


Consult these terrific books to learn more about MIT's hacking history and culture:



These endnotes from Geeks & Greeks help separate fact from fiction and reveal a few Easter eggs.


pg 17 - Lord of the Fries // Easter egg. This is a deliberate pun on William Golding's Lord of the Flies, a novel about a group of boys who descend into savagery when they try to govern themselves (hint, hint).


pg 21 - Spacewar // Easter egg. Spacewar, invented by MIT hackers in 1962, was one of the earliest video games. See


pg 21 - 5x5x5 Rubik's Cube // There really is a 5×5×5 version of the Rubik's Cube, called the Professor's Cube. Incidentally, the Rubik's Cube isn't just the best-selling toy of all time. The complexity of searching for optimal Cube solving algorithms has kept top mathematicians busy for decades. See

pg 24 - Project Searchlight // Fiction. MIT offers scholarships based on financial need, not on any measure of merit – be it academic, athletic, artistic, or Rubik's Cube prowess. See

pg 27 - things behind the dean's head // Based on an actual incident I witnessed when a TV reporter was doing a stand-up in front of MIT.

pg 27 - hacks are to MIT what football is to Harvard // Easter egg. This analogy is a shout-out to one of MIT's most celebrated hacks – the legendary 1982 Harvard-Yale football game when members of MIT's Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity rigged a weather balloon emblazoned with "MIT" to erupt from the Harvard Stadium field at the 46-yard line. "The Harvard-Yale Football Game is MIT Hack Madness Champion," Jay London, Slice of MIT Blog, March 14, 2014,

pg 27 - KeyCab // Easter egg. Famed architectural designer Eric Clough makes a cameo appearance in Geeks & Greeks as the MIT Dean. Mr. Clough has been a generous supporter of Geeks and many other Kickstarter projects. He and his company ( are conducting a multi-year mystery hunt called "Into Mystery," which can be found on Kickstarter and involves a series of 18 clues to, as he says, "stimulate and galvanize the multitudes." The KeyCab logo on this page is part of a final KeyAnswer.

pg 29 - car on the dome // Based on one of MIT's best-loved hacks (from May 9, 1994). And yes, they really did put a box of Dunkin' Donuts in the car. See Nightwork, p. 50-52 and

pg 29 - MIT facilities workers // Easter egg. If those MIT facilities workers remind you of MIT's most famous fictional janitor and his buddy that is purely coincidental.

pg 30 - "police lights came from a flea market" // Based on details revealed by the actual hackers in "A Hackers' Reunion," Stephen Eschenbach, Technology Review, October 2005,

pg 31 - "leading supplier of recreational pharmaceuticals" // Legend has it that in the early 1970s, MIT's Bexley Hall was making about 90% of the nation's LSD supply. The FBI got wind of this and called MIT's president to alert him of an impending raid, information which he promptly shared with Bexley's housemaster. When the FBI descended on Bexley they were greeted with a "Welcome FBI" sign and painted footprints that led to a plate of milk and cookies. When the fuming agents started searching Bexley, they discovered a chest wrapped in chains and covered in padlocks. After they cut through all the chains, the agents discovered three marijuana seeds inside the chest, exactly one fewer than the minimum needed for a conviction. "Toad Sexing to a Dorm Named 'Fred': 5 Fun Facts Pulled from MIT's Hacking Stories," Lauren Landry, BostInno,

pg 31 - Lambda Sigma Delta shirts // Easter egg. The fellows mixing the druggie witches brew are wearing shirts with the Greek letters Lambda Sigma Delta, an LSD reference.

pg 31 - making the dean's door vanish // Based on an actual hack on MIT President Charles Vest on October 15, 1990. See

pg 32 - dry ice bomb // Based on personal experience. The pink dye pellet is added for effect. Please do not attempt. The dangers of dry ice bombs include premature explosion which can injure the handler (burst pressure is reached in seconds), hearing damage (the explosion is extremely loud), injury from shrapnel (the explosion propels pieces of the container), and arrest (in many jurisdictions dry ice bombs are illegal). See

pg 33 - Golden Dome trophy // There is no such annual award for the best hack at MIT. Like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, the mineral unobtainium in Avatar, or the eponymous statuette in The Maltese Falcon, the Golden Dome trophy is a MacGuffin – a term popularized by Alfred Hitchcock for a plot device that motivates the characters and advances the story. It gives Luke a tangible goal to pursue and a reason to blackmail Jim for assistance. After all, without a heavyweight belt at stake, Rocky would just be two guys pummeling each other. In reality MIT students engage in hacking without prize or incentive. Now, who knows? Perhaps this graphic novel will inspire some intrepid soul to bestow an actual Golden Dome trophy. And then life will imitate art imitating life.

pg 33 - trophy case // Easter egg. Besides the Golden Dome trophies, AZO's trophy case also contains several Eisner Awards (the comic industry's equivalent of an Oscar), some Fields Medals (math's version of the Nobel Prize), and a hot dog eating contest trophy.

pg 33 - rules of hacking // The four rules of hacking in this story:
    • Hacks should demonstrate wit and finesse.
    • Noteworthy hacks require difficulty in execution.
    • Hacks should be non-destructive.
    • Don't get caught.

are my distillation of a longer set of MIT hacking ethics, which can be found at "Statement on Hacking," MIT Office of the Dean for Student Life, The Tech, June 13, 2008,

pg 33 - Tau Eta Alpha // Easter egg. There is no Tau Eta Alpha at MIT, but the Latin alphabet equivalents of those Greek letters are THA, which stands for Technology Hackers Association, the actual MIT hacking group responsible for the cop car on the dome hack. "A Hackers' Reunion," Stephen Eschenbach, Technology Review, October 2005,

pg 33 - rappelling // Based on actual events. My fraternity had a large contingent of students enrolled in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs. Ninja-like stunts and rappelling down the brownstone's exterior and interior stairwell were frequent occurrences.

pg 34 - missing piglet prank // Inspired by an actual 2008 high school prank in Florida. See "Billy Goats Bluff,",

pg 37 - Augie's silhouette // Easter egg. As Augie emerges from the shadows the silhouette of his hair and reflection of his glasses makes him look like an owl, a visual metaphor for the role he plays in this story.

pg 39 - "Thank you, Barton" // Easter egg. William Barton Rogers was the founder and first president of MIT. See

pg 41 - // Easter egg. Go ahead, visit it. You won't even have to clear your browser history.

pg 41 - Jack Florey // Easter egg. Jack Florey is the name of a hacking group from MIT's East Campus dormitory (Fifth East) and a well-known MIT hacker alias. See Nightwork, p. 207 and "Into MIT's Hidden Places: Follow the Orange Florey," Eun J. Lee, The Tech, August 28, 2003,

pg 41 - "I noticed the A/C condenser was shaking so I put some shims in as a damper" // Augie is practicing one of MIT's hacking ethics, "Leave things as you found them, or better." See "Statement on Hacking," MIT Office of the Dean for Student Life, The Tech, June 13, 2008,

pg 41 - commandeering the hotel sign // Based on actual events. Starting during rush week in 1967 and for many years to follow, the brothers of MIT's Alpha Tau Omega fraternity took control of the Sheraton Hotel's rooftop sign in Boston's Back Bay, turning the iconic landmark into an awe-inspiring advertisement for ATO. The method used and leverage exerted on the hotel manager in Geeks are fictionalized. See Nightwork, p. 131 and "Keyser Discusses Hacks, Culture at TBP Lecture," Jennifer Chung, The Tech, February 10, 1998,

pg 43 - Star Trek trivia // Star Trek: The Original Series trivia may not be the most current geek pop cultural shibboleth, but with the Gorn gag that comes later in the story, it made sense. Plus, confession time: I love William Shatner.

pg 44 - refilling liquor bottles // At MIT fraternities it was a common cost-saving practice to refill upscale liquor bottles with cheaper rotgut booze. Caveat potor ("drinker beware").

pg 44 - Archimedes' Principle // Archimedes’ Principle states that an object immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces. Basically it explains why ice floats.
pg 44 - pledging a Marvin as a homework slave // Based on actual practices at some MIT fraternities in my day.

pg 45 - scavenger hunt // Scavenger hunt results were routinely used to determine freshman room assignments in certain MIT fraternities.

pg 46 - climbing the Citgo sign // Based on actual events. Climbing the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square was an exhilarating but dangerous rite of passage when I was an MIT student. Please do not attempt. See

pg 46 - finish line // This is the now sacred Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street.

pg 48 - "why steal a police car" // Of course the hackers fabricated a fake police car; they didn't actually steal one, but, like many people, Natalie never got that memo.

pg 48 - "I know how to sing 'Happy Birthday' in Klingon." // In the first 99 drafts of this script, Dexter's line was, "I know how to conjugate irregular verbs in Klingon." Then I discovered Klingon has no irregular verbs. The nerd herd would have eviscerated me for that. These are the things that keep me up at night.

pg 51 - funnelating highly-pressurized watermelons // Based on actual events in my misspent college years. A funnelator was an enormous slingshot made from a large plastic funnel and latex surgical tubing. See

pg 53 - Busting Vegas book // Easter egg. Busting Vegas is Ben Mezrich's follow-up book about MIT's blackjack wizards. See

pg 54 - painting the Smoot markers // One of MIT's most famous hacks. Based on actual events from October 1958. See Nightwork, p. 142-145 and

pg 54 - Bridge Troll // Inspired by an actual person. If you walked across the Harvard Bridge with any regularity in the late 1970s or early 1980s you surely noticed a peculiar man on the grassy embankment at the western foot of the bridge on the Boston side. Commonly referred to as the "Bridge Troll," this man spent his days fiercely swinging a wooden club like a caveman battling invisible enemies. The barrel-chested Bridge Troll was an imposing figure, with thick sinewy Popeye arms, strengthened from years of swinging his heavy club.

pg 55 - "preparing to defend Earth from the invasion of the evil space reptiles from planet ten" // Based on an actual conversation I had with said gentleman (Bridge Troll).

pg 56 - collision ball apparatus // Based by a real hack from 1988, although that did not include the giant papier-mâché Isaac Newton. See Nightwork, p. 158-159 and

pg 58 - MIT football team // The butter-fingered, turf-eating MIT football player is an anachronism, more reflective of the squad's skill during its formative years in the late 1970s. Today MIT fields one of the best football teams in the NCAA Division III. In 2014 the Engineers went undefeated in their regular season (9-0) and won their first round playoff game. See the video at

pg 59 - 85 Nobel Prize winners // This number includes MIT's Nobel-winning alumni, faculty, and staff. For the latest stats, see

pg 59 - 38 astronauts // More astronauts graduated from MIT than any other non-military academic institution. For the tally as of October, 2014, see

pg 59 - MIT cheers // From an actual MIT cheer come the words, "Cosine, secant, tangent, sine. Three point one four one five nine." The rest of the cheers are invented. See

pg 59 - prolate spheroid // Technically speaking, a football is not precisely described by a prolate spheroid (the shape you get when you rotate an ellipse about its major axis), though that shape does describe a rugby ball. A football is more accurately described as a vesica piscis that has been rotated about its longitudinal axis. But the chant "Repel them! Repel them! Compel them to relinquish the vesica piscis that has been rotated about its longitudinal axis" just didn't have the right ring to it. See

pg 61 - course bibles // Many MIT students rely heavily on course bibles – collections of questions and answers from past years' problem sets and exams. These anthologies are meticulously assembled and passed down from year to year within living groups. For a thought-provoking discussion of how the pervasive use of course bibles can mislead professors into believing that their classes are imparting knowledge as intended and even spark an "arms race" between students using bibles as a time-saving device and professors who may compensate for such shortcuts by assigning more work than can reasonably be completed, see the book The Hidden Curriculum by former MIT Dean of Institute Relations Benson Snyder,

pg 62 - chemistry problem set // Easter egg. Chemistry geeks no doubt recognize C2H6O, the chemical formula for ethanol (a.k.a. drinking alcohol) on Dexter's organic chemistry problem set.

pg 63 - blue shirt // Easter egg. The mathematical expressions on the blue shirt translates to "i 8 sum pi," i.e. "I ate some pie."

pg 64 - Dice of Doom // A real thing in my fraternity. See Dice of Doom discussion in the Introduction.

pg 65 - Dice of Doom font // Easter egg. The Dice of Doom font is based on the handwriting of French cartoon master Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Moebius contributed storyboards and concept designs to many classic sci-fi films, including Alien, The Abyss, and The Fifth Element. See

pg 66 - Mechanical Engineering prank // Based on an actual prank in my fraternity. Opening the hazee's bedroom door toppled dominos, triggering various rubegoldbergian devices installed throughout the room. Springs, levers, pulleys, and rolling balls working in balletic precision resulted in catapults propelling gobs of chocolate pudding through the air onto the victim from all directions. How did the perpetrators leave the room once they set up the dominos? Easy – we (ahem, I mean "they") snuck out the window and clamored down the fire escape.

pg 67 - Chemistry prank // Inspired by an actual prank in my fraternity, although Nair hair removal lotion was used in place of fast-curing water-activated polyurethane resin.

pg 69 - Materials Science prank // Based on an actual prank in my fraternity. See

pg 71 - Erlenmeyer flask // Geek alert. Yes, Jim is giving Natalie roses in an Erlenmeyer flask.

pg 71 - Vulcan salute // Double geek alert. And yes, Jim is giving Natalie a Vulcan "live long and prosper" salute as he exits.

pg 72 - hacking the audio at Bill Clinton's speech // Inspired by an actual hack that occurred in September 1987, when MIT President Paul Gray spoke to MIT's incoming class of 1991 at the President's Convocation in Kresge Auditorium and the organ was hacked to continually interrupt him with the melody "Pop Goes the Weasel." See Mens et Mania, p. 96,

pg 72 - turning the dome into a giant breast // Based on an actual hack from 1979. See Nightwork, p. 56,

pg 72 - Apollo Lunar Module on the dome // Based on an actual hack from May 17, 2009 where a half-scale model replica of the Apollo Lunar Module was placed on MIT's Great Dome. "Hackers Leave Lunar Lander on Dome," Michael McGraw-Herdeg, The Tech, June 5, 2009,

pg 72 - Capricorn One // Capricorn One was a 1977 movie about a faked Mars landing, starring O. J. Simpson as one of the astronauts.

pg 73 - Boston mayor // Boston mayor Marty Walsh makes a cameo appearance as the fellow walking beside the Dean.

pg 73 - disco ball in Lobby 7 // Inspired by an actual hack from 1996. "IHTFP Hack Gallery: Chronology,"

pg 75 - "bathing the whole corridor in a golden blaze" // This real semiannual phenomenon is known as MIThenge in a nod to Stonehenge. See

pg 76 - goat wearing a CalTech shirt // MIT and CalTech have a long-standing, good-natured hacking rivalry. See

pg 78 - lock picking // MIT hackers are scarily adept at lock picking. They even buy locks, practice on them, and disassemble them to see how their innards work. "A Hackers' Reunion," Stephen Eschenbach, Technology Review, October 2005,

pg 81 - "Is this the way to Baker House?" // A classic hacker's blame-evading ruse when caught mid-hack by MIT campus police. "Hackers' Skirt Security in Late-Night MIT Treks," David Abel, Boston Globe, March 30, 2000,

pg 82 - Jim falling through the skylight // Inspired by an actual instance of a freshman falling through an MIT skylight while hacking. See Introduction for more details. "Freshman Falls Through Bldg. 5 Skylight," Angeline Wang, The Tech, February 1, 2006,

pg 85 - Committee on Discipline (COD) hearing // Inspired by my actual experiences as a COD defendant and, subsequently, as a COD member.

pg 85 - Prof. Lambeau // Easter egg. Making a guest appearance on the COD is Prof. Lambeau, a name you may remember from Good Will Hunting.

pg 86 - 1841 Emerson St // Easter egg. This fictional Cantabrigian address is a tip of the hat to Ralph Waldo Emerson and his essay "Self-Reliance," published in 1841. Emersonian notions of individualism, nonconformity, and self-reliance were very much on my mind while writing Geeks & Greeks. See

pg 87 - fertility clinic // Geeks features a subplot involving a fertility clinic. Lest anyone doubt that some cash-strapped MIT students help pay tuition by moonlighting as sperm donors, let's just say there's a reason Boston-area fertility clinics have recruited donors for decades via ads in The Tech, MIT's student newspaper. Those ads work. I should know – I was one of those donors. See "Eggs & Sperm," Tiffany Kosolcharoen, The Tech, May 5, 2004, or almost any issue of The Tech in the last forty years,

pg 87 - ancient magazines // Easter egg. Natalie offers Jim a Playgirl from 1996 and a Popular Mechanics from 1950.

pg 90 - "High-speed stroboscopic photography" // Easter egg. This is an homage to the late Dr. Harold "Doc" Edgerton, the MIT professor who revolutionized photography by inventing the strobe flash in the 1930s. Aside from sharing similar research interests, Prof. Neustadt is not based on Prof. Edgerton. See

pg 90 - Green Building becomes world's largest sound meter // Based on an actual hack from July 4, 1993. See Nightwork, p. 76,

pg 92 - mission statement // Easter egg. To save you the trouble of searching for a magnifying glass, here is the full text of the fertility clinic's mission statement on the wall behind Natalie: "We pledge to do all we can to help you create the family of your dreams. And if, by chance, your baby comes out with a tail or heat vision, we swear it has nothing to do with our lab's use of mutagenic radiation. No returns, no exchanges."

pg 93 - beaver trying to dam the Charles River // True story and Easter egg. I once really did see a beaver attempting to dam the Charles despite the river's thousand-foot width at that point. Also MIT's official mascot is Tim the Beaver. Can you find the word "TIM" hidden in the grass in panel 3? See

pg 93 - Jim and Natalie's courtship // Inspired by actual events. Jim's geeky courting of Shakespeare-obsessed Natalie is inspired by my own bumbling pursuit of a Shakespearean actress, the woman who became my wife.

pg 94 - "This is Goneril from King Lear" // Easter egg. For many years King Lear was required reading in MIT's introductory humanities courses. See "The Institute Screw,"

pg 95 - Goneril's monologue // Natalie graciously abridged Goneril's monologue slightly to fit the panel.

pg 96 - Luke's email // Easter egg. Luke ends his draft email with the French soldier's fatuous taunts from geek cultural touchstone Monty Python and the Holy Grail. See

pg 98 - inflatable Loch Ness monster on the Charles River // Inspired by an actual event from April 3, 1984 where a 75-foot inflatable yellow octopus was deployed on the Charles River near the MIT boathouse. Surprisingly, this was not an MIT hack, but rather a publicity stunt by a firm that rents inflatables. "Inflatable Octopus Stops Mass. Traffic," Lewiston Journal (Lewiston, ME), April 4, 1984,

pg 99 - MIT Planetarium // MIT does not currently have a planetarium, although I'm sure it will someday.

pg 99 - moons of Uranus // Of Uranus's 27 known moons, 24 are named after characters from Shakespeare's plays and 3 are named for characters in Alexander Pope's poem "The Rape of the Lock."

pg 99 - Heart Nebula // The Heart Nebula illustration is based on a photo taken by Flickr user "s58y" under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0). See

pg 101 - 42 // Jim's score on the physics test is also "The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything" according to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. See

pg 103 - exploding roach motel in desk drawer // Based on firsthand experience. Nasty.

pg 103 - use of drunken Bridge Troll as a bioweapon // I'm happy to say this plot element is fictional.

pg 104 - pink flamingos on Killian Court // Inspired by an actual prank at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1979 involving a thousand plastic pink flamingos. See Neil Steinberg, If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks (St. Martin's Press, 1992) and

pg 105 - pulling the chair away // Prof. Neustadt's perspectives on the nature of pranks have been informed by Arthur Koestler's article on practical jokes in the Encyclopedia Britannica. See

pg 105 - Gorn // It would be a first-order nerdcrime to mistake a reptilian humanoid Gorn from Star Trek for a reptilian humanoid Sleestak from Land of the Lost. Behold the awesomeness that is Kirk vs. Gorn

pg 107 - red shirt // Easter egg. Dexter's shirt color is an inside joke about the peril Dexter faces in this scene. On Star Trek: The Original Series red-shirted crewmembers died more than any other type of crewmember. Of the 59 crewmembers killed in the series, 43 (73%) wore a red shirt. See "Analytics According to Captain Kirk," Matt Bailey, SiteLogic,

pg 111 - Halfway to Hell // Easter egg. At the midpoint of the Harvard Bridge (which leads to MIT... don't ask) these words are painted on the sidewalk as part of the Smoot markings. Hell, of course, refers to MIT. See

pg 111 - Room 273 // Easter egg. Some of you brainiacs assuredly caught the connection between the cryogenics lab being in room 273 and the fact that absolute zero is -273.15°C.

pg 111 - ratsicles // A real thing. This odious prank involves dipping a dead rat in liquid nitrogen until it becomes brittle, then shattering it into a thousand pieces in a victim's room to thaw, rot, and stink. The prank is legendary at CalTech and was practiced at MIT when I was a student. See "RF" (short for Rat F*ck) at

pg 111 - "I try to avoid the MIT meal plan" // Just kidding. MIT campus food is actually pretty decent. It earned a B+ at this rating site:

pg 113 - "What fresh hell is this?" // Augie is quoting Dorothy Parker. She is reported to have exclaimed "What fresh hell can this be?" whenever her train of thought was interrupted by the telephone or a knock at the door. See

pg 115 - bounty for African-American sperm donors // True story. I was offered just such a bounty by a Boston fertility clinic.

pg 117 - "Brute force is the last resort of the incompetent." // Dexter is quoting one of MIT's unofficial hacking guidelines. See "Statement on Hacking," MIT Office of the Dean for Student Life, The Tech, June 13, 2008,

pg 117 - Quincy Quarries // When I was an MIT student the flooded, sheer-walled quarries were a popular spot for cliff jumping. But the treacherous waters were strewn with unseen hazards and proved lethal many times. "In Quarry's Dark Water, Grim Tales of Danger and Despair," Carey Goldberg, New York Times, December 7, 1997,

Armchair meteorologists may raise an eyebrow at the gang making an autumnal cliff-jumping excursion to the quarries. Brisk swimming to be sure, but temps have hit 90° in Boston in October on occasion. This incident takes place during one such heat wave.

pg 118 - granite // Quincy's high-quality granite was prized for its hardness and durability. In the 19th century, Quincy's 54 quarries provided the granite to build much of Boston, including the Bunker Hill monument, Faneuil Hall, the Charlestown Navy Yard, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Boston Custom House. See

pg 120 - "This cliff is one hundred feet high." // As Dexter states, the distance traveled by a falling object is ½ gt^2, where g = Earth's gravitational acceleration and t = time. Here g=32 ft/sec^2 and t=2.5 secs. ½ (32) 2.5^2 = 100. See

pg 121 - submerged logs at Quincy Quarries // True story. City officials tried to discourage cliff jumping at the Quincy Quarries through various means, including pouring diesel fuel on the water and covering the surface with trees and old telephone poles. Unfortunately, these obstructions soon became waterlogged and sank just below the surface, invisible to the cliff jumpers above. The injury and fatality rate soared. See

pg 129 - "I'm goin' Krakatoa!" // The explosion of the Krakatoa volcano in the western Pacific Ocean in August 1883 was one of the largest eruptions in recorded history.

pg 129 - Ocean Engineering // MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering is no longer a stand-alone department. In 2005 it merged with the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

pg 132 - room contents placed on a raft on the Charles // Inspired by an actual prank from February 1985 where MIT pranksters relocated a freshman's bed, desk, and floor lamp to the middle of the frozen Charles River. See "If M.I.T. Frosh Ted Larkin Knows His Studies Cold, He Can Credit a Textbook Case of Pranksterism," People, February 25, 1985,

pg 132 - raft explosion // Comic history lesson. Those overlapping dots emanating from the raft explosion are called "Kirby dots" or "Kirby krackle," after their creator, comics legend Jack "King" Kirby. They are often used in comics to illustrate explosions, ray gun blasts, energy pulses, and battle auras. Andy also used them with Jim's haymaker on page 111. See

pg 134 - student bumping Jim's chair // Easter egg. Apparently Riverdale High School's most famous graduate went on to MIT. Who knew? See

pg 135 - exam becomes an Italian restaurant // Based on an actual event from 1978 where an MIT student covered his exam table with a red checkered tablecloth and set out a plate of bread and cheese along with three bottles of wine before settling in for the test. See Nightwork, p. 156 and "Exam a la Carte, 1978," MIT Press,

pg 136 - headshots on the wall // Easter egg. Above Prof. Neustadt is a headshot of one of Hollywood's brainiest actors: MIT dropout (and Poli Sci major) James Woods. Hollywood's other notable MIT dropout is action movie star Dolph Lundgren. In 1983 Lundgren was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT but dropped out after two weeks to become Grace Jones's bodyguard, as one does. See

pg 136 - Jim's red jacket // Easter egg. Jim's red jacket is one of several parallels to 1955's Rebel Without a Cause. In that movie, another rebellious teen Jim wears a red jacket and befriends a young lady (played by an actress named Natalie). Both Jims take a social outcast under their wings. And both Rebel and Geeks feature a relationship-building scene in a planetarium and a life-and-death incident at a cliff. See

pg 140 - Jim running with the basketball // Easter egg. Jim's posture holding the basketball is an homage to Andy Fish friend Adam West and his campy "Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb" pier run in the 1966 Batman movie. See

pg 143 - "We only accept Ivy League donors." // Some fertility clinics really do specialize in Ivy donors. See "Sperm Banks Seeking Ivy League Deposits," Mary Jordan, The Washington Post, June 1, 1994,

pg 144 - Einstein used a $1,500 check as a bookmark then lost the book // True story. See "Scientist and Mob Idol," Alva Johnston, The New Yorker, December 2, 1933,

pg 145 - PSET // PSET is short for problem set, MIT's term for homework. See

pg 147 - spelling with Green Building lights // Inspired by actual events. The 9 by 17 array of windows on MIT's Green Building has been hacked to display static words and symbols many times. And on April 20, 2012 hackers transformed it into a giant, playable, multi-color game of Tetris. To my knowledge, no one has hacked the Green Building to spell words in a scrolling fashion. See "The 'Holy Grail' of Hacks," Jessica Pourian, The Tech, May 1, 2012,

pg 151 - ping-pong ball bombardment // Homage to an actual MIT hack from 1983 when 1,600 ping-pong balls were dropped from the Lobby 7 skylight. See Nightwork, p. 84,

pg 151 - "what they did to Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart"// If you haven't seen or don't remember the movie, that would be castration and disembowelment.

pg 153 - Spider Closet relocated to the top of the dome // Inspired by a real hack and a real prank. In September 1986 MIT's Technology Hackers Association decided to poke fun at MIT's housing shortage by constructing atop the Great Dome a 12-foot-high, 16-foot-square house. The 28 panels of "Room 10-1000" were hauled up the side of the building and secured with ropes and cables. See Nightwork, p. 64 and

The second inspiration came from an actual incident in which a sleeping fraternity brother of mine was relocated – along with his bed – to the fraternity roof. Thankfully he wasn't a sleepwalker.

pg 153 - "Q.E.D., bitch" // Q.E.D. stands for quod erat demonstrandum, Latin for "what was to be demonstrated." The phrase is often used to conclude mathematical proofs. In short, it's a mathematician's way of saying, "So there."

pg 159 - barometer problem // For some of Jim's other creative answers to the barometer problem, see "How to Measure the Height of a Building with a Barometer,"

pg 161 - physicist Murray Gell-Mann // Easter egg. Dr. Gell-Mann is a Nobel Prize-winning MIT alumnus (PhD, Physics, 1951).

pg 161 - band Boston // Easter egg. The founder, songwriter, and musical virtuoso behind Boston is Tom Scholz, a 1969 MIT grad. See

pg 164 - children // Easter egg. If you noticed a difference in how children were illustrated on the beginning pages compared to the final page (wild-eyed maniacs versus angelic darlings), that was intentional. It reflects an evolution in how Jim perceives children after falling in love with Natalie. Women have the power to do that. I speak from experience.

bottom of page