# 0708-1300/Smoot

## Smoot

The smoot is a nonstandard unit of length created as part of an MIT fraternity prank. It is named after Oliver R. Smoot (class of 1962), a MIT fraternity pledge to Lambda Chi Alpha, who in October 1958 was used by his fraternity brothers to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge between Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

One smoot is equal to his height (five feet and seven inches ~1.70 m), and the bridge's length was measured to be "364.4 smoots plus one ear". 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 tired from all this exercise and was thereafter carried by the fraternity brothers to each new position. Everyone walking across the bridge today on its eastern sidewalk sees painted markings indicating how many smoots there are from where that sidewalk begins on the Boston river bank. The marks are repainted each year by the incoming associate member class (similar to pledge class) of Lambda Chi Alpha.

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(sex position). 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.

The markings have become well-accepted by the public, to the point 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.[1] The renovations went one better, by scoring the concrete surface of the sidewalk on the bridge at 5 feet and 7 inch intervals, instead of the conventional six feet.[2]

Google Calculator also incorporates smoots. Enter 1 smoots in meters at Google and the calculator will respond that 1 smoots is 1.7018 meters. Google also uses the smoot as an optional unit of measurement in their Google Earth software.

Oliver Smoot later became Chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)[3] and President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). [4]