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Hackers Have Blast With Caltech Cannon

We went home and he got to go

By Marissa Vogt

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The April 7 article “Hackers Have Blast With Caltech Cannon” reported that the Fleming House Cannon appeared on the MIT campus Wednesday morning when in fact it appeared on Thursday morning.

One year after pranksters from the California Institute of Technology infiltrated the MIT campus during Campus Preview Weekend, the Fleming House cannon, a familiar Caltech landmark, appeared in front of the Green Building early Wednesday morning to usher in the arrival of this year’s CPW.

A press release on the Web site , which went online shortly after the cannon appeared, announced that “Howe & Ser Moving Company has completed its latest job: moving a Spanish-American War cannon from the pits of Pasadena, CA to sunny Cambridge, MA.”

The cannon was adorned with a 24 karat gold-plated brass rat, which weighs 21 pounds and took about 1, 000 manhours to machine, said an individual calling himself Tim Howe, a representative of the hackers responsible for moving the cannon. Howe said that the ring is placed as if the cannon has not yet graduated, and while the year on the brass rat is 2006, the ring is an original design for the hack.

Crowds of students and prefrosh gathered in McDermott court throughout the day to admire the hack, and much of the conversation included speculation of how the cannon, which weighs 1.7 tons, found its way to MIT. While Howe called his exact methods a “trade secret, ” he said that 26 people were involved, all associated with MIT, and ten people traveled to California. An intense planning effort for the hack began in December, and the hack was funded by those individuals and anonymous donations, he said.

At Caltech, the cannon’s disappearance has been received in good humor by both administrators and students, at least now that they know it was done as a hack (or a prank, as hacks are called at Caltech). The cannon was taken from Caltech at 5:30 a.m. on March 28, and because the MIT hackers did not leave a note, there was some concern among Caltech students that the disappearance was not a simple prank. As a result, Fleming House, the owner of the cannon, filed a grand theft report, said Thomas N. Mannion, Caltech’s assistant vice president for campus life.

Caltech’s pranking ethics state that pranks should be accompanied by a note, which often identifies the people responsible for the prank. Todd Gingrich, president of the associated students of the California Institute of Technology, said that he thinks it is fair to require MIT hackers to conform to Caltech’s pranking ethics, which he said are more stringent than MIT’s hacking ethics. He criticized the MIT hackers for not leaving a note, but also called the hack “reasonably impressive.”

Howe said that they would have liked to have left a note, but that given the circumstances on the night of the hack, “we were a little spooked out about returning to the scene.” Caltech’s student newspaper, The California Tech, reported on Monday that on the morning of the cannon’s disappearance, Caltech security stopped people towing the cannon, who were prepared with fake work orders.


Where is CalTech located in California?

The California Institute of Technology is located at 1200 East California Ave. Pasadena, CA 91125. Phone: (626) 395-6811.

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