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MIT leads the nation in little-known disciplines

As I was paging through last Friday's Tech, I noticed a front-page article about engineering at MIT. If my memory serves me, the article mentioned that in an official investigation, MIT was rated number one in all of the country for the strength of many of its engineering fields. The article continued to say that a board of scientists and engineers decided that MIT was the top school for all engineering fields.

I found this exciting. "Wow!" I said to nobody in particular, "Here I am, studying in the mecca for all engineering fields. Breathtaking!" In light of this revelation, I decided to re-evaluate my career options.

After all, The Tech mentioned nothing about my previous major, which was physics. So I rummaged through my sock drawer and found my copy of the MIT Bulletin. As I thumbed through it, I came to the seemingly deceptive conclusion that MIT offered a great number of majors in many diverse fields of engineering.

At first, the fields sounded relatively simple, like agricultural, mechanical and nuclear engineering. But soon, the fields became more bizarre and esoteric. What follows are excerpts of the descriptions for such engineering majors.

1/3 Genetic Engineering -- Using the newest techniques in recombinant DNA and monoclonal antibodies, we in the Department of Genetic Engineering are re-defining the limits of science every day.

Learn how to cure genetic diseases through gene manipulation; how to clone your friends from their epithelial cells; and how to devise life forms based on silicon instead of carbon.

As a final project, you must be able to create a working ubermensch. To find out more about our exciting department, come to one of our seminars: "Deciding which cancer is best for you" or "Designing the better mouse."

1/3 Quantum Engineering -- Welcome to the kooky world of quantum mechanics! Working on topics like "The collapse of the electron probability packet" may sound dull. However, nobody really understands this stuff anyway, so why not give it a try? (And besides, it attracts the babes like crazy!)

We work on building micro-motors small enough to fit on a fly's bum, and we discuss interesting questions like, "What do you do with all of Schr"odinger's dead cats?" For your final project, you will

use Heisenberg Quantum-Diffraction techniques to determine the number of angels on the head of a pin.

1/3 Trucking -- You too can learn how to drive a big rig! We here at MIT can teach you the proper positions of the elbow to get a trucker's tan and how to choose your code name for CB correspondence.

Learn the answers to difficult questions, like, "Should you pick up a hitchhiker if he is signaling with someone else's severed thumb?" We will also teach you the proper etiquette for diners, how to. . . . Oh! I am sorry! I must have accidentally looked at the course bulletin for the Montana Institute of Trucking.

1/3 Bureaucratic Engineering -- Hello, and welcome to the department that can teach you how to manipulate the people who manipulate you. We will teach you how to design in/out baskets which can handle the stresses of accumulated paperwork.

Learn the subtle techniques of office management by exploring topics like, "Should the office coffee machine be centrally located?" Discover how to delegate responsibility and learn the fine art of pigeonholing.

To meet some of the vibrant people in this department, come to our next seminar, entitled "Friends: What is the minimum you need to do to make them?" For more information, file a report in triplicate and send it to anyone but us.

1/3 Religious Engineering -- We in this department explore the following maxim: Religion is the opiate of the masses. Discover the fine line between a religion and a cult. Learn how to exploit martyrdom. (Prerequisite: The least painful ways of becoming a martyr.)

Discuss topics such as "Celibacy: Why monks have no fun," and "Are these Hare-Krishna people for real?" and "The effects of Reverend Moon on the flower industry."

Learn if Cobol is the up-and-coming ecclesiastical language. Discuss Zen-Jehova-Witnessism: What is the sound one hand makes knocking on a door?

1/3 Stellar Engineering -- In this way-cool department, we discuss the theory and practice of the following topics: The damping force -- fact or friction, how to terraform Mars in just 13,000 easy steps, the Shake-n-Bake theory of galactic evolution, Lorentz Transformation as applied to cosmetic surgery, and how to use cosmic strings and galaxy glue to hold the universe together.

Take field trips to the interior of a Schwarzschild Radius. Debate "Why no astrophysicists win Nobel Prizes," and other confounding paradoxes that irate astrophysicists discuss.

And of course, you get to participate in our nationally renowned 8.90 Contest: Using a kit containing little more than rusty erector sets and mounds of balsa wood, construct a working model of the sun capable of sustaining nuclear fusion (and remember -- originality counts!).

1/3 Electrical Engineering and Computer Science -- Learn how to design operating systems, robotic automata, artificial intelligence and. . . . Ah! Forget this. It is stupid of me to think that I could fool you with my lame brand of humor.

Sure, I might have caught you with

the Genetic or Quantum Engineering. But there is no way I could get you to believe that such a thing as "Electrical Engineering and Computer Science" exists, or would ever exist.

I mean, really! Who would want to spend the rest of their lives fiddling around with capacitors, and diodes, and other sundry computer thingies?

Who would want to squint at a computer screen, knowing that instead they could be reading a good book? And learning computer languages! What a silly idea. I have yet to see a translation of Hamlet into Fortran.


Jason Merkoski is a freshman who thinks "6.001" rhymes with "brain tumor."