CLOSE

The Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee

During spring break at MIT in 1966, Peter R. Samson saw this quote on the back of a New York City subway map:

"A Flushing youth, who wanted his money's worth, rode all lines of the subway on a single token. With doubling back as needed, the trip totaled over 400 miles - more than the train journey from New York to Pittsburgh. It took him 25 hours and 36 minutes."

This set in motion Samson's extensive efforts to duplicate the feat. Enlisting other students and some serious MIT hardware (including a PDP-6, the use of which was authorized by Marvin Minsky himself), Samson dedicated himself to the task of mapping the subway system and determining ideal routes through it. Using artificial intelligence (after manual calculation failed to produce a satisfactorily fast outcome), the team of MIT hackers engaged in a realtime subway race assisted by computers back at home base, relaying information via payphone.

Along the way, the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee was formed. Samson organized the group in order to decide upon rules and definitions, in order to help regulate the nascent "sport" of subway racing. Here's a selection of the official rules from Samson's personal history, The Rise and Fall of the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee:

Regulations Regarding Amateur New York Subway Riding

Definitions

  1. This document sets forth the rules of the competition
    with the name “Amateur New York Subway
    Riding.”
  2. There are three Classes of Competition:
    1. Class A: Covering all Lines
    2. Class B: Touching all Stations
    3. Class C: Passing all Stations
  3. In general, the object of the competition is to set a
    record minimum time for a given Class of Competition by
    1. planning a route through the New York City Transit
      System subject to the qualifications of that Class; and
    2. making a timed run over that route.
  4. These rules, and all records of the competition, are
    maintained by the Amateur New York Subway Riding Committee,
    referred to herein as the Committee.
  5. Each person who intentionally participates in the run,
    or who attempts specifically to expedite the run by his actions
    during the run, or who participates in the selection of lines and
    stations to be followed during the run, is considered a contestant
    with regard to that run.
  6. ...

The rules go on for quite a while. Read Samson's article for the whole story, including information about the artificial intelligence program used in the stunt (ahem, "hack"), schematics of the subway system, original logs, and other documents. See also: Wikipedia entry on Samson.

(Via Anarchaia.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
History
Why Amelia Earhart Is Remembered as One of History's Most Famous Female Pilots
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Amelia Earhart was a legend even before she mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while flying around the world. But the aviator's fame wasn't entirely based on skill alone. As Vox explains, Earhart's reputation eclipsed that of several contemporaries who were equally—if not more—talented than “Lady Lindy." So why did Earhart's name go down in history books instead of theirs?

In addition to her talent and courage, Earhart’s international fame could be chalked up to ceaseless self-promotion and a strategic marriage. It all started in 1928, when socialite Amy Phipps Guest and publishing juggernaut George Putnam handpicked the then-amateur pilot to become the first woman to be flown in a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart wasn't involved with the actual flight process, but the trip still established her as the new female face of aviation (and introduced her to Putnam, her future husband).

After completing the transatlantic journey, Earhart’s profile rose sky-high as she gave public lectures, wrote an aviation column for Cosmopolitan magazine, performed stunts like flying solo across the Atlantic (a feat that was first achieved by Charles Lindbergh in 1927), and endorsed everything from cigarettes to designer luggage. Her celebrity was ultimately cemented with her marriage to Putnam, who orchestrated savvy promotional opportunities to keep his wife’s name in the paper.

Learn more about Earhart’s rise to fame by watching Vox’s video below.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
travel
The TSA's Top 10 Strangest Finds of 2017
iStock
iStock

Airport security checkpoints are dull for everyone except Bob Burns, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) witty social media lead. For the uninitiated, Burns—who’s also known as “Blogger Bob”—keeps track of the strange, hilarious, and dangerous things people try bringing on planes, and posts pictures of the more unusual items onto the organization's Instagram page. Among the many strange items Burns has encountered are countless knives and guns, a tiny dog trapped in a checked suitcase, a sandwich slicer, and even a life-size corpse prop from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Bob Burns, the TSA's social media lead
Courtesy of Bob Burns

To commemorate yet another year on the job filled with bizarre checkpoint finds, Burns recently created the video below. It highlights the top 10 weirdest TSA finds from 2017, which range from bladed metal knuckles Burns dubbed “Satan’s Pizza Cutter” to narcotics disguised as Christmas presents.

“We hate to tear open a perfectly wrapped gift, but as you can see from this [video], the contents of the gifts aren’t always sweaters, socks, and underwear,” Burns tells Mental Floss.

While making the video, Burns didn’t have pictures on hand of every single strange object he wanted to include. If so, he might have added a weaponized paint roller that was discovered inside a carry-on bag at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. It “looks like something out of a Mad Max movie,” Burns says. “It’s as if Mad Max wanted to paint the Thunderdome with the blood of his victims. It’s a paint roller wrapped in sandpaper and wire with nails protruding.”

A weaponized paint roller discovered by the TSA in 2017
Courtesy of Bob Burns

Other items that weren't captured in Burns's video that piqued the social media guru’s interest included grenade-shaped salt and pepper shakers and a knife concealed inside a container of Dove men’s deodorant. “Now I get why [the label] reads ’48 hours of protection,'” Burns says.

A knife hidden inside a deodorant container, discovered by the TSA in 2017
Courtesy of Bob Burns

Watch the video below to view Burns’s entire top 10 list of unusual checkpoint finds, and when you're done, check out the TSA's Instagram for more of his signature hilarity.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios