23 fun facts about MIT for 2023

23 fun facts about MIT for 2023

MIT Open Learning
Photo by Emily Dahl.

A hands-on curriculum

1. MIT’s motto is mens et manus, or “mind and hand,” and the institute’s curriculum combines rigorous academics with a learning-by-doing approach. The General Institute Requirements include a wide range of humanities, laboratory, communications, and physical ed courses in addition to six foundational courses in mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry. Try out a range of free online introductory courses in topics from geology to gender studies!

Pi Day

2. MIT Admissions sends out undergraduate acceptance letters on Pi Day, March 14 — an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π. Frequently, these admissions decisions are released at 6:28pm, which is known colloquially as “Tau time” (πx2). An exception was made for the earlier release time of decisions on March 14, 2015 — known as Super Pi Day — as the date reflects the full first five digits of Pi (3.1415) — when admissions decisions were released at 9:26am in order to continue with the next three digits of Pi.

Online courses with MITx

3. In 2012, MIT launched its first massive open online course (MOOC) with Prof. Anant Agarwal’s MIT Circuits and Electronics. More than 155,000 learners from 162 countries enrolled. Ten years later MITx is home to some 250 online courses, with 12 million enrollments and six million unique learners, and has awarded more than 300,000 certificates.


4. Twice a year, an astronomical event lights up the length of the 825-foot Infinite Corridor that runs through the center of campus, connecting buildings 7, 3, 10, 4, and 8. January and again in November, the setting sun aligns with the third-floor windows, flooding the corridor with a stream of direct sunlight that dazzles spectators observing from the west end of Building 8. The assumed azimuth is 245.75 degrees. Now an annual tradition known as “MIThenge,” this phenomenon was originally discovered, calculated, and publicized in 1975–1976 by students from the Department of Architecture.

Photo of an MIT hallway lit up by sunlight.
Twice a year, an astronomical event known as “MIThenge” lights up the length of the 825-foot Infinite Corridor that runs through the center of campus. Photo by Matt Yourst.

Nobel ties

5. MIT currently counts 98 Nobel Laureates among its faculty, staff, and alumni. Find courses on labor economics with 2021 Nobel Laureate Joshua Angrist on OpenCourseWare, or enroll in the MITx MicroMasters Program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy with 2019 Nobel Laureates Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee.

Free MIT course materials

6. MIT has published 2,600+ of its undergraduate and graduate courses on OpenCourseWare, free for anyone to use anywhere in the world. Courses include lectures and lecture notes, syllabi, videos, readings, assignments and exams, and more.

Prank culture

7. MIT students have a long and storied tradition of elaborate practical jokes and pranks. Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People: The MIT Gallery of Hacks offers a comprehensive guide to MIT pranks or “hacks,” big and small.

Aerial photo of MIT’s Great Dome with the Captain America shield on it. The view overlooks Killian Court, the Charles River, and the Boston skyline.
Captain America dome hack. Photo by Raymond Huffman.

Professional programs

8. MIT offers over 250 professional certificate programs in a wide range of in-demand topics, from additive manufacturing and machine learning to startup strategy and system thinking.

9. MIT xPRO’s online certificate programs in quantum computing are taught by MIT Professor William Oliver, who was appointed to President Biden’s National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee in December 2022.

10. The revenue from MIT Open Learning’s professional programs help to fund its free learning resources, such as MITx and OpenCourseWare.

Students gather around a display of a coral reef at an MIT event
Photo courtesy of MIT Climate Portal.

Prioritizing climate change

11. The MIT Climate Portal hosts explainers and educational resources about climate science, sustainability, climate justice, and news on action and events from across the Institute.


12. MIT has a long and storied history in the development and understanding of artificial intelligence (AI), from Marvin Minsky’s seminal work in neural networks, to Joy Buolamwini’s groundbreaking research into racial and gender biases in AI systems, to the launch of the Schwarzman College of Computing. Learn from MIT experts in the xPRO course Designing and Building AI Products and Services.

Hotbed of invention

13. For MIT’s 150th anniversary, the Boston Globe published a ranked list of 150 inventions and discoveries associated with MIT, including everything from the World Wide Web to Technicolor.

14. MIT holds 3,781 active patents, and is ranked #2 in the world among universities holding utility patents.

15. Entrepreneurs around the world experience MIT-style innovation with MIT Bootcamps, an intensive short program focused on leadership, problem-solving, and collaboration skills. Bootcamps learners have launched over 100 new ventures and raised more than $70 million in funding.

Free lecture videos

16. With over 4 million subscribers, MIT OpenCourseWare is the largest .edu channel on YouTube.

How many smoots?

17. In 1958, Oliver Smoot (class of ’62) with his Lambda Chi Alpha brothers measured the Harvard bridge using Smoot’s 5-foot-seven-inch frame as a ruler. They found that the bridge was 364.4 smoots long, plus an ear. And so the smoot emerged as a new unit of measurement. Members of the fraternity maintain the painted marks on the bridge to this day.

MIT in the MCU

18. The Marvel comics and cinematic universe has lots of ties to MIT — from famous fictional alum Tony Stark and current student Riri Williams, to the real-life Dome hack with Captain America’s shield. The MIT campus itself was featured in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Aerial photo of RiRi Williams in her IronHeart suit flying over the top of MIT’s Great Dome.
Riri Williams aka Ironheart soars over MIT’s Great Dome in a 2017 Pi Day video.

Independent Activities Period

19. Since 1971, the Independent Activities Period (IAP) has been a period of exploration, connection, and creativity for the entire MIT community — a unique time for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to teach and learn from one another about virtually anything.

20. Some IAP classes take on a life of their own and become an Institute tradition, like In Vino Veritas, Prof. Linn Hobbs’ wine tasting class, or go viral, like Prof. Patrick Winston’s lecture “How to Speak,” which has been viewed over 13 million times on YouTube.

Innovating microcredentials

21. In 2016 MIT launched the MITx MicroMasters Program: a certified microcredential that opens up accelerated pathways to an advanced degree in five programs at MIT and 52 institutions around the world.

22. In 2017, MIT was among the first universities to start offering digital diplomas. Meanwhile, the Digital Credentials Consortium works with schools and organizations around the world to research and pilot digital credentials and related tools in different contexts.

MIT is #1

23. MIT has been named the #1 university in the world every year since 2012 in the QS World University Rankings. Learners anywhere in the world can access MITx and OpenCousreWare courses on any of the 12 subjects QS ranked #1 in 2022…plus thousands more!

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23 fun facts about MIT for 2023 was originally published in MIT Open Learning on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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