Field Trip: MIT Flea Market

This past long weekend, some students and I took a field trip to the MIT Swapfest flea market. It was a fun trip and a great way to see all sorts of strange and interesting computer and electronic equipment, as well as get some great deals.

I hadn’t been to the MIT flea market in about 12 years, but it was still going strong, with hundreds of vendors selling their wares. The crowd generally tends to be quite friendly, and loves sharing stories and lore about the very rich and colorful world of computer science and engineering that has developed over the past 60 years or so in the greater Massachusetts area.

Vendors had everything from old tools, computers and computer parts of every type and variety, gigantic capacitors and other electronic components, 8-bit Nintendo cartridges, lab and test equipment, and even a model schooner made entirely out of beer can fragments. There was also one vendor who had a bunch of old cryptographic equipment from WWII (primarily different variations on the German Enigma machine).

Some of the more notable hauls by faculty and students were:

-2 oscilloscopes
-1 power supply
-1 guitar EFX pedal
-1 Sun SparcStation IPC
-1 Sun SparcStation 5
-1 bar code scanner

If you missed the trip this time around, don’t worry. The Swapfest starts up again on Sunday, April 21 2013, and I suspect we’ll make another trip in the Spring.

Spelunking in Bennington County

Did you know that there are caves in the hills around Bennington?

Tim Schroeder‘s The Geology of the Bennington Region class explored one such cave on the north side of Mount Anthony on a recent class field trip. The caves are present in the Ordovician marble deposits that have been quarried in this region for centuries. The rocks were originally deposited as limestone in a reef-like setting when Bennington was on the margin of North America 500 million years ago. The rocks were metamorphosed to become marble during the tectonic events that built the Appalachian Mountains. The caves form now because the mineral calcite, which composes the marble, is slightly soluble in acidic rain water, and it slowly dissolves openings as the rainwater infiltrates into fractures in the marble. This particular cave is located very near one of the major faults that formed the Taconic range, which we also mapped on this field trip.

Students gather at the entrance to the cave they will explore at Mount Anthony, Bennington, VT.