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I…am…Iron Man


After 141 days and 16 (fictional) alumni competing in 15 different matchups, the MIT/Cornell Fictional Alumni Face-Off has finally declared a winner.

So long, Sideshow Mel. Later, Lex Luthor. Adios, Andy Bernard. Safe travels, Sue Storm. Only one fictional alumnus remains. Cue the music.

In the tournament final, which saw MIT battle MIT, “Iron Man” Tony Stark narrowly edged out extraterrestrial entrepreneur Ellie Arroway. The Cornell Alumni Association, who felt Stark’s ability to inspire outweighed Arroway’s achievements and his own flaws, made the final call.

“While Cornell is still not convinced either of these two MIT alums offer more than any Cornellian, we have judged this championship match-up objectively. Certainly both characters embody leadership and the ability to inspire others, but only one has something tangible to show for their efforts. While Ellie is a likable person who was ridiculed for her devotion to her craft, she returned from space with nothing more than a couple hours of static. Her tale presents a good enough lesson for the masses, but at the end of the day, your ability to inspire is only as good as the results.

Now enter Mr. Stark. Yes, he’s brash and was born with a silver spoon, but like most historic leaders, he used a moment of humility to transform his perception of the world and become a force for good.  The womanizing, drinking, and disregard for authority might be flaws to some, but if you dig through the history books, you’ll find that many iconic leaders shared many of those same traits. Stark does possess a large ego but with that comes the courage to use his skills to defend mankind. His success is well documented and has benefited millions of people. Ms. Arroway, while a trailblazer in her own right, just can’t rally the troops quite like Iron Man.”

When asked which person would most successfully guide others to greatness, supporters of both sides had valid points. The pro-Stark camp cited his well-rounded résumé as reason to give him the nod over Arroway. Plus, being a superhero never hurts either.

“Starks embodies our heritage as MIT alums whose persistence to creativeness, engineering, and versatility would be inclusive of Ellie’s SETI expertise. True, her character is portrayed as a gifted scientist; however, Stark’s quick-fostering of information gives way to the very things Ellie would need to possess and more.” – Anthony

“Tony Stark was one of the founding members of the Avengers, otherwise known as Earth’s mightiest heroes. If THAT doesn’t qualify as greatness, I’m not sure what does.” – Dora

“I just finished the 3rd collection of “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man” in which, among other events, Tony Stark/Iron Man takes Peter Parker/Spider man out for a day of superhero training. I do not know Ellie having a similar example. So by the evidence I’ve seen, Stark.” – Justin

Arroway’s supporters fought back, noting her level-headed personality would be much better suited to guided other to greatness than the self-absorbed, often-inebriated Stark.

“But when it comes to guiding others to greatness, Stark is way too much of a narcissist to win in this head-to-head competition. Ellie Arroway would be the one to inspire people to think about big ideas and do great things. She loves science and loves to think about the big questions in life.” – DeanC

“While I’d rather be in the company of a globe-trotting robot-designing billionaire like Messrs. Stark, he is too self-absorbed and intermittently drunk to guide anyone. Ms. Arroway is equally as arrogant, but her lack of celebrity status may humble her enough to help others out.” – Kamil

“Ellie Arroway, integrity of action in the face of so many doubters.” – Barbara

In the end, Tony Stark himself may have best summed up his victory in his movie Iron Man.

“A wise man once asked, ‘Is it better to be feared or respected?’ I say is it too much to ask for both?”

Due to Stark’s victory, MIT will take ownership of the soon-to-be-constructed Social Media Cup trophy. Cornell must now produce a video that pays homage to both Tony Stark and MIT (and promote the video on the Cornell Alumni Association Facebook page). Stay tuned!

MIT and Cornell have some impressive alumni, both real and imagined. Thank you to everyone who made participated in this tournament and made it a success.

An Internship at Stark Industries? Sign us up.

The long road to the MIT/Cornell Fictional Alumni Faceoff championship is complete and it’s an all-MIT final round. In perhaps the most spirited round of back-and-forth comments to date, Tony Stark edged Charles Foster Kane as the best choice for professor or guest lecturer.

Voters cited research opportunities, in-class experiments, and a possible internship at Stark Industries as the best reasons to enroll in a Stark-taught class.

“(Stark’s) drive would serve well as an example to all students. Don’t let things like the laws of physics get in the way! Go out and be the change you want to see. Oh, and a powered tactical exo-suit designed for use in extreme extra-planetary environments is sweet. Can’t wait for his next big invention, he might even hire some of us grad students to work on it.” – Joe

“A guest lecture by a billionaire playboy philanthropist who’s qualified to teach grad classes in course II, III, VI, VIII, XV, and XVIII, and literally manufactured a new atomic element in his basement? Sign me up.” – Kevin

“…he’s got some serious technical chops, knows a lot of science and engineering, works his butt off when he has an idea. When shown that his inventions are contributing to human suffering, he does something about it. That drive and knowledge means he has a lot more to contribute to a lecture than a journalist of questionable morals.”  – Cat

“He would be able to give clear, real-world applications for the subject matter. In addition to being a genius he’s handsome, making for a much more pleasant hour or so in the lecture hall.” – Donna

For the first time in the tournament, Charles Foster Kane’s encountered an opponent who wasn’t intimidated by his vast fortune or media power. But with unique life experiences and a professional media background, he did have support.

“Professor Kane is classy, intelligent, and humorous and hands down the best single source of current affairs on the planet. And the best part? Sliding down Libe slope on Rosebud.” – Div

The final round is set: Engineer versus Engineer. Who will MIT support? Will Cornell add its input and sway to vote? What’s a better movie, “Iron Man” or “Contact?” Check back on Monday as the championship round begins!

“Intro. to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence” is Now in Session

Throughout the MIT/Cornell Fictional Alumni Face-Off, Sideshow Mel defied the odds. He defeated Dilbert in round one, and scored the upset of the tournament when he vanquished Lex Luthor in round two. Sadly, the tournament clock has struck midnight, and his Cinderella run has come to an end.

When asked who would make the best professor or guest lecturer, voters overwhelming chose MIT’s Ellie Arroway. Voters cited her professional background, real-world experience, and her depth of knowledge on extra-terrestrial life, moving Ellie to the Face-Off’s final round.

Voters seemed genuinely excited about the prospect of a potential Professor Arroway, and envisioned potential class titles and research opportunities.

…Arroway has real-world experience to expand her knowledge, and that’s always been the most valuable thing to me when attending classes or guest lectures. I expect a lecture from her would have more depth and better grounds for interaction with an academic audience. – Cat

Let us posit that college kids are like aliens (they are). Then Arroway has the lead as she’s already demonstrated the ability to decipher alien messages. This key communication capability would put her at the head of the class (hah!) even if she didn’t already have the points for, wait for it, her ability to handle complex electronics and computer equipment. – Joe

Ellie Arroway is an accomplished astrophysicist and cosmologist who made contact with extraterrestrial life! Mel is a warm-up act at a circus, and a pretty crummy one at that. Now, of course, not all researchers make good professors, but Dr. Arroway defended her points and causes tirelessly and eloquently. She would make the better professor/lecturer, hands down. – Sven

As a presenter, Sideshow Mel is replicable, and unlike Sideshow Bob, we have no reason to think that Mel has the underlying theory mastered to the level of being able to pass it on. Ellie, in addition to having unique experiences in applied xeno-psychology that no one else on earth has, is a master of applied signals processing and pattern filtering, an expertise that would let her teach at the grad level, and a passion for sharing her interests that would help her both educate and inspi   re undergraduate students. – Justin     

Sideshow Mel’s supporters cited his humor, and the potential for an easy A, as the best reasons to take his class.

If RateMyProfessors.com is anything to go by, Sideshow Mel is clearly the kind of professor that university students would love. Also, his easy course would soon become the most popular one on campus, be it in Cornell or MIT. – Div

Who will Ellie meet in the final round? Check back in Monday for the Face-Off’s “Battle of the Billionaires.”  Will it be an all MIT final, or will Charles F. Kane use his wealth and power to tip the scales once again?

If You Need a Roommate, He Might As Well Be Rich

Two things that we learned in this week’s matchup: Tony Stark and David Levinson have their faults and neither would be the ideal roommate. In the end, the MIT-versus-MIT battle came down to the lesser of two evils. In this case, the lesser evil was wealth, and in turn, billionaire playboy Tony Stark.

Guest judges from the Princeton Alumni Association summed it up nicely:

“Tony Stark is a drunken playboy with a limitless bank account, the coolest high-tech toys around, and the best means to destroy any supervillain. In stark contrast is the down-to-earth, earth-friendly David Levinson, a mopey divorcee who could guarantee you’ll never have to battle aliens with limited computing skills or the big, bad cable company. So who would make the better housemate? A superhero whose purpose is to save the world day after day versus a tech whiz who made a lucky guess about how to save the world by uploading a computer virus?

Neither household would be a fortress of solitude. Living in Stark’s lavish cliffside mansion, you’d face endless explosions, parties, a riffraff of colleagues, and stray evening guests. In Levinson’s eco-friendly New York apartment, you’d face the hum of computers and the drone of David’s ever-present father.

Since ill-fated launches and experiments are nothing new to MIT alumni — and since Tony could certainly afford to replace anything of yours he may have obliterated — we’ll take the exciting uncertainty of life by the beach with Stark versus the monotony of life in the big city with David and his nagging dad.

Plus, if Stark is good enough for the guys of The Big Bang Theory, he’s good enough for us.”

Their favorite pro-Stark sentiments:

“I spent more money replacing windows in East Campus — thanks to ill-fated launches and explosions — than I spent on textbooks. As a result, I don’t really see Stark’s ill-fated experiments as a big problem. I guess to each his own.” – Charles

“Leonard Hofstadter: If we do get a new friend he should be a guy you can trust. A guy who has your back.
Howard Wolowitz: And he should have a lot of money and live in a cool place down by the beach where we could throw parties.
Sheldon Cooper: He should share our love of technology.
Howard Wolowitz: And he should know a lot of women.
Leonard Hofstadter: Let’s see: money, women, technology. Okay, we’re agreed. Our new friend is going to be… Iron Man.” – Catherine

“So honestly, they would both be bad housemates. Tony is a drunk who has too many late night parties, and David is a neurotic mess. While Tony does have better tech toys, he does not let anyone else play with his real tech. To me, it comes down to who else is likely to be visiting. David’s dad would always show up to nag his son (and his new friend smokes cigars, which I don’t want in my house). On the other hand, with Tony, you have Pepper Pots popping over to pay the bills, Rhodes to drive Tony home when he is drunk, and an assortment of interesting visitors who come over. So Tony Stark, by his extended social network.” – Justin

“Following up on Justin’s astute analysis, we know from Numb3rs that having one of Judd Hirsch’s characters loitering around the house can give the place a cosy family feel, but it gets old fast, whereas a smartass AI with an english accent never, ever gets old. Has to be Stark.” – Loren

“Tony Stark – he may mess up the room, hell the whole building, but he’ll build you a better one the next day :)” – Hari

“Both should lose for being self-centered, arrogant, egotistical snobs. But at least Tony admits it and could lend you one of his 50 cars to impress a date. You’d have to share a broken down pickup truck with Judd Hirsch if you lived with David. Go with Tony, the lesser of two evils.” – Trynka

It’s tough to go against The Big Bang Theory, but the judges were impressed with the following support for David Levinson:

“Immature Tony would keep bringing girls, booze and supervillians to the house, and keep the first two to himself. David would, well, make sure the TV’s working. Now that’s a good housemate!” – Div

The Face-Off will take a holiday hiatus and return on Monday, January 9, 2012, where we’ll conclude Round 2. Will wealth win out again, or will voters prefer a roommate who’s…invisible? Happy New Year!

Sideshow Mel Continues to Surprise, Advance

Despite a stated goal of world domination, Lex Luthor can’t win.  For 70-plus years, it’s been Superman. This week, it’s Sideshow Mel, who was determined the better roommate by Ivy-Plus guest judges from the Penn Alumni Association. As the judges wrote:

“This was a tough call! Both sides were funny, clever, and playful. Unfortunately, while both sides were well argued and had good points, we have to vote for Cornell. MIT was at a distinct disadvantage from the start—hard to make the argument that Lex Luthor would make the superior housemate with all of his evilness. But we liked that Cornell was able to bring the argument back to the fact that Chris Reeves was an alumnus of theirs.”

The votes below represent the ones the judges found especially compelling in making this week’s ruling.

(Lex is) a sociopath, which means he doesn’t care what you need. Sideshow Mel, on the other hand, is a comedian, which means he craves your approval. —Noah

Sideshow Mel is detail oriented and eager to please, he would pay his share of the rent ahead of time and quickly wash his dishes. Luthor would be unfindable on rent day and likely destroy the dishes along with part of the surrounding neighborhood. —David

Bottom line is that Lex Luthor has repeatedly been defeated by Superman, who is known to Cornellians as Christopher Reeve ’74. Corey

For a man considered by many as the greatest villain of all time, Luthor had a surprising number of supporters. Most pointed to his vast wealth and the potential for high-tech gadgets to help around the house. The judges singled out the votes below as noteworthy.

Lex Luthor for the win…what would you rather have your roommate bring to the house – a slide whistle and a monkey, or a 400″ HD TV and a death ray? ‘Nuff said? —Steven

Lex Luthor of course – he would come up with some device to take care of all household chores and make the house energy self sufficient in the course of taking over the world. —Dan

You mean I get to live in one of several mad science style secret lairs as opposed to with someone who will hog the bathroom for hours and hours putting on clown makeup? —Justin

It just goes to show you that anything can happen in this tournament. Check back on Monday, when space exploration takes on paper production, as we continue the quarterfinal round with a different guest judge from the Ivy-Plus family.

Invisibility Reigns Over Crime Solving

The power to be invisible was overwhelmingly deemed a greater contribution to society than the ability to investigate and solve crimes, giving MIT’s Invisible Woman a victory over Cornell’s crime-solving Kay Scarpetta.

With a resume that includes helping save the world from villains like Doctor Doom and Galactus, it’s no surprise that most voters agreed in the Invisible Woman’s immense value. Throw in the fact that her Wikipedia entry states, “Her unparalleled sense of compassion and common sense make her a natural-born leader” and you have your recipe for the match eight winner.

“Once again we are confronted with a choice between a person who can help a few people by solving a handful of murders or someone who can save the world. I’ll go with saving the world any day.” —The Alchemist

“A superhero vs. a medical examiner? Come on, clearly Sue Storm offers more to society, but just in case it isn’t patently obvious, I’ll spell it out; Kay Scarpetta just sifts through the after-effects of crime, while Sue Storm prevents crime.” —Sven

“Kay Scarpetta is a crime-solving ME, and Sue Storm is a super-hero scientist. When Galactus comes to eat the Earth, Sue will still be a super-hero scientist; the best Kay can hope to rate is dessert.” —Charles

“Sue can save the world from global warming with her force field. Kay causes global warming with her Mercedes. GO TECH.” —Katharine

Despite a varied career that includes work as a chief medical examiner, private forensic consultant, and head of the National Forensic Academy, Kay Scarpetta’s supporters were minimal. The most impassioned pro-Scarpetta response came from Ken, an impartial observer with a unique perspective.

“I have degrees from both MIT and Cornell, so that factor cancels out. But I vote for Kay Scarpetta since her work educates more people about the real world. Yes I know it’s fiction, but the scientific basis shines through and the nation certainly needs to improve its scientific literacy.”

This concludes the first round of voting. Enjoy the holiday and check back on Monday, November 28, for Round 2, when we discover how Sideshow Mel reacts to the sordid tactics of Lex Luthor. We may even have a surprise in the way of judging.

Rosebud Lives On

The legacy of Citizen Kane was too much for the cult appeal of Quantum Leap.

Due mostly to his potential to offer great contributions to society–and not necessarily what he actually achieved in his fictional life–Charles Foster Kane lives on, narrowly defeating time traveler and string theory innovator Sam Beckett. In the closest match up since Sideshow Mel defeated Dilbert, Kane’s media control was deemed more powerful than Beckett’s time traveling exploits.

Kane used his family’s affluence to build a media empire, encouraging a U.S. war with Spain and dabbling in politics in the process. His actions benefited only himself, but his wealth and power were too much to ignore.

“Charles Foster Kane; the ultimate frat boy…A monumental life, writ large. ‘Rosebud’ is the ultimate ending to an American life. In contrast, Sam Beckett is little more than a cartoon character, writ very, very small.” – Nixons Farm

“This is a joke, right? It’s Charles Foster Kane! He’s a legend! He starts wars! Who can possibly question that he would have more to offer to society?” – Bernardo Menezes

“Without Charles Foster Kane, Cuba would still belong to Spain. No independent Cuba=no Bacardi Rum or mojitos. Let me see–Cuba libre or string theory? No doubt which had a greater impact…” – Tom Furlong

It’s no surprise Sam Beckett’s supporters were passionate. As pro-Beckett voter Kevin Yeh points out, he saved Jacqueline Kennedy from assassination and freed the great-grandfather of Martin Luther King, Jr. from slavery. And it’s hard to argue against the Quantum Leap tagline, “Setting right what once was wrong.”

 “San Beckett wins. Final episode of Quantum Leap: ‘The lives you touched, touched others, and those, others. You’ve done a lot of good, Sam Beckett, and you can do a lot more.’ – David Hsu

“Sam Beckett did more to spread popular awareness of string theory than anyone else. Clearly a bigger contribution than the invention of yellow journalism.” – The Alchemist

“The premise of Sam Beckett’s leaps is that he is trying to put things right in the world. Sounds like an open and shut case of one character trying to help society and another out for his own good.” – Alfred Morgan

In the end, the power of Charles Foster Kane overwhelmed the science behind quantum physics, with Kane supporter Jeffrey Folinus summing it up best.

“Charles Foster Kane, certainly. And he would agree.”

Check back Monday for the final week of round 1. It should be a close one – two very powerful women from two very different worlds.

Andy Bernard Continues Winning Ways, Coasts to Victory

Andy Bernard

And your winner is...

It’s been quite the year for Andrew Baines Bernard (Cornell ’95). In September, Andy was promoted to regional manager of the Scranton branch of the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company. And less than one month later, he emerges victorious again, advancing to round two of the Cornell-MIT Fictional Alumni Face-Off.

Despite an academic career that was less than stellar, Andy’s appeal is summed up best by David, who wrote, “In his brief reign, Mr. Bernard has shown you don’t need vision, administrative talent, stylish wardrobe, people skills, support from the boss, or general competence in your job to resolve conflict and bring order to chaos. His example gives hope and support to millions of people…”

Surprisingly, Andy’s support was universal as a few of Andy’s votes even came from MITers.

“As a loyal son of the ‘Tute, I gotta go with Andy.” —Lee

“As a MIT alum, I hope Andy Bernard wins this round. Andy is an All-American brown noser; Funke doesn’t even sound American.” —Chaz

The loss notwithstanding, Tobias did receive his share of support—he is an analyst and a therapist, after all. Some emotional responses focused on Dr. Funke’s lifelong coping of his debilitating medical condition.

Clearly, Tobias would have the greatest impact. He speaks to the innumerable people out there suffering from being a never-nude, He shows that such a condition can’t stop them from accomplishing their dreams. He’s an inspiration to those suffering in silence, thinking they’re alone.” —Ana

“Tobias has brought a rare medical condition to light: the never-nude. That contribution to the science world alone trumps anything Bernard has done.” —Patrick

Other support for Andy included:

“Andy gives us this gift of a cappella…Tobias will break your sternum!” —Mayra

“Andy Bernard, because he does not lose contests, he wins them…or he quits them because they are unfair.” —Dena

“They say you should never mix business with pleasure. Really? Then explain to me how a putt-putt golf company operates!” —Alex (quoting Andy Bernard)

“Tobias Fünke would make many contributions, but none of them to society.” —Jane

Whom will Andy meet in the next round? Does this set up an inevitable showdown with Lex Luthor in round 3? Will a tournament victory finally impress Andy’s father? These answers and more coming up.

Stay tuned: a new match-up will be announced on Monday, October 17. Check this website as well as your respective Facebook page and Twitter for the big unveiling. Movie buffs will enjoy this one.

Twitter hashtag: #MITCU

Cornell Facebook: http://on.fb.me/kOEvxp.

MIT Facebook: http://on.fb.me/w1qwP

  • Congrats, Tony Stark!

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  • What's at stake?
    The winning school will take ownership of the soon-to-be-constructed Social Media Cup trophy.

    The losing school will be forced to produce a video that pays homage to both the tournament winner and his or her alma mater and promote the video on their own Facebook page.

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