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Marvin Minsky and the Ultimate Tinker Toy (tinlizzie.org)
93 points by mpweiher 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 4 comments



The Hubble famously had a few issues. Probably the most well known was the spherical aberration ground into the main mirror. But before that was discovered, there were a few hiccups during the deployment of the satellite. One of the more critical issues was that they could not get the high gain antenna to deploy. The brass put all the designers and engineers into one room and told them to figure it out ASAP. The engineers were confident that they knew what the problem was, they just needed a way to convey the solution to the politicians. A few hours in, my uncle ducked out, went to toys-r-us and bought a set of tinker toys. After sneaking back in, he and John Decker built a model of the antena and were able to successfully convey the fix to the higher-ups. By the end of the day they were able to deploy the antenna. I distinctly remember getting a set of tinker toys for christmas that year.



Great anecdote! My dad was an engineer on the Hubble and its servicing missions so I'm sure he'll get a kick out of that story if he hasn't heard it before. Thanks for sharing it!


I got to know Marvin a little. I used to use magic to teach critical thinking in classrooms and talk to him about this. Marvin loved the idea of kids learning how to fool adults so they’d not be afraid to question authority.




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