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They Did What?: 

MIT opens time capsule 942 years too early


“Whoa, cool time capsule…let’s open it!”

The thing about time capsules is that they’re not much good without time. If, for instance, you were to buy a capsule and stuff it with significant objects, bury it, then dig it up again half an hour later – then you’ve wasted your day.

Traditionally, a proper time is set way in the distance, putting off the grand (or let’s be honest, often underwhelming) reveal until a date far in the future. Unless of course somebody ignores that date completely, as was the case at MIT this week, when a capsule was dug up years early and the project was ruined for generations of historians …oops?

The capsule in question was buried back in 1957. It seems a long time ago, until you learn it was intended to be recovered in the year 2957 – so, really, we didn’t even get close.

True enough, time capsules are traditionally intended as a gift for a future civilization, but – to be fair to the team at MIT – where is the fun in that? The capsule was actually discovered by construction workers who were beginning the build of a new research hub, and failed to treat their find with the same care that you’d expect from MIT. In fact, they were a closer to the kid who can’t wait until Christmas morning to rip into their first present, tearing off the lid immediately to peek inside.

That’s even despite a note that was attached to the capsule, strictly stating that it shouldn’t be opened until 1,000 years after its burial date.

So, what did they find? As we mentioned earlier, time capsules are often underwhelming. Inside the capsule was a letter from the MIT scientists who buried it back in 1957, a copy of A Scientist Speaks by Karl T. Compton, a container of synthetic penicillin, new coins from the First National Bank of Boston, and a mug from the Class of 1957.

If you’re keenly interested in science and history – say you work at MIT, for instance – it’s arguably not a bad haul. But should the inheritors of 2957 have pursued other interests, then perhaps we’ve saved them some disappointment.

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