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Cliff Notes May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2

Splat on that!


One of UCSD’s oldest myths may have just splattered on the sidewalk outside Urey Hall. It’s the one about the professor inspiring the first Watermelon Drop with his final exam question on the velocity of a watermelon dropped from the seventh floor. It seems the history needs a little revision.

According to Professor Robert Swanson, who taught physics to that pioneer freshman class, the students first asked him to distribute a ballot for a Watermelon Queen. He inserted the ballot in the last page of his final. “I then wrote the entire exam with questions related to watermelons,” Swanson says, rewriting the cherished sequence of events. “ Not an easy task, since the subject matter was Electricity and Magnetism, not Mechanics.”

Regardless of which came first, the prof or the proof,
the freshmen of 1965 tossed the watermelon off the building,
measured the distance of the splat and have been doing it ever since. The annual Watermelon Drop, which takes place in what is now Revelle College, has become a wild pre-summer event. The Watermelon Queen Pageant is held the night before to choose the lucky man who will have the honor of dropping the melon.

The day of the drop is Friday of 10th week this quarter. The best official record is 30 years old when, in 1974, pieces were found 167 feet 4 inches from the impact. Even though the myth isn’t completely accurate, the tradition will undoubtedly continue to flourish.

As Swanson says, “The myth is probably better than reality, as is so often the case.”


Annual Student Traditions

"The Hook of Doom"

"I then wrote the entire exam with questions related to watermelons."