A love letter to LXM: or why you should run demo nights

Dear Raffi, Marley, and Aayush,

Back in March when I arrived back to Cambridge from New Zealand it was cold and I was lonely.

I didn’t have a place to live. Aayush, in suggesting I can stay at LXM as long as I wanted, gave me the confidence necessary to arrive here in the first place without a real living plan. Even before I arrived, it felt like LXM had my back. Returning to Cambridge was weird. Everything looked more or less the same, except everyone I knew was gone, and MIT was closed to me.

LXM became my refuge. The key ingredients:

Green couch + black bean bag: soft surfaces for lying, sleeping, and reading together.

Projector: display demo night projects + showing baby photos of Aayush.

Whiteboards: estimating mechanism of pigeon magnetoception, explaining Maxwell’s equations, writing Yeats’ poetry.

Spare bunk bed: allowing the itinerant scientist-builder-learner from Kazakhstan, Montreal, or Menlo Park to briefly stay, spreading ideas.

Raffi Hotter: “we’re almost there!” energetic driver of doing. physics and building. providing occasional hot chocolate.

Marley Xiong: emotional and aesthetic vibe curation. paying attention to what really matters. “i was in a pit of despair SID soldering, but then I got all of it done in the last hour.”

You three made a home for me at a fragile time, and invited me to grow more into who I am by making space for what I wanted to be.

In the LXM of my heart, Raffi is reading a Modern Electrodynamics textbook, Marley and I are improvising on the keyboard as Aayush is using the Proxmark 3 to clone an HID card.

May this LXM live on, wherever you end up. May we come together and hack again soon. May I continue to

I love you all, Max

Seven months ago in a cold and uncertain time I arrived in Cambridge with all my possessions

The Light and Matter (LXM) group house has been one of the most important social spaces

LXM: Light and Matter. A space with whiteboards

A love letter to LXM

Seven months ago at the beginning of cruel April as Eliot says I arrived in Cambridge with all my possessions in tow. I had lived here for five years but all of the sudden I realized that all those that I knew during college had left. That very few of my friends remained. I was lonely.

LXM: light and matter. A group house, named in appreciation of Richard Feynman. Marley Xiong, Raffi Hotter, Aayush Gupta. Friends scientists and builders.

Like most emergent groups, difficult to precisely define. It leant wonder to my world. This document is both a celebration of LXM and a reflection on why it worked so well.

(Notion of Science House).

Powerful things about LXM:

Spontaneous abundance Aayush: “just come crash with us at LXM” he made it clear that I could stay indefinitely with him. Whether that would have been okay with the other house inhabitants is unclear, but it gave me to confidence to arrive at a space without knowing, for instance, where I would live the next month.

And so I arrived in the beautiful house at 168 Hampshire St, above the Pizza Bar and Porter square. Large bean bags. Soft surfaces and crucially two whiteboards, scrawled with the Lorentz equation and the diagram of a wave diffusing through a slit.

Demo nights The biweekly ritual gathering young scientist hacker denizens of Cambridge to share their project glory in 2 minute snippets. The demo nights were many things. Social encouragement to be working on projects that you cared about. Bonding exercise. Group debugging and discussion

Certain memories from demo nights:

Kind owners Raffi, Marley, and Aayush are all deeply kind. Offering space and consideration xyz

Persistent curiosity Rigor behind the curiosity. It took weeks to set up the cloud to respond in time.

Open accommodation. The spare bunkbed upstairs allowed interesting characters from all around to come through and engage in the energetic exchange of ideas.

One PhD candidate from Kazakhstan heard of the group house through Twitter and showed up shortly after messaging Raffi.

Some favorite moments

It is a science house. The focus is on physics and neuroscience

Brian Eno has this term ‘scenius’ to refer to the collective scenes from which genius or powerful creation comes forth. At the small scale, I think LXM is the best example of an open space encouraging simultaneous seeking of different goals.

Anyone could come into the house whenever. The code for the apartment was listed on the website and the door remained unlocked. Dinner nights along with the demo nights. More than anything I was comforted by the fact that there was always a space of people that cared about me and who would encourage me to pursue projects that I cared about

Notable features

White boards


~ weekly demo nights