Public page for Team 1

Problem Statement


The goal of this hacking project is to generate a petition and use our social engineering skills to get as many signatures as possible. Our petition is to ban Solanum Lycoperiscum, otherwise known as the common tomato plant.

Participants: Joe Zatkovich, Dan Kazanjian, Alonso Holmes, Sunny Ngan, and Alex Chan


Tomato picture courtesy of pelikanol, hosted on

Second tomato picture courtesy of Sabinche, hosted on

Problem Solution


The Basic Theory

Our idea was that because people are generally intimidated by science, we can get them to sign just about anything by being deliberately vague about the subject matter and by implying (not stating) that various connections exist.

The Setup

Solanum Lycopersicum, otherwise known as the common tomato plant, is part of the Solanum L genus. It does contain Atropine, but in amounts far too low to be toxic. In contrast, it's cousin (the deadly Nightshade plant) contains high levels of Atropine that can be fatal. All of the facts we give are completely true, but notice how we never explicitly say that Solanum Lycopersicum itself is deadly. We only state that it contains Atropine, and deliberately do not say how much.

A copy of the petition and the flyer that we used can be found attached below.

Getting the Signatures

In the first phase of our signature-gathering, we created an online petition and directed people there from Facebook and similar sites. The online petition can be found at A list of the signatures collected as of this writing is attached below. To ensure the legitimacy of the signatures, we required users to enter a name, e-mail address, and zip code. In addition, the site prevented the same computer from signing twice.

Although the online petition was immediately successful (receiving about 70 signatures in the first night alone, a testament to the power of social networking tools), we decided to take our "just cause" to the streets and see how many additional signatures we could obtain. All in all, we received 62 signatures by wandering the streets. The signatures we collected in person were subject to the same criteria as the online ones: a name, e-mail address, and zip code. Of course, we didn't allow anyone to sign twice.

In wandering the streets around BU, we learned some interesting things about how people act when asked to set aside 30 seconds and consider a "good cause". For example, people walking do not like to be asked to sign anything, so we started asking only small stationary groups of people. Even then, we missed more than we hit. Some interesting responses included "I can't sign, I just can't", "I'm Canadian, my vote wouldn't count", and the ever-popular "No." We also learned that whether or not people sign is very much a product of how you first approach them. For example, asking for 30 seconds of their time and then explaining in detail how Solanum Lycopersicum is in the food supply is not nearly as effective as "Hey, would you like to sign a petition to ban a poisonous plant? You'll feel good about yourself afterward."

A list of the names collected as well as scans of the names collected on the street can be found below.

Total Signatures Collected: 116 Online + 62 Street = 178

  • The flyer that we used on the street

  • The flyer we used on the street:

  • Page 1 of street signatures:

  • Page 2 of street signatures:

  • Page 3 of street signatures:
Topic attachments
I Attachment History Action Size Date Who Comment
Microsoft Word filedoc Petition_to_the_USDA_Solarium_Lycopersicum.doc r2 r1 manage 25.5 K 2008-10-16 - 16:12 UnknownUser The formal petition to the USDA
JPEGJPG StreetPage1.JPG r1 manage 93.8 K 2008-10-16 - 15:37 UnknownUser Page 1 of street signatures
JPEGJPG StreetPage2.JPG r1 manage 86.9 K 2008-10-16 - 15:37 UnknownUser Page 2 of street signatures
JPEGJPG StreetPage3.JPG r1 manage 59.1 K 2008-10-16 - 15:38 UnknownUser Page 3 of street signatures
JPEGjpg eviltomato.jpg r1 manage 27.5 K 2008-10-16 - 15:43 UnknownUser  
Unknown file formatpub r1 manage 431.5 K 2008-10-16 - 15:25 UnknownUser The flyer that we used on the street
JPEGjpg flyerpic.jpg r1 manage 76.0 K 2008-10-16 - 15:59 UnknownUser The flyer we used on the street
Microsoft Word filedoc onlinepetition_list.doc r2 r1 manage 31.5 K 2008-10-16 - 16:06 UnknownUser Online petition name list
JPEGjpg tomato_2.jpg r1 manage 9.5 K 2008-10-16 - 15:57 UnknownUser  
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Topic revision: r13 - 2009-01-12 - AriTrachtenberg

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