A plastic carrying case apparently exploded Tuesday night on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston, injuring a staff member, in what could be a protest against virtual reality — or just a hoax.
Although the US city’s bomb squad and other emergency services and law enforcement responded, the box did not contain a bomb.
According to CBS News, the package – a Pelican hard case used to safely transport sensitive equipment – “was pressurized” and contained “no gunpowder or explosives”.
The unidentified contents of the case depressurized – in a non-incendiary manner – when the university staff member opened the case at Holmes Hall.
“The staff member suffered minor injuries and is being treated at a local hospital,” Northeastern University said in a statement. “No student was injured.”
While NBC10 Boston said investigators were exploring the possibility the incident could be a hoax, the news agency also characterized the case as having been deliberately “rigged” to depressurize when it opened.
NPR also reports that investigators are trying to determine whether or not the incident was staged and that the employee who reported the explosion made it up in whole or in part.
According to CNN, the package “contained a rambling memo that criticized Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the relationship between academic institutions and virtual reality developers.”
Holmes Hall, where the explosion occurred, is home to Northeastern University’s Immersive Media Lab and the Northeastern University Student Virtual Reality (NUVR) Club.
The memo has not been made public, but reports describe it as a manifesto that criticizes virtual reality, artificial intelligence, the metaverse, and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The memo, meant to oppose academic development of virtual reality, would demand a halt to research in virtual reality.
NBC10 Boston said the memo, “which contained grammatical issues, spelling mistakes and numerous exclamation marks, characterized virtual reality as a government operation.”
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The internet giant formerly known as Facebook adopted the name Meta last year. Beyond the benefit of distancing himself from Facebook’s privacy issues — severe enough to sink his Libra-turned-Diem currency project — he did so to signal his commitment to growing and monetizing the metaverse, a dystopian term taken from the sci-fi novel Snowcrash which the company bills itself as “a collection of digital spaces for socializing, learning, playing and more”.
Meta aspires to be the guardian, publicity provider, and perceiver of these digital environments, visited through headsets and accessories made by Meta, including vibrating gloves. After blowing up $10 billion to develop virtual world technology last year, Zuck Corp. is unlikely. throws in the towel because of an exclamation-laden threat.
On Wednesday morning, university officials released a statement reassuring students and staff that the campus is safe and classes will run as usual. The investigation into the incident at Northeastern University continues at the local, state and federal levels.
Max Abrahms, an associate professor of political science at Northeastern University and an expert on terrorism, told NBC News the incident bore some similarities to the Unabomber, which sent 16 bombs into universities, killing three people, between 1978 and 1996.
The US government’s decision to publish Unabomber’s anti-technology manifesto in 1995 led to the capture of Theodore Kaczynski, after his brother recognized the style of the text and contacted the FBI. ®