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Mary's Ghost

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


It’s around 2 a.m. The library has already closed, and you have four more pages to go on a paper about sentimentality in the fiction of Mary Wollstonecraft. So you set up your laptop and a veritable tower of books in

the living room of Mears Cottage on the south side of campus. The Victorian-style, English and history house has a comfortable feeling, with glowing incandescent lights and couches for when four o’clock rolls around and sleep becomes nothing short of inevitable.

“I really should have started this essay sooner,” you think to yourself, right before the elevator doors in the hallway open of their own accord.

And there’s no one inside.

Of course there’s no one inside. There’s no one in the building. Only the emergency lights had been on when you pulled open the door, slouched down the hall, and plopped your backpack down in the living room. Of course there’s no one in the building. Some wires must have tripped.

You go back to your paper.

A noise makes you stop.

Even a building this old shouldn’t creak that loud in the wind.

Named after Mary Grinnell Mears, Grinnell class of 1881 and daughter of J.B. Grinnell, Mears Cottage housed the College’s female students back when it was originally built in 1888. Within these walls, the women lived and learned and walked — yes, those are definitely footsteps above you. Quiet creaks, but definitely footsteps. The glass doors to the academic support office begin rattling and then the elevator door opens again.


“If I were Mary Mears,” you decide, staring determinedly at your computer screen and trying hard not to look into the bright compact-fluorescent emptiness glaring from that spot in the hallway as the doors ding closed, “and if an elevator were installed in my cottage years after I died, I’d probably let my ghost play with it, too.” At least, late at night after all the professors went home.

Somehow that thought doesn’t help you focus on your paper. You flip idly through the Mary Wollstonecraft biography on the top of your book pile, but that’s not the Mary you’re thinking about. J.B. Grinnell is buried in the town’s cemetery, but what about his daughter? You don’t know anything about how his daughter died.

Is that the sound of fabric swishing? Like, petticoat fabric?

Maybe you should go upstairs, just walk around, you know, to check it out. As a study break. Stretch your legs. See if anyone’s studying in that classroom above you. Maybe they turned the lights off to take a quick nap.

The creaking and the swishing falls into an oppressive silence as you climb the stairs, clicking your pen nervously to create some sort of sound. Click (silence) click-click (silence) click (silence). As you pass the elevator shaft on the second floor landing, it dings open once again. You could have touched the ceiling, you jumped so high. It takes you a while to retrieve your pen from where it flew behind the chair outside of Professor Lobban-Viravong’s office.

The door to the classroom is locked, and when you knock, no one answers. Even when you pound on the door and yell something about this not being funny. But let’s admit, it kind of is. As you descend the steps once more, your hands are shaking, probably from the frappachinos you drank around 11 p.m. Definitely not from anything else.

When you return to the living room, all of your books have been spread out around your chair, the covers systematically opened to the title page. Someone’s underlined the same word on each of the white pages: Mary … Mary … Mary …

Your computer’s crashed — the blue screen of death.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major and Gender and Women's Studies concentrator from Madison, Wisconsin.

An Excerpt from Immortal Emilie

Tue, 2010-03-16 03:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)
Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet,

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Galaxy of Images

by Erika Graham ’10

You call me to you, vast and powerful mind,

Minerva of France, immortal Emilie

I awake at your voice, I march to your insights,

In the footsteps of virtues and of the truth.

Emilie was a very unusual woman.

Her full name was Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet, because when she was born in 1706, all French nobles had names longer than themselves! That’s why we’ll call her Emilie. But it wasn’t her name that made her unusual.

It was unusual for a woman born in 1706 to grow up to become a physicist.

But Emilie was unusual. Her father made sure that she got a good education before she got married, and she was able to learn advanced math from some of the best teachers around.

By 1734, she had a castle, Cirey, and she filled one huge room with instruments of all kinds, mathematical, physical, chemical, astronomical, mechanical, and so on. Scientific visitors thought they were dreaming to be in such a room. And Emilie welcomed many scientists to her home.

At Emilie’s castle in Cirey, her visitors worked with her on science, doing experiments and discussing all kinds of theories about the world.

After all, in France in 1734, science — especially physics — was one of the biggest issues of the day. Everyone loved to talk about it, but no one was quite sure how the universe worked:

Why do things fall?

How do things move?

And, while we’re at it,

What makes a thing a thing?

Or rather, everyone was sure how the universe worked. They just didn’t agree.

Mostly, people divided up into teams, with competing ideas about physics. In France, the star player was René Descartes (you say that day-CART). He lived from 1596 to 1650, and had a lot to say about the world.

What did he think? He thought about thinking. Humans are reasonable creatures, so everything could be explained if we just think about it enough. We call this rationalism.

To understand physics, Descartes asked people to think about an imaginary world along with him:

Allow your thought to wander beyond this world to view another, wholly new, world. Let us suppose so much matter all around us that, in whatever direction our imagination may extend, it no longer sees any place that is empty.

Then, thinking about this new world, you could figure out its physics. If all this matter, all the stuff in the new universe, was stirred up like a giant mixing bowl, what would happen? Everything would start moving around, some parts faster, others slower. After a while, things would settle down to look like — THIS.

Since the universe is filled up, nothing moves anywhere without pushing other things away, and those things have to push other bits from their places, and this pushing and shoving continues endlessly. And so, said Descartes, everything moves around in circles. There is no room to spare in the universe, so whenever one part of space wants to shift even a little bit, a whole chain of things has to get moving.

This was a fictional universe, but he said that things worked the same way in our world too. That’s why the solar system chases itself around in a circle. That’s how air fills back in behind an object moving through it.

And that’s the way he found ideas to explain the world; he took a thought that everyone could agree on, then explored what the results had to be. Human reason was pure, not bothered by all the sorts of inaccuracies caused by mistakes in our senses or our measurements. As he said, since we are taking the liberty of imagining this matter as we fancy, let us attribute to it, if we may, a nature in which there is absolutely nothing that everyone cannot know as perfectly as possible.

With the mind, everyone can understand physics. But not everyone agreed, including Isaac Newton.

He was the champion physicist of England, born in 1642 — so he was just 8 when Descartes died. But that didn’t stop him from arguing with Descartes once got old enough. He called Descartes’ physics absurd, fiction, and repugnant to reason. (Physicists could be quite badly behaved back then.) All the universe spinning in circles? Never!

He also didn’t like Descartes’ habit of imagining, either — that wasn’t how science should work! Rationalists were dreamers.

So what did he think? He thought about looking.

The world exists right here in front of our eyes, so why bother making up a fictional world, with the weird sort of physics Descartes threw in, when you could see and change and discover everything that was real? Certainly idle fancies ought not to be fabricated recklessly against the evidence of experiments. Newton liked watching the world. Newton liked experiments. And his experiments taught him that Descartes had it wrong.

He definitely disagreed with Descartes’ hypothesis of vortices, the system where everything in the universe formed into giant whirlpools of matter, including our solar system. Why did he disagree? Because he could see that the planets weren’t moving the way they should.

If the planets went around the sun in one large whirl, and also moved in the center of their own circle of motion because of the matter they pushed aside, they would have to move at a certain speed and go around the sun in a certain amount of time.

Unfortunately for Descartes, they didn’t.

Comets also helped convince Newton that Descartes was wrong. A swirl moving around the sun as evenly as Descartes thought was no place to go finding objects which cut out a strange path. But comets come and go quickly, at odd angles, and certainly aren’t moving in the same kind of orbits as the rest of the planets.

Descartes, for all his logic, had to be wrong.

But not everyone thought so. In fact, most people in France didn’t agree with Newton. They thought he didn’t understand.

Where was his logic?

Where were his causes?

Newton had taken away Descartes’ circles and hadn’t said why. He told people what he saw around him, and talked of forces and motion, but he gave no reason why his system had to be any better than Descartes’.

And, after all, Newton was only an Englishman.

What? Why does that matter?

You may well ask. After all, England and France aren’t all that far apart — doesn’t physics work the same way in both places? If you throw a stone in France, it will hit the ground as well as in England. Ask anyone.

Unfortunately, France and England hadn’t gotten along for a very long time; after the French thought they’d won the physics prize with Descartes, it was hard to let some newcomer take it away.

So, for a while, physics did work differently in France and England — and most of the rest of Europe, for that matter.

Newton died in 1727. Descartes was already long gone. But everywhere, people continued to argue over who was right. Now everyone called physics repugnant to reason and other nasty names — well, the physics they didn’t believe in, anyhow.

Things were getting out of control.

In tough economic times, Grinnell College moderates tuition increase

Thu, 2009-12-31 10:39 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Grinnell College will raise its comprehensive fee for the 2009 -10 academic year 3 percent to $45,012 - the same percentage increase in Grinnell’s comprehensive fee as last year, the two lowest percentage increases in more than a decade.

“In what are now very difficult economic times, Grinnell has sought to reduce and contain expenses, while continuing to provide excellent educational opportunities,” said Russell K. Osgood, president.

Grinnell’s board of trustees approved the new comprehensive fee at its February meeting. The budget reflects a commitment to the hallmarks of a Grinnell education – a low student-to faculty ratio, generous financial aid, and enrichment opportunities and programs such as student-faculty research, internships and study abroad programs.

“We recognize the economic uncertainties many families face, and have increased institutional funding for
financial aid,” said Osgood, adding,

“If a family’s financial circumstances have changed, I encourage them to work with our financial aid office to see whether they qualify for additional aid.”

Breakdown of Comprehensive Fee Components

    FY 2009   FY 2010   % Increase
Tuition   $34,932   $35,976   3.0%
Fees   496   500   0.8%
Total Tuition & Fees   $35,428   $36,476   3.0%
Room   $ 3,838   $ 3,968   3.4%
Board   $ 4,434   $ 4,568   3.0%
Total Comprehensive Fee   $43,700   $45,012   3.0%


Class of 2014 Begins to Take Shape

Thu, 2009-12-31 10:30 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Grinnell College's class of 2014 is already beginning to take shape. In mid-December, students who applied in the first round of Early Decision learned whether or not they had been admitted. Although these admitted students comprise less than a quarter of the class that will come to Grinnell in August, they are a noteworthy group. In addition to being exceptional students and talented individuals, they…

  • Hail from 21 states, including: California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia.
  • Hold citizenship from nine other countries, including: Norway, China, Tanzania, Argentina, Greece, and Myanmar.
  • Play soccer, baseball, basketball, football, and tennis, as well as swimming, and running track and cross country.
  • Attend public, private and parochial schools. Live in big cities (New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Houston, Beijing, and Chicago) and small towns (Phelan, Viroqua, Wrightwood, Elkhorn, and Alden).
  • Include artists, musicians, and actors.
  • Plan to pursue a variety of majors, including: chemistry, economics, philosophy, English, psychology, history, Spanish, and biology.
  • Have written books and learned to hang-glide, are jugglers, can solve Rubik's Cube with blazing speed, attended culinary school, and have performed service work around the world.

Bruce is MWC Swimming and Diving Performer of the Week

Mon, 2009-11-23 00:00 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Grinnell College's Kelly Bruce '12 has been named the Midwest Conference Women's Swimming and Diving Performer of the Week.

Bruce, from Middleton, Wis. (Middleton HS), earned an NCAA provisional standard in one-meter diving when she scored 259.50 in six dives at a home dual meet with Loras College Friday. She not only won that event, but claimed victory in three-meter diving, as well.

For the season, Bruce has won five diving crowns in three dual meets. She set the school record for one-meter diving (11 dives) last season with a score of 420.45.

The Male Performer of the Week is Alex Marks of Lake Forest College.

Mendoza named to All-Central Region squad

Sun, 2009-07-26 00:00 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Grinnell College shortstop Ben Mendoza '09 has been named to the ABCA/Rawlings All-Central Region Baseball Team.Mendoza, from Gallup, N.M., (Eldorado HS), was a Third Team selection. He led the Midwest Conference in doubles with 21 and was also first in the nation in doubles per game with 0.66. He ranked fourth in the MWC in runs scored with 38 and fifth in steals with 21.Mendoza was one of nine MWC players selected to the first, second or third teams.

2009 ABCA All-Central Region.pdf