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THE TUCK SHOP

Scene

A few recent visitors to campus:
Pierre De Gennes
Pioneer in development of liquid crystal displays for watches and laptop computers; 1991 Nobel Prize winner in physics.

Steven Sharfstein,
President and CEO of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital
Baltimore Maryland

SECRET LIFE: THE CATHEDRAL OF LEARNING LIBRARY

Pitt's 26-year old Hillman Library is looking to expand to releive overcrowding. Still, older alums will remember the original library in the Cathedral of Learning. Overcrowding was a problem there, too --but not so much with books as with people, jammed shoulder-to-shoulder in an archaic book-retrieval system that looked more like food lines behind the Iron Curtain than academic research.

To get a book from the old library, students had to sheck te card catalog on the fourth floor, write down the call numbers, then hand their requests to the librarian at the circulation desk. They were then given a number and told to wait while the library clerk sent the request through a pneumatic tube to a messinger on the fourth floor. A runner would track the book and ship it back upstairs on a dumbwaiter. The student's number would light up on an overhead light board. The student would then fill out a circulation card and have the book stamped with a return date. Voila! What could be simpler?

The clumsy system took its toll. Scholars of all stripes were denied the chance to browse in search of other sources. Librarians spent tedious time sorting cards, mailing overdue notices, and unloading books. And the books cooked year 'round-- either summer sun or winter's steam heat.

You camn imagine the change when Hillman opened in 1968, offering open shelves for browsing, plus study rooms and air conditioning.

The old library did have a certain charm --oak furniture and woodwork, padded chairs. and when it closed, there went the students' best excuse: "Sorry, Professor, I was waiting for Odysseus to come up from the fourth floor."

Q&A

How black is the night?

"Why is the night sky dark? This question has profound cosmological consequences.

"Let us start with the premise that the universe is uniformly populated with stars. Mathematically, then, with the light from the stars coming in at every angle, one would expect the night sky to be bright. This is known as Olbers' Paradox, named after a nineteenth-century astronomer.

"Cosmologists have provided two ways out of this contradiction. First, the universe has a finite age. This implies that the light from stars beyond a certain distance (called the cosmic event horizon) does not have sufficient time to reach us. In other words, the time that it would take for the light from these stars to reah us is greater than the age of the universe itself. The second explanation has to do with the ever-expanding nature of the universe. Because of expansion, the light we detect on Earth will have less eergy than when it left the surfaces of those distant stars."

--Lincoln Lee, doctoral candidate
Department of Physics and Astronomy

MOTHER OF INVENTION

In the anthology Did My Mama Like to Dance? (Avon Books, 1994), editor and Pitt English instructor Geeta Kothari writes about her own upbringing-- and the art of storytelling:

When I think of life with my mother, I remember flying...On SwissAir one year, my sister and I, no more than six and nine, were traveling to India with my mother. My mother had somehow arranged for us to have an extra seat attached to our row, so that we could stretch out and sleep more comfortably. [But] once we were airborne, she was told, "Sorry, but there isn't room."

My mother pressed her lips together. Her pale face taut, she made a big show of rearranging our things...it seemed like the whole place was staring at us, watching my huffy, restless mother.

I don't know if she slept that night; I must have, as did my sister, with her head in my mother's lap and her feet in my face. I remember my mother's frustration, but I didn't understand. Why was she being so unreasonable?

When i call my mother, more than 20 years later, to ask for clarification, I get a different story. My sister was a baby, no more than a few months old. My mother had asked for us to be seated in the row before the bulkhead, where she could set up a bassinet. However, this row had been assigned to "that woman with too much jewelry." These were the days before airlines took any interest in children, especially if their parent was a woman in a sari.

"But that's not the same story," I say. I tell her my version.

"That's ridiculous." She laughs. "You can't put an extra seat in the aisle. There's no room"

...And so I've invented a story that memorializes my mother, who asked for things that were not possible...I feel an urgency to record the pieces of our life together, while understanding that no matter how hard I try, there will be things left unspoken or unasked.

CLIMBING THE UTILITY POLL

A history of Pitt's utility rates, compiled for the 1995 Annual Fund Campaign. (For comparison, current dollars appear in parentheses.)

Quarterly water bill, Lothrop Hall--1955: $565.08 ($3, 129.01)
1995: $9,972.24

Monthly steam bill, Allen Hall--1955: $135.90 ($752.52)
1995: $4,029.60

Monthly electric bill, Cathedral of Learning-- 1955: $4,266.17 ($23,623.06)
1995:$34,577.87

IN GLASS QUIZ

Which of the following figures does not appear in the stained class windows of Heinz Chapel?

W. A. Mozart
John Henry Cardinal Newman
Brother Sun, Sister Moon,
Edward Litchfield
Joseph of Arimathea
Dorothea Dix
Grover Cleveland
Louis Pasteur
Heathcliff

Answer: Edward Litchfield
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