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Students explore math, science, culture in Europe

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Student perspective: Touring space and time By Meghan Reha.

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. - A diverse group of Bethel College students explored scientific history and progress over interterm on a whirlwind European tour this January. The 17-day "Math and Science History Tour" course took 12 students and three sponsors--Dwight Krehbiel, professor of psychology, Richard Rempel, professor of mathematics, and Erna Rempel--to Cambridge and London; to Berlin, Leipzig, Göttengen and Heidelberg; and to Paris and Tours.

This was not a homogenous group of scientists. The group was as varied as the places they visited, with majors that included biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, business, art and psychology.

Besides following a rigorous schedule of scientific events, sites and presentations, we had free time to explore the places and cultures in which we were immersed. Much of the personality of the group emerged during these times.

As the first stop on the trip, England was a definite highlight. Full of energy and armed with guidebooks, we took Cambridge by storm. We visited colleges with famous alumni such as Sir Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon, as well as the modern campus devoted to math, where the famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is currently a professor.

We toured not only space but also time. At Cambridge, Newton developed the mathematics of calculus at the end of the 17th century, and Watson and Crick engaged in their groundbreaking research on the structure of DNA in the 1950s.

London offered us a vast array of activities to choose from, too many to take advantage of in our short time there. We did the best we could, however.

We visited the Royal Observatory, a magnificent edifice of both form and function designed by Christopher Wren, that marks the location through which the Prime Meridian (the dividing line between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres) runs. London also boasts the Freud Museum, the National Science Museum and the British Museum, home of the Rosetta Stone, the ancient Egyptian stone tablet that enabled scholars to decode Egyptian hieroglyphics.

London offered a myriad of other entertainment options, such as theater productions of "Chicago" and "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," as well as classical music concerts and an Evensong service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Two students were fortunate enough to get free tickets to see "Cinderella" at the Royal Ballet in London. Others in the group spent an evening riding the tube--the London Underground--to famous places like Abbey Road, 221b Baker St. and Paddington Station.

After London came Berlin, where the most memorable stop was the Jewish Museum. There we saw a powerful and gripping portrayal not only of the Holocaust, but of Jewish history as a whole. The building has three permanent memorials--the Holocaust Tower, the Void of Memory and the Garden of Exile--each reminding us of history that should never be forgotten.

Berlin was more challenging for the group because of language and culture. No one in the group spoke conversant German, so just ordering food in a restaurant was humbling.

Visiting other cities in Germany provided fascinating scientific and cultural insights as well. In both Leipzig and Göttengen, the group toured modern laboratories. The contrast between the technology being used there and the historical instruments we studied was amazing. We realized that technology has progressed at an unbelievable rate and allowed so many remarkable discoveries.

From Germany, we took a night train to Paris which, like London, was chock full of things to do. Despite our efforts, we could not do everything.

Individually or in groups, we roamed all over the city to visit the Louvre, the Museé d’Orsay, Notre Dame and the Moulin Rouge, to name just a few places. Language was again a challenge, though in a different way. In Germany, we had fewer language skills, but the Germans we met spoke a significant amount of English. In France, the French we met spoke less English, but Prof. Krehbiel, who is fluent in French, made up the difference.

We ended the trip in the charming city of Tours, in the Loire Valley, home of many famous chateaux. These places were as fascinating as was the history that went along with them.

One might think French castles quite removed from science and math, but in fact, one of them was the last home of Leonardo da Vinci. Also near Tours, we visited the agricultural research station where Prof. Krehbiel worked several years ago studying maternal behavior in sheep.

Perhaps the longest running debate in the group was which city was the best. Each city we visited won out in one area or another. It is safe to say that each stop on our tour yielded fascinating and educational information about science and mathematics, and perhaps even more insight regarding history and culture, both European and our own.

Meghan Reha is a sophomore from Tiskilwa, Ill.

Other students participating were seniors Travis Friesen, Aurora, Neb., Kelley O’Reilly, Mt. Lake, Minn.. Daniel Paul Regier, Newton, and Lauren Symmonds, Emporia; and juniors Joel G. Gaeddert, Leawood, Joseph Haviland, Newton, Vicki J. Koehn, Halstead, Joel D. Krehbiel, Moundridge, Abe Regier, Newton, Daniel Unruh, Peabody, and Eunice Voth, Newton.

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