Famous Wagers

By:
mmfolwer@fuse.net

In 1975, cosmologist Stephen Hawking bet fellow cosmologist Kip Thorne a subscription to Penthouse magazine for Thorne against four years of Private Eye for Hawking that Cygnus-1 would turn out not to be a black hole. (It was, so Hawking lost.) — Wikipedia

In 300 BC, Greek mathematician and engineer Archimedes bet some olive merchant that, by use of a simple machine called a catapult, he could hurl 500 pounds of olives all at once half a mile into the sea. The stakes were a Grecian urn depicting a buxom shepherdess for the olive merchant against a ticket to a comedy by Hegemon of Thasos that featured highly amusing hexameters for Archimedes. (The mathematician did it, so the merchant lost.)

In 1670, physicist Isaac Newton bet fellow scientist Robert Hooke that white light was composed of colors. The stakes were a collection of 500 handwritten satirical Irish limericks for Newton against a packet of 100 suggestive French silhouettes scissored from black paper for Hooke. (Newton got his limericks, so light must be composed of colors.)

In 1965, playwright Samuel Beckett bet fellow playwright Harold Pinter that the next winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature would be the American Terry Southern for his novel Candy. The stakes were a subscription to Juggs magazine for Beckett against a subscription to Cracked magazine for Pinter. (Southern didn’t receive the prize, so Beckett must have lost.)

In 1969, Dr. Michael DeBakey told fellow cardiac surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley that he, DeBakey, would perform the first artificial heart implant. He offered Cooley a subscription to Screw magazine if anyone beat him, provided that Cooley buy him a subscription to National Lampoon magazine if he, DeBakey, performed the surgery first. Cooley, in a coup still talked about in medical circles, scheduled DeBakey to perform a routine appendectomy while he, Cooley, stepped in and performed the groundbreaking procedure. Thus began a feud between the two physicians that lasted 40 years. So outraged was DeBakey that he cancelled Cooley’s subscription to Screw, and substituted twelve issues of Big ‘Uns magazine, thinking Cooley wouldn’t enjoy it as much. (Cooley got really upset, so he probably didn’t.)

In 1972, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger bet Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai that Nixon knew enough Chinese to order duck in a Peking restaurant. At risk were 12 copies of Mao’s Little Red Book for Kissinger, and a subscription to Perky Bits magazine for Chou. Chou, who said he valued Perky Bits for its farming advice, perhaps misunderstood the stakes. Moreover, as Nixon ordered duck in flawless Mandarin, Chou got a glimpse of Perky Bits in Kissinger’s briefcase and a crisis unfolded. On the grounds that he, Chou, had really wanted General Tso’s Chicken, and that Nixon’s duck order was a setup, Chou refused to receive the magazine, calling the periodical “mean-spirited and exploitative” and the models “too flat-chested.” Even though he had won the original bet, a quick-thinking Kissinger instead air-expressed twelve issues of Heavy Hangers to Chou. (No arms race resulted, so the Premier must have been pleased.)

In 2014, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia bet fellow Justice Stephen Breyer that before 2016 the court would hold a hearing on the constitutionality of surveillance by the National Security Agency. At stake is a subscription to Spicy Detective magazine for Scalia against a subscription to High Times magazine for Breyer. The bet has not yet been settled, so no reward has been paid out. The wager is further complicated by Spicy Detective, a periodical Scalia that enjoyed in his college days, having gone out of print. Breyer has said that if Nino, as he calls Justice Scalia, eventually wins, he will instead buy him a subscription to Eager Teasers. Breyer says that any fan of Spicy Detective, no matter how conservative, should enjoy Eager Teasers, providing only that it, too, is still in print. With a wink, Breyer adds that if Eager Teasers magazine is no longer in publication, Nino will have to settle for a subscription to Cellulite Bottoms magazine. (Breyer isn’t positive that Cellulite Bottoms is still published, but he browsed through an issue at the barbershop only last Thursday, so maybe it is.)

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