* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we prefer to view the history of science through imaginary dialogues between some of its greatest practitioners. This week Michael Fowler conjures up a conversation between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr about cars. Add in a few asides from Werner Heisenberg and suddenly there are too many variables to keep track of with any certainty. And that, dear friends, is the story of quantum physics!

Einstein v. Bohr

By: Michael Fowler

Lights come up on: the living room of Albert Einstein’s small clapboard house near the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study. It is the winter of 1937. For the last three hours Einstein and Niels Bohr have been sitting together in uncomfortable chairs and continuing their debate, begun at the 1927 Solvay Conference in even worse chairs, about whether objects exist when no one is around to observe them. Einstein, now and then giggling as he draws on an unlit pipe and sips from an empty coffee mug, has been maintaining that of course they do, or why pay to insure them? Meanwhile Bohr has grown increasingly exasperated, to the point of wishing he had bypassed Einstein’s and were frolicking in the indoor pool at the Holiday Inn Express down the road. Why wouldn’t the father of relativity admit that without an observer, there were no objects to speak of at all? Einstein, sensing his guest’s rising irritation, decides to change tacks.

EINSTEIN: I propose a little thought experiment, Niels, to clarify the situation.

BOHR: I smell a trap, Albert. I know your thought experiments can be very subtle. I will need to keep my wits about me so as not to be deceived. But I agree to listen.

EINSTEIN: Excellent. Then imagine my closed garage, right outside at the end of my drive. Now imagine it full of light. Now imagine a single photon escaping through the garage window and striking you in the eye. Now picture what you then see: a brand new Squire Drophead Coupe, yellow, with chromium wire wheels.

BOHR: Are you referring to the 1600 model that has a supercharged engine, a live rear axle, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, and reaches a top speed of 115 mph?

EINSTEIN: Nothing else. It’s out there in my garage. And you forgot to mention the custom dual-pipe exhaust. It’s a gas.

BOHR: A gas? You mean it obeys Boyle’s law of pressure and volume? But look here, Albert, are you licensed to drive in New Jersey?

EINSTEIN: I had my papers airmailed from Berlin. But Niels, you miss the point. The car actually exists in my garage, unobserved.

BOHR: Then let’s go for a spin!

EINSTEIN: Alas, I am too tired at the moment. Let’s share a couple of bowls of ice cream and then have a little nap. I’ll feel more rested then.

BOHR: Ice cream! We don’t serve that in Denmark anymore due to the cone shortage. Do you have sprinkles?

EINSTEIN: No, and no cones either. I have bowls and spoons only.

BOHR: In that unfortunate situation, let’s go on talking a while. I have a thought experiment for you to consider too, my dear Albert, while I continue to ponder your coupe.

EINSTEIN (helping himself to tobacco though his doctor has forbidden it): Shoot.

BOHR: Imagine this time there are two cars. One is your magnificent yellow roadster, sitting at rest in your garage, just as you propose. It really is there, of course?

EINSTEIN: Of course. I said it was, didn’t I?

BOHR: Fine. Now imagine that a second car, a sassy red Bugatti Type 57, approaches your car at half the speed of light.

EINSTEIN: Wait a moment. This Bugatti…does it have a horseshoe grille, thermostatically-controlled engine shutters, a twin-cam engine, and a five-year power-train warranty?

BOHR: It is loaded. It’s got all the bells and whistles and an excellent warranty. And now the astonishing thing…it is mine. I parked it not twenty yards from your door when I arrived this morning to visit you. I bought it as soon as I stepped off the boat today in New York, and drove it here in under an hour, tires smoking.

EINSTEIN: I never thought to inquire how you got here. To think there is a car finer than mine in Princeton, and you are its owner! How the hell much does the Institute pay visiting Danish lecturers, anyway?

BOHR: Easy, my friend. Did you really not anticipate my rejoinder?

EINSTEIN: I demand to see this automobile at once!

BOHR (withdraws a folded magazine from his jacket pocket and tosses it Einstein’s way): That’s the latest issue of American Auto, dated January 1937. You’ll find the car on page 31 just as I described it, except the part about its belonging to me and being parked outside. You’ll agree that in the abstract it’s just as much…a gas, as you say?

EINSTEIN (uses the magazine to swat a large fly that has alit on the wall beside him, then tosses it back to Bohr): Very clever, Niels. You had me going there for a moment. I should have realized that a thought experiment is only a thought experiment.

BOHR: I now claim a ride in that yellow coupe of yours. And if you are too tired to drive, I will take the wheel. (Produces a pair of aviator goggles.) I even brought some goggles with me so I can roll the window down. I always bring a pair when I travel in case I have a chance to fly in a biplane.

EINSTEIN: Um, about the coupe. I confess my garage is empty of all matter, even of light. You see, my friend, I actually did purchase that splendid coupe two days ago, but yesterday decided I couldn’t meet the monthly payments and returned it to the dealership, well within the three-day grace period following purchase. I’m sorry if this news comes as a disappointment. (Glances at his watch.) But if you’ll be patient another few seconds…until three o’clock to be precise…I should have a favorable update for you.

(At three precisely there comes a loud knock on the door. Einstein opens it to reveal Heisenberg, a young red-headed man who speaks in a heavy German accent.)

HEISENBERG (standing in the door):  Dr Einstein? I’m Heisenberg from the car dealership. We spoke the other day about finding you a preowned car after you returned the yellow coupe. Well, professor, I tried to compare the price of the car to the mileage on the odometer, as you requested, and I made an amazing discovery. I can’t specify the mileage without knowing the price you’ll pay, and I can’t specify the price without knowing the car’s mileage. In other words, I can’t give you both the price and the mileage at the same time.

EINSTEIN: I’m willing to pay up to eight hundred dollars for a car with less than a hundred thousand miles on it. What’s so hard about that, Heisenberg?

HEISENBERG: It depends on what’s on the lot, is all I’m saying. But I should have something for you in a day or two.

BOHR (to Einstein): The sole difficulty I detect would be if you insisted on paying only eight hundred dollars for a Drophead Coupe. Think what sorry shape the tranny would be in!

HEISENBERG (taking in the two men): What about a couple of mopeds for four hundred? I can bring them around tomorrow morning.

EINSTEIN and BOHR (together): Deal!

EINSTEIN: As long as they’re flex-fuel.

HEISENBERG: Flex-fuel? Was ist das?

EINSTEIN: Just a little proposal of mine to be published in next month’s Physics Today.

BOHR: It’ll never work.

(As the scientists move on to other topics and Heisenberg exits: blackout.) 

* Happy Halloween from The Big Jewel! The most frightening thing we could come up with this year was something related to the election, from our good friend Jen Spyra. In fact, it scared us into publishing it as a special extra piece, something we never do unless we are good and terrified. Boo!

Paul Ryan Scrolls Through His Netflix Family-Friendly Halloween Suggestions With His 7-Year-Old Son

By: Jen Spyra


This is what you get when you let Emperor Obama have his way with health care, sweetie. One day you walk into an outpatient clinic for a routine tonsillectomy; seven hours and one lightning storm later, you’re sewn up with corpse limbs. Sure, it might be fun to dress up like an undead neuter for a costume party — but just imagine how it would feel to look like Hillary Clinton every single day of the year. Up high, Sam! And pace yourself on the Mellowcreme Harvest Mix. It’s like eating candles.


It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

What’s the name of this movie? “It’s the Great Handout, Middle America?” If I recall, in this “lovable” “family-friendly” “classic,” Linus spends the night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. I’ll crack open the fun-size Milk Duds right now if you know of a clearer analogy for Democrats waiting for some magical economic cure-all while they spend, spend, spend?? Here’s a little tip-or-treat, Sammy: You don’t wait for miracles to happen. You cut arts programming and health care for veterans and make that deficit go bye-bye.


The Addams Family

Sure, they’re creepy and they’re kooky — but what’s more is that they’re unemployed. And I can tell you something else, pal: Uncle Fester, the guy practically raising those kids by himself, ain’t fooling anyone with the bachelor act. You know what a bachelor is, honey. Remember how Mommy’s brother Ricky left Aunt Karen to live with that antiques dealer with the rattail? And Mommy hasn’t let Ricky see you in four years? That’s because he has the same lifestyle as Uncle Fester.



If liberals get their way and sex-ed replaces math and science, kids all over this country will turn kissing-crazy just like the high school hellcats in this movie! Goodbye promise rings, hello adult wrestling in the backseat of foreign hybrids. What’s adult wrestling? Fair question, honey. Adult wrestling is something married men and women do when they’re in love, or when they need a stress valve that also diminishes the likelihood of coronary disease. I don’t know why Mommy makes wrestling noises when she’s alone in the bathtub, no. More Mellowcreme Harvest Mix?


Father of the Bride II

What’s this doing here? No idea. But I do know this: if we didn’t outsource our jobs to robots, maybe Netflix queues would be more intuitive and service would start to mean something in this country. That being said, how hilarious is it when Martin Short leads that mommies-to-be aerobics class? I can’t get enough of Diane Keaton. That’s it, I’m watching this again tonight.



Here we go, the original welfare queen. I’m sorry, honey, but here’s a guy who’s perfected the art of getting free handouts by rattling a chain. And don’t give me that crap about how he’s so friendly — you’d better be friendly if you’re going to live in my house rent-free. Remember how we let Uncle Ricky live in the game room back when Aunt Christie threw him out? Uncle Ricky hung out all day in his robe, just like Casper.


Rosemary’s Baby

Aren’t women great? Finally, a movie that shows how a single mom can triumph, without the help of Big Government, in the face of adversity. A woman with understandable concerns about motherhood decides to keep her baby, raising it with the help of family and friends — not food stamps. It’s a heartwarming tale of self-reliance for young and old alike. Break out the Sno-Caps, kiddo!


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are taking product placement to a whole new level, thanks to our good friend Meg Favreau and her good friend the Hormel Foods Company. Spam. It's a good thing!

Movies Pitched By The Hormel Foods Company

By: Meg Favreau

Nerdy high school junior SOPHIE is bullied by ALL her classmates – she’s too ugly for the popular people, too quiet for the drama kids, and not nerdy enough for the nerds! But while Sophie wants nothing more than to disappear, quite the opposite happens when she’s befriended by the most popular adult in town — the gorgeous, risk-taking LINDA, the woman who delivers the HORMEL MEATS to the school cafeteria. Now, with the power of great foods like HORMEL OVEN READY MEATS and HORMEL SNAC-CUPS behind her, Sophie is going to live her junior year to the fullest – and discover that sometimes, all you need to go from loser to prom queen is a little bit of luck, a whole lot of courage, and a heaping helping of CITRUS LOIN FILET.

After 30 years on the force — 15 as a desk jockey — NYC detective NICK FALLONE is five days away from retirement and looking forward to rekindling things with his estranged wife. But Fallone’s plans take a drastic turn when his wife is found dead, each eye topped with a slice of delicious-yet-healthy HORMEL TURKEY PEPPERONI…and HORMEL-loving Fallone is the prime suspect! On the run from his friends in the force, Fallone is forced to revisit the case that ruined his career — that of the infamous MEATMAN MURDERER, who spent three years torturing Fallone by leaving high-quality products such as HORMEL BLACK LABEL THICK CUT BACON, OVEN ROASTED DELI TURKEY, and ALWAYS TENDER STEW MEAT on his victims. Now Fallone must race against the clock to avenge his wife, find the murderer, and restore the good HORMEL name.

Based on the true story…of American moviegoers loving sports comeback films! Working class kid BENJI HOLMES dreams of playing basketball for Duke — but because of his short stature and smelly off-brand lunchmeat sandwich, the coach laughs him right out of team tryouts. Discover how determination, hard work, and HORMEL SERVICE DELI MEATS HOMELAND HARD SALAMI can turn failure into savory slam-dunk success!

At 32, American expat CYNTHIA drifts through life in Paris, eating charcuterie and watching her marriage to brilliant-but-distant diplomat PATRICK crumble. She’s taken to spending her days in a park, resigned to watching life go by. But one day, it doesn’t go by — life offers her a bag of HORMEL BATONS DE SAUCISSE ET FROMAGE (Hormel Pepperoni and Cheese Stix!), courtesy of unemployed artist HENRI. This touching gift of a casse-croûte sans glucides (“carb-free snack”) sparks a passionate affair between Henri and Cynthia. But when Patrick finds out and wipes Henri’s HORMEL pantry bare, destroying all of his RAGOUT DE BOEUF DINTY MOORE, Cynthia is left facing the question every woman asks herself at some point: “If I can’t find a man with HORMEL products, how will I ever truly find love?”

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…there were HORMEL WRANGLERS SMOKED CHEESE FRANKS! That’s right, George Lucas is improving the original Star Wars trilogy again — this time by adding great HORMEL products!! “I always wanted to include HORMEL products such as CRUMBLED BACON BITS, MILD PEPPERONI (3.5 OZ. SIZE) and MARY KITCHEN REDUCED FAT CORNED BEEF HASH in the original trilogy, but we just didn’t have the technology at the time,” says Lucas. Now, in this explosive re-release, we finally know what Chewbacca is always “Chewie-ing” on — LITTLE SIZZLERS HOT & SPICY BREAKFAST SAUSAGE!! Luke’s entrapment in the Wampa’s cave is even tenser when both his lightsaber and his HERB RUBBED ITALIAN STYLE ROAST BEEF AU JUS are out of reach!! And the end of Empire Strikes Back becomes truly gripping when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father…and that he ate Luke’s last HORMEL COMPLEATS CAFE CREATIONS CREAMY CHICKEN CARBONARA MICROWAVE MEAL!! As the famous phrase now goes, may the “force” be with HORMEL BEEF STEW!!!!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we think so highly of your intelligence that we simply assume you know what "twee" means (hint: it's British for sickeningly sweet). Now that we have that out of the way, put yourself in Paula Lynn Johnson's capable hands.

I Want To Be Your Twee Girlfriend

By: Paula Lynn Johnson

I want to be your twee girlfriend! For Valentine’s Day I’ll knit you a pair of fingerless mittens and send them to you with a bouquet of chocolate lollipops shaped like squirrels. We’ll put on matching aprons and make hot cocoa and drink it out of our sweetly ironic Care Bears mugs. Then we’ll get out our ukuleles and croon soupy love songs while my rabbit, Boopsie, snuggles at our feet.

Let’s be a twee couple! Let’s take photo-booth pictures wearing those whimsical fake moustaches I crocheted! Let’s adopt a hedgehog and name him Prickles and dress him in a teeny-tiny bow tie (or maybe an itsy-bitsy tiara)! Let’s bike through the park — me perched on the handlebars of your vintage Schwinn, the wind rippling through the ripples of my very ripple-ly mermaid-hair. We’ll picnic on cupcakes and blow dandelion wishes and search for clouds that remind us of woodland animals. Then we’ll go back to my place and you’ll throw me down on a stack of toadstool-shaped cushions and make passionate-yet-impish love to me.

And then we’ll take a bubble bath and play some indie pop and…Wait. What? What do you mean you don’t think this is working? But of course you’re “precious” enough, silly! You’re precious to me!

Seriously, I don’t get where you’re going with this. I’m too “cutesy” for you? But I’m not cutesy. I’m a beautiful sprite with a heart full of candy-colored love-sparkles that I will shower down on you if you’d just stop being so difficult. How can you say we have no connection? You liked that tee-shirt I got you, right? The one with the badger wearing the monocle and the top hat? What do you mean you’re not that into woodland animals? Everyone’s into woodland animals! They’re goddamned adorable! Just like me!

Stop right there, mister. Where do you think you’re going? You can’t just ignore me. You can’t just walk away. Because if you do I will destroy you. So help me God, I will rip your gonads off and replace them with the pair of felted wool acorns I just bought on Etsy. I will tear you a new asshole with my ukulele, then stuff that same asshole with a hedgehog, a bow tie, and a very large, very pointy tiara. I’ll file Boopsie’s incisors to a razor-point, then train her on you like a pit bull on a chicken. How’d you like a fuzzy-wuzzy box-cutter straight to the calf? That precious enough for you?

Fine, then. Okay. I accept your apology. Glad you came around. Hugs! Oh my God, honey, you’re shaking! Sweating, too — is my sweet pea sick? Then let’s cuddle in our flannel footie jammies and drink peppermint tea. I’ll wrap my arms around you like the mama pandas hold their baby pandas — tight, tight, tight! So you can’t wander off and get into trouble! Because I wuv you, bitch. You’ll remember that, if you know what’s good for you.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your guide to the world's great travel spots. Well, if you're a feline, anyway. If you're a human we've got nothing for you. Ryan Abbott is the cat's meow and this is his first piece for us.

The Modern Cat’s Guide To Paris

By: Ryan Abbott

Getting There

In the heyday of cat travel, any reasonably adventurous feline could simply saunter up the gangplank of a ferry bound for France, nap for a week in the cargo hold noshing on salty ship rats, then settle into a steamer trunk strapped to the top of a Buick with Paris license plates, et voilà, you were there.

It’s much harder now. By far the easiest way to get to Paris today is in the handbag of a wealthy pop musician or heiress traveling to the city for her or her boyfriend’s band’s tour of the Schengen Area. If you find you want to extend your stay, just pretend to snooze until the heiress goes out for pre-dinner apéritifs at 22:00, then hop out the hotel’s bathroom window (almost always kept open owing to the French obsession with fresh air), and scamper along the ledge until you find a horse chestnut tree or obélisque to climb down to your freedom.

Getting Around

Taxis are prohibitively expensive in Paris and, unless you speak the language, it’s next to impossible to let the driver know where you’re headed. Another option that might seem appealing at first sniff is Vélib, the city-wide bicycle sharing system. Each bike comes with a cat-sized basket at the front that may look like a fun ride, but you’re taking one of your lives into your paws. Drivers in Paris are aggressive, the cobblestone streets make for a bumpy ride, and, worst of all, your fur gets completely blown out.

The best way to explore the City of Light is via the Paris Métro. This underground network of rail lines is a marvel of urban engineering and artistry, with over 300 stations densely packed within the city limits. It’s also a great place to catch and eat mice. Only the chunkiest Maine Coon could not squeeze under the turnstiles or leap over them. The system is renowned for its ease of use — any animal can figure it out. Except dogs, of course.

What To Do

Us cats have access to nearly every attraction in the city. Museums, art galleries, grassy park fields, chimneys — anywhere humans have to pay to enter, or can’t get to at all — for us they’re free. But whatever you do, don’t visit a museum on the first Sunday of the month. They’re packed with people and extra security, making it more likely that you’ll be stepped on or spotted. If caught, you will be asked to leave, sternly.

Tails down, the most popular spot in Paris is the Louvre Museum, which has a seemingly infinite number of surfaces to nap on without being disturbed. It’s so big you could spend weeks clicking down its marble halls, clawing its vertical tapestries and climbing on its slippery sculptures. If you’re planning to mark your territory, don’t bother. Let’s just say every corner of the building has been “spoken for.”

A hidden highlight of the Louvre is the small room on the second floor of the Richelieu Wing that was sealed — except for a Siamese-sized ventilation hole — during a renovation in the 1950s and never re-opened. Today it’s a lovely private salon for cats with a passion for art history and high dust tolerance. On my last visit I had the good fortune of batting around a packet of glorious Louis XV catnip with Mister Mistoffelees, who retired there in the 1980s.

Another must-rub-up-against is the shrine to the cat-centric artist Théophile Steinlen at the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in Montmartre. If you’re walking there after dark, avoid the area around the Pigalle Métro station. It no longer smells of urine.

Where To Eat

I hate to state the obvious, but the food is way, way better in Paris. Not the cat food — that’s the same. Skip the canned stuff and try the local fare: plump smoked salmon from a fallen crêpe, scraps of jambon de Bayonne (it’s like French prosciutto, try it!) from a wailing child’s half-finished baguette, the messy face of a toddler slowly licking a salted-butter caramel ice cream cone.

French cats tend to eat several courses, so why not do the same? Start with an amuse-bouche scrounged from the sidewalks by Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of the city, where human tourists walk slowly while eating, leaving behind a surprisingly succulent spread. Next, head to the Seine to catch fresh carp or eel to go. Thirsty? Slurp the pungent runoff from the ice used to keep fish cool at one of the city’s many sidewalk fishmongers. For dessert, look for a butcher station at one of the outdoor fresh food markets, where you’re sure to find delicious bits of chicken liver and the other raw animal parts that Paris is famous for.

You may be shocked to learn that many Parisian restaurants allow us to wander around untouched. This laissez-faire attitude is what makes the city so attractive to so many cats, drawing us back generation after generation. Like most aspects of French culture, it is deeply rooted in traditions and yet still on display in contemporary life, at places such as Le Café D’Imagination in the 11th arrondissement, the Harry’s New York Bar of the 21st-century hipster expat-cat set. Trust me, it’s not as pretentious as it sounds. There are usually more than a few cute Persian Longhairs or virile Norwegian Forests around to keep it interesting, and plenty of throw rugs to shred. A couple plaintive meows will get you a saucer-full of cream, thick and warm, unpasteurized to perfection. And remember: the tip is always included.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we have boundless respect for the sweet science. Jon Millstein has some words of wisdom for beginning pugilists in this, his first piece for us. Do you know how to take a punchline?

If You Want To Succeed In Boxing, You’ll Have To Turn And Face Your Opponent

By: Jon Millstein

Another loss, huh kid? Don’t sweat it. Martinez is a great fighter. He’s agile as all hell, and he packs a right hook that’ll make you see stars. You’ve got talent too, though, pal. You have what it takes to kick Martinez’s butt — you just need to learn a couple of things from him first. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to fight like the best, and that means turning around so that you’re facing your opponent.

Remember how Martinez oriented his body when he delivered the KO? I’ll remind you, because it might have been hard for you to see. He was facing you straight on. That’s real important, kid. That’s how you win. You can throw punches all day long, but punches don’t count for nothing unless they’re directed at the guy you’re fighting, like Martinez’s were. Landing a solid uppercut is tough. But it’s damn near impossible if your hand is moving away from the other fighter instead of towards him.

Granted, you had a couple of decent hits out there. I saw them. Problem was you were only hitting stuff floating around in the air, moisture and dust and all that, ‘cause you were facing the wrong way. Dust won’t get you the title, kid. The local champ ain’t a floaty piece of dust, and he ain’t the ropes, the crowd, or the referee neither. He’s the guy who knows that if he’s throwing jab after jab and he doesn’t feel his fists smacking against someone else’s body, well, he should turn around. Recognize that, and he could be you.

I know damn well that old habits die hard, and you’ve been fighting like this since you first laced up your gloves. Maybe that’s just how you do things. Maybe you spent too much of your childhood riding in the way-back seat of an old-fashioned station wagon, and it flipped your world around for good. But I’ve seen you outside the ring. Using a computer, opening doors — interacting with things in front of you like it was the easiest thing you ever did. So I know you can move past all this facing-in-the-opposite-direction-than-you-should stuff.

You’ve got your work cut out for you, that’s for sure, but things could be a lot worse. You’re only off on one rotational axis — I’ve coached guys who were off on all three. Ever heard of Ernie “The Worm” Kalinowski? I was the guy who got him to stand up. I took him aside and said, “Look, Ernie, have you ever seen a boxing match? Nobody lies on their face when they do this. You’re tiring yourself out punching the floor like that — it ain’t doing you no good.” I worked with him for eleven years. He was on his feet by the fifth. Sure, his stance wasn’t perfect: he still leaned way forward, and he let his neck hang down so that he looked sort of like a showerhead. But after nine years on the amateur circuit that technique paid off, when old Ernie lost his balance, fell onto another fighter and got so tangled up with him that he nearly won the championship bout.

I’ve got even higher hopes for you, kid. You’ve got real potential. Your footwork, for example, is top-notch. You’ve just got to learn the move where you put one foot over the other, and then use friction to spin yourself 180 degrees. ­­And you sure can take a punch, at least with the back parts of your body. Do it with the front ones and you’ll be twice as good.

Listen: do you know what separates a good boxer from a great boxer? It’s heart. Keeping an eye on one’s competitor, that’s important too, but it ain’t nearly as important as heart. And man, have you got heart. You keep climbing back into that ring, though all that’s waiting for you there is a pain you may not fully understand, and which you certainly don’t know how to defend yourself against. That’s why I know you can be a great boxer. You just need to turn around.

What? Oh. Shoot. I apologize. I thought you were someone else. You look just like him from behind.