In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that cities may compel nude dancers to don a G-string and pasties as a way of combating nude dancing's "negative secondary effects." Name one.
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Wednesday's Question (No. 407)—"Pro and Convocation":
Physicists and historians gathered in New York City Monday to try to answer a question that has confounded them for 50 years. What question?
"What combination of pressure and temperature would be required to create a Manhattan studio apartment that rents for less than $1,200 a month?"—Mark Romoser
"Why the hell don't we hold these meetings in Vegas?"—Brooke Saucier (Steve Menard had a similar answer.)
"How does Kitty Carlisle (the Widow Hart) remain so vibrant and sassy in her fossilized state?"—Larry Amoros
"I don't know, but I bet six beer companies will try to make an ad out of it."—Alison Rogers
"Dammit! Where's my Julius and Ethel Rosenberg joke book when I need it? It was just here ..."—Mark Wade
Click for more answers.
The question in question is dramatized to great effect in Copenhagen, the Michael Frayn play that speculates about Werner Heisenberg's actual wartime meeting with the Danish physicist Neils Bohr. It's currently in previews at New York's Royale Theatre, and it's wonderful. (Four Stars, raves News Quiz.) This raises the more baffling question: Why aren't more Broadway plays about physics? Imagine Bernadette Peters in Annie Get Your Profound Insight Into Gravity as a Fundamental Force of the Universe. (It sounds a little complicated, so perhaps the poster designer should concentrate on the fact that Newton rhymes with "rootin' tootin'," and that Ms. Peters will wear a lot of low-cut gowns.) The big Act 1 song, "Love = Mass X Acceleration," kind of suggests that Bernadette Peters is in love with some big fat guy who's running right at her and somebody is going to get hurt. But that's love for you. The pain. The tears. The way your heart gets all bent out of shape when it passes through the prism of something or other. And after all, with Cats closing, people have got to go somewhere. If you cock your head, you can almost hear cars full of theatergoers heading for the Long Island Expressway. I believe my Aunt Mildred is in one of those cars. Probably a Buick. That travels at the speed of light. To Bloomingdales.
Pro and Con Fusion Answer
Was Germany's failure to build an atomic bomb during World War II a result of Werner Heisenberg's deliberately thwarting the effort, or was he simply unable to create this weapon?
Historians attending the meeting found little evidence that Heisenberg, the leader of Germany's atomic team, ever expressed moral scruples about building the bomb until Germany collapsed, and he was attempting to ingratiate himself with the victorious Allies. Taking the contrary view, some scientists, many of whom knew Heisenberg and worked on the Manhattan Project, argued that despite Nazi pressure, he never tried very hard to build a bomb. And when you invited him over to the house for dinner, he always brought along a nice bottle of wine.
Metaphor or …? Extra
Which of the following expressions from recent news stories is literal and which is figurative?
- "Shot a dog"
- "Heart-stopping white lightning"
- "Bears wandering around with arrows in them."
- "New soup initiative"
- "Mesmerized by Clinton"
- "Squirrels in the woods"
- "At no time did the sock puppet hawk dog food"
- Literal. This is a detail from the police record of Anthony Vasquez, an infraction early in his career. He is the NYPD detective who also shot an unarmed man, Patrick Dorismond.
- Figurative. Although the moonshine business is thriving in Appalachia, the stuff they're brewing isn't white, isn't lightning, and probably will only damage your heart, not actually stop it.
- Literal. For the first time since 1971, New Jersey has proposed a bear-hunting season, open to shotgun and bow-and-arrow hunters. Nina Austenberg of the Humane Society objects, saying, "I can't imagine what's going to happen in terms of incidents with the public if we have bears wandering around …" (How much better if it meant political candidates with crippling baggage, like Republican congressmen known for their support of the NRA.)
- Literal. David Johnson, former CEO of slumping Campbell Soup, is returning to the helm of the troubled company. Financial analysts expect that Johnson will help sell the company rather than make modest changes: "He is not coming back to launch a new soup initiative."
- Figurative. But not in a bad way. Shobha De, an Indian columnist, was describing his country's inexplicable fondness for our president: "India is mesmerized by Clinton. He's cast a spell. Even the sanest of people have lost their reason."
- Literal. "We shot about two dozen squirrels in the woods," said Ralph Wilkerson, attending a Wild Game Tasting buffet at Joelton First Baptist Church to benefit an evangelical group that reaches out to Christian hunters. (Would make a nice line in a new verse to "Lady Be Good"—I'm just a squirrel who's lost in the woods …")
- Literal, although this coinage by the New York Times' Leslie Kaufman would make a great figure of speech, indicating that while someone had been bad, they'd not been as bad as possible. For instance, it might mean that while the NYPD has shot many unarmed black men recently, they've not firebombed any churches. The actual story describes how the lovable puppet mascot of Pets.com, a company in which Disney holds a stake, has been making frequent appearances on ABC, the parent company of Disney, without anyone noting the corporate connection. Bad dog.
The hell of New York City, the physics of a bad haircut.