A famous photograph

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“I'm getting fat. Eat like a pig and smile while I talk is all I'm expected to do these days.”
“I know what you mean, Wolf. I'm constantly going to receptions and banquets. I'm not allowed to say no. But you should try these crepes. Not bad for being Swedish.”
Pauli didn't need further encouragement from his friend Bohr to grab one of the crepes. The reception at the inauguration of the Institute of Physics in Lund was well attended but the couple knew that as long as they talked with a serious face, nobody was going to dare to interrupt. The famous guests of honor could be deriving a new law of physics, as far as anybody knew.
“I used to be in very good shape. Did I tell you I was an athlete when I was young?”
“Yes, you told me the story, Neils. You were a goalkeeper for a professional football team. The King even greeted you as a famous football player when you became a Professor at the University of Copenhagen.”
“But the real good player was my brother Harald, the mathematician. He played in the Olympics for Denmark.”
“That's foreign to me. I never played any sport.”
“None, Wolfgang?”
“Well, except if you count peg tops. I was the neighborhood champion. Really boss.”
“Is that so? Harald and myself played a lot of top battles when we were kids.”
“I would have crushed you, Neil. I once split two tops in a row.”
“That's very impressive! I don't remember any top completely splitting. I thought it was just a playground legend.”
“I must've split more than a hundred,” said Pauli proudly.
“One hundred thirty seven, perhaps?” Bohr smiled.
“Ha, ha! That would have been a nice number.”
They could not refrain from laughing, even though the action could incite others to come over.
“See, you were splitting Bose tops into Fermi tops.”
“Ganz Falsch!”
“Perhaps that early experience foreshadowed your discovery of the quantum number for the spin of electrons.”
“Mmm. When it came up in my dreams, Doctor Jung did not give it much importance.”
Bohr arched his left eyebrow. Psychotherapy was not his cup of tea. He tried to stir the conversation in another direction.
“Believe it or not, the reason I didn't leave physics to become a football player were spinning tops.”
“It was my first year of college and I had become frustrated with physics. Perhaps I was trying to absorb too much too fast. Or perhaps it had to do with the girls. They understood a football player better than a physicist.”
“Getting involved with women is bad for physics. I know from experience.”
“Ahem. Anyway, I went to Professor Christiansen's office ready to tell him I was not going to take his class the following semester after all. But before I could say anything, he got this out of his pocket.”
Bohr searched the right pocket of this dark suit coat and clumsily brought out a little finger top which his big hand made look even smaller.
“A wendekreisel!” Pauli recognized it.
“Yes, a tippe top. I had never seen one before that day. When he spun it on the table and it flipped over all on its own, I was amazed. And then the professor told me, 'It seems impossible doesn't it? Especially if you know a little physics. But of course, physics will explain it if you look hard enough.' At that moment I decided that I HAD to know. Knowing how things work is my thing.”
“How interesting! And you even kept that top all these years. Incredible!”
“Yeah, it's kind of like my physics charm.”
“You know, I've never seen one flip over in person.”
“What? Really? Let's try it right now. This tile floor should be fine.”
“I bet it doesn't work. Have you heard of the Pauli effect?”
“Don't worry, I was an experimental physicist before becoming a theoretical one.”
“The Pauli effect has sabotaged the best experiments.”
Bohr just smiled, bent down, and snapped his fingers, sending the top spinning on the floor. Pauli crouched to watch the top up close.
Just then a camera flash went off.
“Damn, Neils! This pose of us will stay recorded for posterity.”
“Oh, what the hey! We're still kids inside, aren't we, Wolf?”
“Yes, quite right.”

About the Author: 
The famous photograph of Bohr and Pauli bending over a tippe top inspired me for this story. It is in the AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives: http://photos.aip.org/history/Thumbnails/pauli_wolfgang_c4.jpg By the way, Bohr and his brother were indeed football players. Carl Jung did interpret Pauli's dreams.

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Quantum Theories

V is for ... Virtual particles

Quantum theory’s uncertainty principle says that since not even empty space can have zero energy, the universe is fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs that pop in and out of existence. These “virtual” particles are the source of Hawking radiation.

H is for ... Hawking Radiation

In 1975, Stephen Hawking showed that the principles of quantum mechanics would mean that a black hole emits a slow stream of particles and would eventually evaporate.

S is for ... Schrödinger Equation

This is the central equation of quantum theory, and describes how any quantum system will behave, and how its observable qualities are likely to manifest in an experiment.

A is for ... Act of observation

Some people believe this changes everything in the quantum world, even bringing things into existence.

C is for ... Computing

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now.

A is for ... Alice and Bob

In quantum experiments, these are the names traditionally given to the people transmitting and receiving information. In quantum cryptography, an eavesdropper called Eve tries to intercept the information.

M is for ... Multiverse

Our most successful theories of cosmology suggest that our universe is one of many universes that bubble off from one another. It’s not clear whether it will ever be possible to detect these other universes.

O is for ... Objective reality

Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, said there is no such thing as objective reality. All we can talk about, he said, is the results of measurements we make.

G is for ... Gravity

Our best theory of gravity no longer belongs to Isaac Newton. It’s Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. There’s just one problem: it is incompatible with quantum theory. The effort to tie the two together provides the greatest challenge to physics in the 21st century.

D is for ... Decoherence

Unless it is carefully isolated, a quantum system will “leak” information into its surroundings. This can destroy delicate states such as superposition and entanglement.

L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, this machine is smashing apart particles in order to discover their constituent parts and the quantum laws that govern their behaviour.

M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

Some researchers think the best way to explain the strange characteristics of the quantum world is to allow that each quantum event creates a new universe.

R is for ... Randomness

Unpredictability lies at the heart of quantum mechanics. It bothered Einstein, but it also bothers the Dalai Lama.

B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

At extremely low temperatures, quantum rules mean that atoms can come together and behave as if they are one giant super-atom.

Z is for ... Zero-point energy

Even at absolute zero, the lowest temperature possible, nothing has zero energy. In these conditions, particles and fields are in their lowest energy state, with an energy proportional to Planck’s constant.

I is for ... Information

Many researchers working in quantum theory believe that information is the most fundamental building block of reality.

A is for ... Atom

This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.

T is for ... Tunnelling

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P is for ... Planck's Constant

This is one of the universal constants of nature, and relates the energy of a single quantum of radiation to its frequency. It is central to quantum theory and appears in many important formulae, including the Schrödinger Equation.

E is for ... Entanglement

When two quantum objects interact, the information they contain becomes shared. This can result in a kind of link between them, where an action performed on one will affect the outcome of an action performed on the other. This “entanglement” applies even if the two particles are half a universe apart.

F is for ... Free Will

Ideas at the heart of quantum theory, to do with randomness and the character of the molecules that make up the physical matter of our brains, lead some researchers to suggest humans can’t have free will.

T is for ... Teleportation

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S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

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I is for ... Interferometer

Some of the strangest characteristics of quantum theory can be demonstrated by firing a photon into an interferometer: the device’s output is a pattern that can only be explained by the photon passing simultaneously through two widely-separated slits.

U is for ... Universe

To many researchers, the universe behaves like a gigantic quantum computer that is busy processing all the information it contains.

W is for ... Wave-particle duality

It is possible to describe an atom, an electron, or a photon as either a wave or a particle. In reality, they are both: a wave and a particle.

X is for ... X-ray

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W is for ... Wavefunction

The mathematics of quantum theory associates each quantum object with a wavefunction that appears in the Schrödinger equation and gives the probability of finding it in any given state.

C is for ... Cryptography

People have been hiding information in messages for millennia, but the quantum world provides a whole new way to do it.

R is for ... Radioactivity

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S is for ... Superposition

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Q is for ... Quantum biology

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D is for ... Dice

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Q is for ... Qubit

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R is for ... Reality

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G is for ... Gluon

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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N is for ... Nonlocality

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J is for ... Josephson Junction

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P is for ... Probability

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L is for ... Light

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K is for ... Kaon

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B is for ... Bell's Theorem

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Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

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