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Einstein's Promise

While working with fellow physicist Abraham Pais at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study one evening, Niels Bohr, who was in the habit of repeating words over and over whenever he was engrossed in thought, began pacing around the office, repeating, "Einstein... Einstein..."

Suddenly Pais noticed the office door begin to open and Einstein himself tiptoed into the room; Bohr, standing at a window with his back to the door, did not see his colleague come in. "Then," Pais later recalled, "Einstein beckoned to me, with his finger on his lips, to be very quiet, his urchin smile on his face." Silently, he made a beeline for the table at which Pais was sitting. Finally Bohr, still muttering Einstein's name, turned around -- and was astonished to find the object of his thoughts apparently materialized before his eyes.

All three men stood and stared at one another, until Einstein explained why he had come: Smoking was against his doctor's orders and he had promised not to buy tobacco. He had, however, never promised not to steal tobacco -- as he was presently doing from the large pot which was resting on the table. Einstein got his tobacco and all three men promptly burst into laughter.

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