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Natural Questions

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Joly’s door reverberated with the unmistakable knock of one M. Bahorel, who greeted Joly with a firm clasp upon his shoulder as said door was opened.

“Citizen! We have come to requisition your garlic. The cause is just, the reasons pure; we are seekers on the path of learning, commentators of ancient wisdom.”

“We’re doing science,” added Jehan, who walked into the room on Bahorel’s heels. He had, for some reason, a thin sheet of metal slung across his chest like a bandolier. It was studded with assorted magnets, some of which fell off as he walked.

Joly produced a head of garlic, like the loyal citizen and partisan of learning he was, on a single condition: “Whatever is happening, it happens outside. I don’t want a repeat of the time with the vinegar.”

“Oh, it’s nothing like that,” Jehan assured him airily. “We just need to juice some garlic and put it on these magnets.” Another magnet fell off the makeshift bandolier as Jehan waved Joly’s concerns away.

“Outside,” said Joly firmly. He grabbed a few knives and ushered his guests out onto the street.

“So, what is it we’re testing? Is it likely to explode? Or be corrosive? I only ask because of the time before last, with the salt.”

Jehan eyed the garlic contemplatively. “No, not likely. I wouldn’t say so. But anything is possible, really.”

“Diverse ancient sources attest that a magnet will cease to attract iron if rubbed with garlic,” explained Bahorel. “Sympathies and antipathies, you see.”

Joly nodded. That made perfect sense. He himself had a great antipathy towards garlic, and couldn’t blame iron for feeling the same.

Bahorel continued, “Combeferre said it was nonsense when he found it in Plutarch, and I asked him if he’d ever tried it. He closed his mouth and wandered off with that look on his face. You know the one.”

“So of course we’re going to try it,” said Jehan.

“Of course,” said Joly. “Do the sources say if rubbing the magnet with a whole clove is enough, or does it have to be smeared with garlic juice? Perhaps we ought to try both, to be safe.”

“Both at once,” announced Bahorel. “We’ll rub the magnet on a clove and then smear it with the juice. That will do it, if anything will.”

The experiment was performed will all diligence. The garlicked magnet was reapplied to Jehan’s bandolier. After a few moments, it started sliding down and fell off entirely.”

“Aha!” said Jehan. “A vindication for the past!” At his outburst, another garlic-free magnet shook loose and fell to the ground.

“I think,” said Joly, “we may need to reconsider our starting parameters. And we’ll have to run a control that’s completely removed from even garlic vapors, to be entirely sure.”

Joly turned around to return to his rooms and collect more supplies, and nearly bumped into Combeferre at his door.

“Joly! Perfect timing. Could you lend me some garlic?”