by Paul_Farnsworth

Will Jed Hockney's amazing disappearing beans rewrite the fundamental laws of nature?

Meet Jed Hockney. Jed enjoys building model aircraft, reading about monster trucks and watching documentaries on World War II. He also likes beans. Baked beans. And on the fourteenth of September last year, Jed went to the local Cash Saver Supermart to buy his beans. It was a day much like any other, the supermarket was much like any other and, to all appearances, so were the beans. But once Jed got the tin home he opened up a can of worms that looked set to shake conventional physics to its foundations.

Not that the can was full of worms.  Oh, no, no, no - nothing like that.  But it wasn't full of beans either.  In fact, it contained only nine beans in total.   Thinking that this was a fairly poor turnout on the bean front, Jed took it back to the supermarket and demanded a recount.  The checkout assistant looked in the can, counted only nine beans and called his supervisor.  The supervisor took a look inside the can, counted nine beans and called her manager.  The manager took a look inside the can, counted nine beans and called head office.  Head office didn't look inside the can, they didn't count the beans, but they did promise to look into the matter fully and they told Jed they would contact him in due course.

So Jed went home and had cheese on toast instead.  And he waited.  And he waited.  And he waited some more.  Actually, he did quite a lot of waiting, so we'll skip forward two weeks to when Jed was suddenly woken up during an afternoon snooze by the shrill warble of his telephone ringing.  It was the people from Cash Saver Supermarts.  Apparently, they'd looked into his can of beans very thoroughly - even using a spatula to probe right into the corners - and they had been unable to locate the missing beans.  So they had sent it off to their laboratory, which had tested it thoroughly using test tubes and microscopes and proper 'laboratory-grade' spatulas.   What emerged were some very interesting results. 

Their head boffin said that although the can had been full at the time it had been sold, there had also been a quantity of stray 'anti-beans' present.  Anti-beans, so Jed was told, are just like ordinary beans, except that they are composed entirely out of anti-matter.  Apparently, this is a common side-effect of modern processing methods.   Anyhow, during Jed's journey home these anti-beans had come into contact with the regular beans and - as it is impossible for beans and anti-beans to co-exist - had mutually annihilated.  It was a catastrophe from which only nine beans had escaped.  More importantly, it meant that Jed wasn't entitled to his money back.

Well Jed wasn't prepared to let this lie and immediately phoned his lawyer, who declared the supermarket's explanation to be 'total rubbish' - a complicated legal term, meaning that it wouldn't stand up to serious scrutiny in a court of law.  He wrote a stern letter to the supermarket, pointing out that the beans and anti-beans were far more likely to have come into contact during shipping, and that his client would be happy to settle out of court for a sum of thirty-two pence, plus an additional twelve pence to cover legal expenses.

Cash Saver Supermarts proved to be equally stubborn and decided to fight it out in court.  They hired some of the world's top physicists who subjected the disputed can to further tests involving all manner of expensive electronic gadgets and pipettes and stuff.  They concluded that there were regions inside the can, previously unknown to science, where anti-beans could exist for extended periods of time.  These discrete pockets of space-time were shielded from the rest of the universe by folds in reality but Jed Hockney's rough handling of the can had broken down the fragile barriers between alternate realities and caused the beans to collide.

Thanks to a combination of better legal representation, overwhelming expert opinion and more expensive spatulas, Cash Saver Supermarts won the case and poor Jed Hockney was hit by crippling court costs.  The whole thing hit him rather hard, and since then he has survived on a diet of cornflakes and won't have a tin of beans in the house.

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Updated: 09/04/2014, Paul_Farnsworth
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