It’s lunchtime on Christmas Eve, but I have no Christmas-themed photos to share with you. However, I’m sure we all agree that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is a timeless holiday classic, and it turns out that I do have a relativity-themed picture for you. I snapped it a couple of days ago, so I got it just in the nick of time.

Eagle-eyed readers with good memories will recall that explaining relativity is one of my pastimes, but I’ve long had a pet peeve about it: namely that general relativity is routinely explained using a timeworn picture of a trampoline to describe how gravity works. I’ll spare you the long-winded reason why this annoys me (it’s here, if you’re interested), but the nutshell version is that (a) it provides a completely incorrect impression of what’s actually going on, and (b) the real explanation of what causes gravity is both easier to understand and far more interesting. However, I have come up with a timely compromise. Behold the general relativity spider web:

December 22.41376, 2018 — Irvine, California

Check it out! It’s a trampoline-shaped spider web! The reason it’s trampoline-shaped is that the spider has erected some extra web filaments that pull the center outward, thus providing the equivalent of a non-Euclidean spacetime in which the geodesic bends toward the center.

Don’t worry about what that means. It’s bafflegab. The point is this: If you want to write about general relativity and you insist on using the trampoline metaphor, you have my permission to use this photograph anytime you like. In fact, I insist on it. I further insist that you explain the warpage of spacetime using the metaphor of a gigantic, invisible, relativistic spider. Deal?

And what the hell. Here’s another photo of the spider web. It’s taken from a slightly different angle and at a slightly different time, and for some reason this tiny change converts it from a timeless black-and-white image to a surprisingly moving color rendition that evokes the inexorable motion of the spider’s prey toward the center of the web. Fascinating, no?

December 22.41403, 2018 — Irvine, California

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LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

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