Black Roses Red Roses

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A big thump wakes me. I open my eyes slowly, hoping to hear my mother’s sweet voice calling “Cora, honey, breakfast!” Nothing. The strange thing is, I don’t feel the sense of abandonment and loneliness alienated by my own family. I went down the stairs to watch my mother make herself a sandwich. Her hair was a big mess and her swollen red eyes stood out on her pale bony cheeks. I’ve never seen her thinner in my whole life—her legs can snap any second.
            “Good morning” I hear myself say. Still nothing. She didn’t even look at me. Putting her sandwich in her bag, she walked out the backdoor. Well, I tried. I’m meeting up with Timmy this morning anyways. Ever since my parents stopped talking to me, I don’t even bother going to school. For the past few days, there kids have been walking around on the streets during the day. (Do all the kids skip school?) I’ve met so many different people every day. Strangely, the only person I’ve seen more than once is Timmy. According to Timmy, Donna, Johny, Jackie, and Aaron all disappeared after they went to the “hut.” I never understood him, but I don’t really care as long as he doesn’t disappear as well.
            I go out on our front lawn, skipping on the stepping stones as I think about the sandwich I want to get for lunch. Timmy promised me yesterday that he would take me to one of the new cafés for the “most delectable sandwich.” Suddenly, see a boy across the street dragging his body across the street to approach me, almost grunting as he pulls his feet up. I am afraid that he faint before he makes out any words.
            “Can you show me how to get to the closest gas station?” he asks.
            “Let’s take a shortcut,” I try to sound cheerful, fighting my urge to take this emaciated little boy to the nearest McDonalds instead. “We can go through the park.” The boy smiles weakly and quietly follows through the street, answering briefly at my many attempts at chitchatting. I finally give up after a few minutes. When we turn into the corner for the park, I realized I had already lost my little companion.
            When I decide to head back to find him, a gush of wild wind forces my eyes shut. Suddenly, a vision of my mother comes before me. She is sitting next to the bed at the hospital. My face and most of my body was covered in bandages with big red spots on it. Then I remembered. The night before my parents stopped talking to me, I was on my way home from Angel’s house working on our theater project when two bright beams of light flew straight at me. Now, I hear my mother sobbing, I can even feel her soft skin as I see her place her hand on mine.
            Have I been dead all this time? As I try to turn back toward the park, my trembling legs gave up and I fall on the grass. The trees in front of me were covering something…I start to hear ocean waves but my house is nowhere close to the beach. I haven’t been to the beach in months and I’ve been wishing that I can finally smell the salty ocean ever since school started. Am I in heaven? But how is it that I can still feel my mother’s hand?
            When I finally gain the strength to turn my head, I see that a hut has appeared next to me. Is this the “hut” Timmy has been telling me about? Something tells me that I will know exactly where I am if I go in there. Even if it means that I have to disappear like everyone else. Pushing myself off the wet grass, I force myself to go into the hut. There is nothing in here except for a bedside table with a glass jar. On the floor, there were many roses: some red and some black. Strangely, none of these roses have withered. I pick one of the red roses up, on the stem of the rose “Viva Donna” was engraved. Then, I pick up a black rose. Although I know the opposite of “living,” I was hoping I would see something else. I restrain myself from crying as I dropped the black rose with the engraving “Mortus Johny.”
            On the bedside table in the center is an opaque glass jar. On the jar, “Cora” was engraved. Here is my answer. The color of the rose at this moment can be either black or red and I can stay here, but when I open lift that glass, I will either have to go back to my mom or to heaven. Do I want to know if I am dead or alive? Do I want to be woken up from this world…whatever this is? Do I want to go to heaven? I thought about Timmy, the sandwich he and I were supposed to share about an hour from now. What about the beach that I just saw? What about all the other places I haven’t been to in this world? Then I thought about my mom and her swollen eyes and untended hair. I thought about my project…is Angel done with it now?
The opaque glass stares at me, its white covering reflecting hints of amber from the setting sun. Everything outside the window seems to be waiting for me to make a move. The usually chirping birds put their harmonies on pause, the wind carrying sweet smells of baked goods now stands still, the waves usually drumming with steady rhythm now fall to whimpering murmurs. It seems that the very existence of this place lies in my decision. I slowly place my quivering hands on the glass covering the rose. If I had a heart, if it was still there, it would have stopped beating.

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Quantum Theories

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

In 1801, Thomas Young proved light was a wave, and overthrew Newton’s idea that light was a “corpuscle”.

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.

L is for ... Light

We used to believe light was a wave, then we discovered it had the properties of a particle that we call a photon. Now we know it, like all elementary quantum objects, is both a wave and a particle!

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.

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.

T is for ... Tunnelling

This happens when quantum objects “borrow” energy in order to bypass an obstacle such as a gap in an electrical circuit. It is possible thanks to the uncertainty principle, and enables quantum particles to do things other particles can’t.

H is for ... Hidden Variables

One school of thought says that the strangeness of quantum theory can be put down to a lack of information; if we could find the “hidden variables” the mysteries would all go away.

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.

D is for ... Dice

Albert Einstein decided quantum theory couldn’t be right because its reliance on probability means everything is a result of chance. “God doesn’t play dice with the world,” he said.

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.

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.

S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

A hypothetical experiment in which a cat kept in a closed box can be alive and dead at the same time – as long as nobody lifts the lid to take a look.

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.

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.

Q is for ... Qubit

One quantum bit of information is known as a qubit (pronounced Q-bit). The ability of quantum particles to exist in many different states at once means a single quantum object can represent multiple qubits at once, opening up the possibility of extremely fast information processing.

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.

S is for ... Superposition

Quantum objects can exist in two or more states at once: an electron in superposition, for example, can simultaneously move clockwise and anticlockwise around a ring-shaped conductor.

X is for ... X-ray

In 1923 Arthur Compton shone X-rays onto a block of graphite and found that they bounced off with their energy reduced exactly as would be expected if they were composed of particles colliding with electrons in the graphite. This was the first indication of radiation’s particle-like nature.

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.

P is for ... Probability

Quantum mechanics is a probabilistic theory: it does not give definite answers, but only the probability that an experiment will come up with a particular answer. This was the source of Einstein’s objection that God “does not play dice” with the universe.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

T is for ... Teleportation

Quantum tricks allow a particle to be transported from one location to another without passing through the intervening space – or that’s how it appears. The reality is that the process is more like faxing, where the information held by one particle is written onto a distant particle.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

R is for ... Reality

Since the predictions of quantum theory have been right in every experiment ever done, many researchers think it is the best guide we have to the nature of reality. Unfortunately, that still leaves room for plenty of ideas about what reality really is!

G is for ... Gluon

These elementary particles hold together the quarks that lie at the heart of matter.

J is for ... Josephson Junction

This is a narrow constriction in a ring of superconductor. Current can only move around the ring because of quantum laws; the apparatus provides a neat way to investigate the properties of quantum mechanics.

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.

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.

B is for ... Bell's Theorem

In 1964, John Bell came up with a way of testing whether quantum theory was a true reflection of reality. In 1982, the results came in – and the world has never been the same since!

U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

One of the most famous ideas in science, this declares that it is impossible to know all the physical attributes of a quantum particle or system simultaneously.

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.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

R is for ... Radioactivity

The atoms of a radioactive substance break apart, emitting particles. It is impossible to predict when the next particle will be emitted as it happens at random. All we can do is give the probability that any particular atom will have decayed by a given time.

N is for ... Nonlocality

When two quantum particles are entangled, it can also be said they are “nonlocal”: their physical proximity does not affect the way their quantum states are linked.

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.

Q is for ... Quantum biology

A new and growing field that explores whether many biological processes depend on uniquely quantum processes to work. Under particular scrutiny at the moment are photosynthesis, smell and the navigation of migratory birds.

K is for ... Kaon

These are particles that carry a quantum property called strangeness. Some fundamental particles have the property known as charm!