A Chance Encounter

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He was a humble man, kind and honest.  He much preferred quiet contemplation over action, and was therefore also a very lonely man.
They met eyes and both flashed a quick smile.  His was reflexive, a function of politeness, nerves, and utter joy of sharing some small connection with her.  He had a strong sense that she was different from all others who easily ignored his existence; that her outer beauty was the result of an inner light unable to be contained within mocha-coloured skin.  She made the whole human race tolerable simply by her association with it.
Palms sweating he walked with purpose, reminding himself of something he’d read about approaching women- do not hesitate nor meander, for this will display a lack of confidence and impart a sense of awkwardness in the courted subject.  He pulled a chair from the table and quietly asked “Do you mind if I take a seat here?”
“Not at all, please be my guest,” the man’s angelic new acquaintance replied.
“I couldn’t help but notice your reading material.  The Trouble With Physics by Lee Smolin.  I’ve read it too”.  Maintain eye contact, he told himself.  But it was difficult.  He felt unworthy.  “Three times actually,” he added.
“Wow, thrice.  You must really love it”
He let out a self-deprecating chuckle.  “Actually that has a lot more to do with me needing repetition to begin to comprehend it.”
“So what did all this tell you?” she asked, pointing to the book.
“Most notably, that we still have a lot to learn.”
“That’s good,” she said, “Humans need mystery.  We thrive on it.  There’s a reason religion has always held a place in the collective consciousness.  We need to believe in some kind of magic.”
He pondered.  “I think you’re right.”
“To a devotee of science, quantum physics holds some of the last remaining mysteries.”
By now he was finding her mind even sexier than her body.  Their conversation flowed easily, like a million-year-old river.  The topics of religion and politics having been broached, (two things that ought never be among new acquaintances, or so the warning goes), eventually the talk had come full circle back to physics, the heartbeat of it all.
***
The excitement was evident in the man’s voice now.  His words came out like jumping beans.  “Quantum theory, it really boggles the mind doesn’t it?  Answers to questions from the dawn of time on the tip of a tongue.  The missing pieces to the greatest puzzle ever.  There are men and women who spend their whole professional lives trying to work out the mathematics behind one particular string theory or M theory.  A billion misses, yet the one time it finally works out, ta da!  The theory of everything.  Trust me, it would all be worth it!”
“It’s a love story too.”  Her statement came with a sly little grin.
“Yeah?  How so?” he asked.  Each new sentence of hers felt like unwrapping a Christmas gift.
“Well, take what’s-it-called- quantum entanglement.  Plato understood it.  His idea of androgyny: two pieces of the same entity, severed, but always searching for its other half, aching to become whole again.”  They locked eyes, and he couldn’t control his blush.
She broke the short silence.  “So this unified theory, if it really exists, what is the endpoint?”  A question he’d asked repeatedly of himself, and only ever answered to himself.
“Matter, energy, every living thing, the grand idea of God, all melded into one.  There’d be a price though.  We’d have to pay for it by giving up our notion of free will.”
“Oh?” she raised her eyebrows.
He continued.  “Like matter, thoughts too are composed of smaller pieces.  If not for the physics behind the interactions of molecules to detonate the neurons, no thought exists.  We’d know all the inputs and their effects, and therefore would be able to ascertain every conclusion.  Each life would become just a paint-by-numbers, the picture already drawn, just waiting for the colours to be filled in.”
“I suppose I’m just predetermined to buy into free will,” she remarked.  Another gift spoken for him.  “What if an unavoidable randomness is built into the laws of the universe?”
“Einstein’s famous quote of ‘God does not play dice’.  You think he was wrong?” he challenged.
“I think at the very smallest, most fundamental level- the quarks or preons, or whatever basic building blocks still elude us- the cosmos is just spitting out randomness.  I also believe Einstein viewed God as basically the laws of the universe, kind of like the system behind it all.  So yes, I believe he was absolutely wrong on that account.  Ha, listen to me, telling Albert Einstein he was wrong.  My hubris is surely out of control!  Anyhow, there would still be one variable left: time.  In its infiniteness it holds all possibilities; an infinite array of arrangements.  Maybe time is all the magic we need.”
***
“May I ask a personal question?” she asked. “What is it that you hope to gain from this life?”
This was a question he had pondered for a thousand consecutive nights alone.  She never stopped looking into his eyes, which were starting to well up with the churning of emotion inside of him.  “I want someone, one single human soul, to think enough of me to want to explore the deepest parts of me and seek to understand the essence of who I am.  I promise it’d be worth it.”
Such a sad, ugly past, unfathomably morphing into some kind of pristine future.  He wasn’t sure he deserved the extremes on either side of the space-time of this singular moment.  She reached across the table and took his hand in hers.
“C’mon”, she said, “let’s walk together.”
“Where to?” he asked, his voice faraway, on the edge of a blissful dream.
“Isn’t it obvious, silly?” she teased, again with that perfect smile.  “To wherever we end up.”

About the Author: 
Troy is a Canadian, and happy to be one, but also waiting for the day when everyone is referred to simply as a citizen of the earth. He has no children of his own, but two small boys and one small girl call him "uncle".

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Quantum Theories

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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.

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.

M is for ... Multiverse

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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.

S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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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 ... 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.

R is for ... Reality

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E is for ... Entanglement

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T is for ... Tunnelling

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Q is for ... Qubit

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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F is for ... Free Will

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D is for ... Dice

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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.

W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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X is for ... X-ray

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K is for ... Kaon

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G is for ... Gravity

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S is for ... Superposition

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N is for ... Nonlocality

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M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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P is for ... Planck's Constant

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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A is for ... Act of observation

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O is for ... Objective reality

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

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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I is for ... Interferometer

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L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

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R is for ... Randomness

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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R is for ... Radioactivity

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T is for ... Teleportation

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I is for ... Information

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U is for ... Universe

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J is for ... Josephson Junction

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L is for ... Light

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G is for ... Gluon

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