Into Chaos.

Into Chaos.

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It is the 3rd of July 1947.
 
Today was a sunny day, a cloudy day, yes, and a dreary wintry day. The birds are chirping, and it's raining outside. The snow falls and the sun dries the flora to a lovely golden crisp. The fluffy magnolia clouds fill the entire expanse of the sky, and azure colours the sky from horizon to horizon. A beautifully intricate marble fountain outside spurts water, surrounded by numerous condemned buildings. And here I am, ridden to this bed in the confines of this pitifully corporeal body.
 
Every day I hear and I see eternity. My body is frozen in awe of my knowledge of ‘forever’. But I only belong to this world. Nowhere can my body go to but remain forever chained to this world. I am stranded in this stygian void, helpless to do all but drool, for I am but a powerless man.
 
A powerless man who knows all, a man who is privy to all knowledge.
 
I know the future of every single being that has stepped foot in this reality, and countless others. I know the consequences of actions that have never been taken.
 
I can see.
 
Now, you might be wondering, how or why I am able to know everything. Well, as with all great scientists, it was the product of a mistake. A most ghastly mistake.
 
In the year 1933, a friend of mine, by the name of Erwin, earned a prize for an equation which he devised. It is more easily expressed in a thought experiment in which a feline is placed in a box together with a Geiger counter, a vial of poison, a mallet, and a radioactive substance. When the radioactive substance decays, the Geiger detects it and hence, causes the hammer to break the vial containing the poison, which subsequently kills the cat. Simple, no? Not quite so.
 
It was argued, in fact, that the atom exists in a state known as a superposition, both decayed and not decayed at the same time. It has two states at any given time. And until the box is opened, an observer is unsure as to whether the cat is alive or dead because the cat's fate is innately related to the atom’s state, decayed, or not. And so as the atom is decayed and not decayed, in equal parts, so is the cat, as Erwin put it, be "living and dead ... in equal parts" until it is observed.
 
The cat, logically speaking, would be able to exist in multiple realities at any given point, simultaneously.  The real trick was becoming that little feline was it not? The ability to existentially control which reality your mind would occupy. And so, that was the singular purpose of my life. Scrimping on charity from my parents, working out of an abandoned building, shunning away the rest of the human world, living as a vagabond. All to transcend the boundaries that kept us from achieving our true potential. And it never once occurred to me that those boundaries were there for a reason.
 
Of course word of my plans spread like wildfire through the scientific community. However, instead of the whispers of recognition that I had expected, I was instead greeted by murmurs of suspicion and worry. Repeatedly I was approached by concerned peers about the ramifications of my work and various ethical issues. But what did it matter? I, of course, knew exactly what was really behind that façade of concern for humanity.
 
Envy.
 
But their pleas for cessation fell on deaf ears. I had devoted my life to this and I would not so easily give it up for some mere scientists, who by all means, were underneath me. My refusal, expectedly, forced them to take other means to stop me. Sabotage. And so, it was a race to throw a wrench into the machine which would be the salvation of our race. Why were they so blinded by jealousy that they could not see that my success would be reaped by all of humanity!
 
The 18th of July 1941. The day which the fruits of my undying passion would be borne by the machine which would redefine the very word ‘impossible’.
 
And so, I stepped into the machine, and it closed around me. I pushed a button on a console inside, and the machine whirrs into life. I closed my eyes and prepared my mind to be experience what was beyond the horizon of understanding. To unravel the universes which held our world together. And I expected a brilliant white light to greet me.
 
But instead, the purr of the machine was abruptly interrupted by a loud hissing. I open my eyes to the interior of the machine and its metallic interior being ripped apart was the last of what I saw as a sane man.
 
I awoke several months later in a hospital. A mental hospital. But as I awoke, I was assaulted by the knowledge which I had sought. Knowledge of everything. It was all white noise to me. My consciousness was displaced, but not my body. I was stuck in a body, and flooded by the universe. It had failed.
 
I had failed.
 
My mind screamed for release from the pain. But even I could not hear the scream. I was blind and deaf to everything but everything. And even though I can now differentiate realities, I still am thoroughly confused and powerless against the wrath of nature itself. I had built this hell and it was here that I would spend the rest of my life.
 
And it is with great anticipation that I await death’s sweet release.
 

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Quantum Theories

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Act of observation

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

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

M is for ... Multiverse

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A is for ... Alice and Bob

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Q is for ... Quantum biology

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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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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!

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.

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!

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

Q is for ... Qubit

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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.

I is for ... Information

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

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”.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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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.