Controllables

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Eyes are to be kept forward and head tilted slightly down. Steps are to be exactly one and a half shoulder lengths apart. His spine stands ramrod straight through years of discipline, through constant discipline. He can still feel the sting in his being.
They are watching, and they are waiting. They are always waiting to fine-tune, to correct the small impurities. He could make a good living with his eye for detail.
He appears no different from any of the other bodies that pass him on his routine walk to his Sector. His motion is perfectly consistent and in time with an unheard metronome. His face perfectly expressionless and a perfect mirror of his Controllable.
A woman just within his peripherals is walking noticeably less perfect, and he thinks for a moment that she should know better. The way she jerks in sudden inexplicable pain confirms his idle thought: she should have known better.
Not all citizens of the more remote Sectors are as disciplined as he; their Controllables can afford to be neglected in favor of more valuable units. He was a valuable unit not long ago. He lived under a more useful Sector with more important tasks than he lived with now. Living under a valuable Sector came with higher living standards, but brought with it a strict and keen eye on one’s Controllable.
A sharp pain along his back brings him to reality and he realizes he has stopped walking in his thoughts. As he starts up again he feels deep shame colour his cheeks, and a soft murmur in his head tells him he should know better. It is not his voice.
Over a thousand miles away an Operator in a too-white lab coat pulls away from the man’s doppelganger – the man’s Controllable - and readjusts their protective goggles. They leave the Controllable’s sterile Control Room to continue correcting the countless others that line the chalky halls of the Control Center. They sigh and mark a note on the Controllable’s behavior record as they make their way towards the Matching Room.
As they press their hands forward and push, stainless steel double doors swing open and the sound of crying infants fill the Operator’s ears. Dozens of newborns filter into the center every minute to be matched to a Controllable. It is so scientific and exact, it is almost ritualistic.
The baby the Operator grasps is crying feebly, overwhelmed and confused by the myriad of new senses. He weighs less than 5 lbs and is easily dropped into the matching chamber. His bright, blue eyes grow even more panicked as the Operator closes the top of the chamber and the sounds are silenced.
The silence is frightening, and just as the baby blue eyes are beginning to water, a fine mist begins to fill the chamber. The mist swirls and flows around the small space of the chamber, and the infant watches with fascination as they move through him. There is a small flash and the air gets slightly warmer, and then the child hears the noise again.
A couple giggles are heard as the Operator takes the child out of the matching chamber, and a milky white substance drains off the child’s skin. They record a number for the child and attach a wrist strap to the baby before sending it to the next station. The giggles fade as the conveyor moves on.
Turning back to the chamber, the Operator begins typing furiously, inputting the information of the baby into the database as the mist begins to condense. When the Operator looks up, a child seemingly identical to the baby there not moments ago stares off into space, giggling once more.
The Operator picks up the newly made Controllable and takes it to a new Control Room. There are tests to perform in order to ensure the Matching was successful: the Operator snaps his fingers in the Controllable’s ear and its head whips around shocked. His eyes do not focus on the Operator, rather they continue to search for a source of the sound. “Audio receiving is functional.”
As the Operator continues to perform the routine Matching tests on the newly Matched Controllable, an identical infant several hundred meters away now moves in complete synchronization with its twin.
Several floors above them sits a man clad in a crisp, black suit tailored to perfection. His clothing, however, is the only perfect thing about him. He slouches slightly at his desk, legs wide and one knee jumping repeatedly. His relaxed features and careless control of his body gives away his status; he is Matchless.
This room is filled with paintings and interesting trinkets, and the bookshelves are bursting with literature and texts telling of how the world works. There is colour on these walls, unlike the sterile halls of the Operators below. Privileges are granted to him like no one else and he enjoys them so long as he continues to improve the connectivity of the many Matches that are made in the center.
One such improvement sits in a flurry of scrawled equations on the many papers that scatter across the man’s wooden desk. There is a pattern to these equations which suggest a link between two objects that stays strong no matter the distance with a beautiful arrangement of operations like those done by the many Operators below. Children are matched to their Controllable parts which are then made into fully formed bodies. The natural born children experience all that the Controllable does, making them easy to control. Controllables do not act as if they are aware of their surroundings, yet sometimes they find a flaw in a Match. Sometimes the original is damaged, or the Controllable acts on its own, and it is the man in the suit’s job to eliminate these mistakes.
Twenty floors below, the door to the disciplined man’s Control Center empties without authorization.
Fifty meters away, curious giggling stops.
The man in the suit continues to write.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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 ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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”.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.