Destruction as the Cause of Coming Into Being, Volume 2

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Yesterday afternoon, which means it was Sunday, I finished packing early. My will has always moved more quickly than time. I suppose time exists so that everything does not happen at once. Could you imagine if our lives, love, marriage, birth of our children, lazy summers, living-room concerts with my adoring applause, achingly perfect love-making, death of our parents, our own deaths – all happened in less time than it would take for there to even be time at all? No. Neither can I.
 
Yesterday afternoon, which means it was a Sunday, I finished packing early, so I filled my time with a woman named Sabina. She exhumed herself just for me– ashen arms reaching through a century of soil and war scraps. She disserted her thoughts into my mouth, pressing through my insides, finally settling into the soul of me. There we let them gestate and divide. When I woke, I accepted responsibility and lightness. I bear the knowledge that her destruction and creation present another wave and particle prototype. They are the two sides of our universal currency and the shiny, copper penny in my aunt’s clothes dryer that held the last of the things that I folded into my suitcase. In God We Trust is written above and to the right of Mr. Lincoln’s profile.
Upon seeing the penny and all at once, my mind wrapped around everything and one thing. I became keenly aware of my borders and the elemental nature of things erasing them. This is, by definition, the state of Enlightenment, but my body was in the State of California, my mind was in Copenhagen, and my heart was in Scotland with you. I allowed Sabina’s words to eat through my cells and defenses so I was all and everyone at once. Then, I remembered our vows to each other and how much I want to kiss you again, and I collapsed, very much myself, into my longing for you. You love me despite so many failings, including my lack of patience. I love you because we can walk each other through our minds, and we are not afraid. 

Yesterday afternoon, which means it was a Sunday, I grew impatient after organizing and packing for my flight and our wedding. Yet another Lazarus whispered in my ear. Her name is Ada. She remastered my concept of self, and for that, I am grateful. I wish we had lived during the same time and place, but we appear and disappear as discrete and discontinuous events. I only know her through our common goal, common struggle, and the whole of human potential beautifully expressed numerically. We are not mad, Sabina, Ada, and I. We are women whose minds bend and twist like those of great men and we are tired of paltry, posthumous, distracting Hollywood portrayals. Because I am me, and they are also women, things will be easier for all of us now. This is what matters second. What matters first is you, and so for you, I will be a particle and never disappear from your arms again. 
 
Yesterday afternoon, which means it was a Sunday, I began writing our very first love letter. I am folding it now and returnig to the present. The plane is here, and I am grateful for the blessing of flight. It is carrying me to you and the day we become the sum of one another. I have packed my things into cubes and cases, your love in my heart, the universe in my imagination. I travel light. The next time I read these words, you will be sitting beside me. They disappear and reappear, seemingly at will.

About the Author: 
Ashley Karr is a Human Factors Engineer focusing on Human Computer Interaction and User Experience. Her writing has been published in numerous journals, magazines, and books, including a textbook for Oxford University Press. She is a regular columnist for ACM/SIGCHI’s, Interactions, and is passionate about promoting women in STEM.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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”.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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!

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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!

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.