THE DOPPELGANGER

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Bob cautiously made his way to the bathroom, balancing himself by moving his right hand along the wall. Another Wednesday, another hangover.

The mirror, the same one that had (at least apparently) been there for decades refused to cooperate this day. Voices, both real and fabricated, emanated from the cured and processed sand. This is it, this is the moment for which you were born. Listen.

Bob lathered his face and picked up his “Occam's brand” razor just as those elusive dimensions of reality, the ones unseen and not experienced by normal human beings, became suddenly and inexplicably evident. A ghostly apparition (I think they are called wraiths) appeared in the fourth, fifth, and sixth dimensions of what once was a three dimensional object. Bob rubbed his hands over his eyes then looked around the rest of the room and sensed...nothing. It was the mirror, that was the portal...that was where she was. In an instant Bob's life fundamentally changed. He didn't know how he knew it but he did; he had no mathematics to back up his claim, no theory, nothing tangible at all. In spite of it all, his haphazard intuition told him that this was the moment he had been waiting his whole life for. He knew things were never going to be the same.

A Picasso-esque entity, a figure defined by the shadows, pulsed in and out of existence as Bob reminded himself to breathe. The form was not the nexus, it was her essence that took his breath away.

"Look, look at her. This is it, she is the one. Don't hesitate. Go to her, go get her now." He heard the words even though there was no one there to speak them. So highly unusual, he thought, as his logical, highly trained brain splintered.

[Imagine waking up and meeting your destiny in a bathroom. Not very sexy and certainly not the stuff of legend. Might not even be the stuff of sanity. Dude may have lost his mind.]

The figure staring at him, the one that apparently existed only in the extra dimensional world of the mirror, posed and preened as he stood quietly. He could see how the other dimensions worked in concert with the normal three dimensional stuff of his limited reality; he saw the governing equations, he understood the fundamental mathematics. The entire scene was like a Mozart concerto; sublime and elegant, powerful and graceful, and yet entirely elusive to those untrained in the art of subtlety.

He tried to touch her. His hand went into the mirror but then disappeared into the extra dimensions. There was no sense of direction, nothing he could do to guide his hand to hers. All he could do was stand back and stare like a slack jawed orangutan in heat.

He stood at the mirror as long as he could. He was only aware of the extra dimensions when he was looking in that direction, the rest of the room appeared normal. After what seemed like only a fraction of a second he decided he had to get to work, this nonsense would have to wait. His thoughts raced as he quickly realized how important a day this is. The traffic around the Superconducting Super Collider was going to be really bad. The assess roads leading into Waxahachie were probably already full of reporters and news trucks jockeying for position. Today, of all days, was the day the scientific community had been waiting decades for. Bob was supposed to stand, tall and proud, with a dozen other scientists on a podium and announce that, after an exhaustive search, the Englert Boson was not found. The Standard Model is a donut, he was supposed to say, it has a large hole in the middle. Bob was to be the one to announce to the world that it was now time for all physicists to put the hammer down and get to work. All that seemed so trivial now.

Existential confusion gripped him as he took another look at the multi-dimensional being that was beckoning for him to join her. He looked at her beautiful face and said “I do not understand. What is happening here.” Her stare remained far away and vacant, she didn't even bother to shrug.

She eventually spoke. “Tell me something,” she said. “Tell me anything.” He tried to open his mouth but nothing would come out. He searched his being but came up empty. It finally occurred to him that he may have lost his mind. After a deep breath, he mustered the courage to ask her name. “Ecila, they call me Ecila,” was all she said. She faded away as Bob desperately tried to convince himself he was still asleep.

Bob shook his head and then prepared for his big day. He grabbed his SSC lapel pin and secured it to his black suit. After he filled his large SSC coffee mug with a little "hair of the dog" he started out the door. His hesitation, while understandable, was not the stuff of legend. His breathing became labored as he turned and rushed back to the bathroom. His fear was realized: the mirror was obeying Newtonian laws, it only gave what it got. The entity, of course, faded into one of those elusive dimensions that normal humans regard as mythic. There she remains; mysterious, elusive, and sublime. Here Bob remains, struggling for the words to tell anyone who will listen what happened to him one Wednesday morning in March.

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Quantum Theories

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Randomness

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

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 ... 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.

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.

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.