Message in a Bottle

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Seventy-two hours – it had been seventy-two hours since he had last slept.
Professor Hinrich Struggles was determined to be the one who solved the entanglement equation – it had to be him - sleep could wait.
 
But his eyes weren’t co-operating and, despite the caffeine intake, they started to close.
What he saw next was neither dream nor reality.
 
As he squinted towards the front of his classroom he saw his very own image, ghost-like and mute, drawing the very equation he was trying to solve on a futuristic, holographic blackboard.
His other self pointed to the equation, made a gesture that pushed its image down a digital bottle, and floated that bottle on an imaginary wave heading towards Professor Struggles’ head.
 
It was the collision with that bottle or perhaps the light of the new day that woke him up.  Regardless, something magical had happened and even though he was now half-asleep, his dream, which he later called his epiphany, persisted.
“I did solve the entanglement equation,” he muttered, “but in the future ...”
“And I am using this very entanglement equation to send a message back to me in this time.”
He slammed his fist.  The physics seemed impossible even for him.  But then he remembered Richard Feynman’s theory that particles should be able to travel forward and backwards in time - they have no sense of time.  What if he were able to entangle these particles first and then send one copy back in time?  
 
“Ridiculous,” he muttered.
Still he could not shake his sense of déjà vu – he had done this before – or will do it again.  And the vision of him throwing equation-filled bottles into waves of time would not go away.
It took a month of sleepless nights before the answer came.  “I have been a fool!  I don’t need to understand how I solved that equation - or how I moved particles from the future to the past.  I just need a net to catch them!”
 
It took him six months to figure out his “net” and another two years to build it but now there it was sitting right in front of him.  The machine was similar to a neutrino detector but instead it would find particles with temporal anomalies and store their Cartesian locations as if they were pixels in a computer screen. 
The project reeked of insanity in the beginning but as the days passed and “pixels” appeared, hope was restored.  What started out as a sea of random dots started to converge into lines and curves.   By the third month, Struggles was starting to see repetition of the pattern signalling that the data capture was done.  There was his masterpiece of an equation painted in faint green lines – Eureka!
 
--
 
He couldn’t remember which media source first used the headline, “Struggles Ends our Entanglement Struggles,” but he loved that quote the most.   Although six months of relentless global media attention post his discovery was wearing him down, he was looking forward to tonight, the real prize, the prestigious Quantum Achievement Awards.  
 
Given the extensive peer review and praise he had already received, he was guaranteed the top prize. 
His tuxedo looked sharp and his acceptance speech was ready.
 
--
 
“And the winner is of this year’s Quantum Achievement Award is …”
Professor Struggles started to stand.
“ … Dr. Lucas Veritas.”
Struggles continued to stand even as his shock turned to rage.  Security pushed him to a backstage speakers’ room before the audience could see his full fury.
“This is an outrage!” he screamed as security held him in place.
 
A voice then came out from the shadows.  It was Dr. Veritas.  His hands were outstretched and he spoke in a calming tone.
“Hinrich, I know you think you deserved that prize.  But answer this question first – did you actually read the equation you submitted?”
Struggles was still seized with anger but, after a considered pause, it hit him – he hadn’t fully gone through the entanglement equation – he just assumed it was right.
Veritas continued.   “Hinrich, buried deep inside this equation is a cardinal set of numbers that contributes nothing to the result of the formula.”
“The numbers in hexadecimal are 00A9 0044 0072 00A0 004C 0075 …”
“It is my signature in Unicode – Copyright Dr Lucas Veritas - 2023.”
“I don’t know how you got an equation of mine from the future but when I resubmitted the corrected equation for peer review the committee rightfully gave me the credit for the work.”
Hinrich sunk into the chair.  Veritas’ truth hit him hard – but somehow he was right.
 
All that obsession, the tireless work, and sacrifice, and in the end he was nothing but a quantum plagiarist from the future.
“Hinrich – I know this is hard but don’t despair.   Plagiarism by definition is willful, and if my theory is right you were unaware of the actions of your future self.  The committee agrees with me and will keep this a secret.”
“The reality is that I could not have solved my own equation without your help.  So while you may be a plagiarist you are also a co-contributor.  Just like quantum theory, even you can be in two states at the same time.”
“And while this quantum conundrum is strange, what was lost in this entangled mess is the fact that you, Hinrich, have made an incredible contribution to quantum theory.”
“So let’s do the right thing and nominate you for next year’s prize - for that quantum television invention of yours that picked up a signal from the future.”
Struggles perked up his sunken head. 
“Yes - next’s year prize,” and a thin smile cracked across his face as he stared at a bottle of water beside him.
About the Author: 
Malcolm White is an international investor specializing in the technology, media and telecommunication sectors. He is quite interested in the ramifications of quantum computing given some early commercial success stories.

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Quantum Theories

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.

I is for ... Information

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

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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”.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.