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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F is for ... Free Will

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K is for ... Kaon

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