Observe that Bullet

4
Average: 4 (4 votes)
Your rating: None

The wound cannot be that bad, thought Harold as he hurriedly bent down to examine his fallen companion. He was immediately proven wrong: Tom’s thorax lay in a puddle of vivid, dark-red blood that was oozing out of his chest at an alarming rate. Harold knelt onto the uneven terrain and fumbled with the last airtight bandages. Tom was convulsing in shock, and for one second his eyes met Harold’s, pupils dilated in horror as if he knew that would be his end.
Desperation instantly seized Harold after the initial shock, a feeling of anguish that was his and yet not his. He suppressed a scream, attempting to calm down, yet his eyes furiously blinked away tears. This is not happening. Not now. Voices behind him made him startle; he turned, and through his bleary vision he made out the outlines of soldiers, unmistakable in their black capes. Insurgents. The ones that shot Tom. A boiling rage escalated inside Harold even as the soldiers caught sight of him. He cast a quick glance at his dying companion, thinking fast in spite of a growing sensation of pain. The rebel compound was not far away, while no government unit remained in the area. And the rebels had captured at least one Quantum Operator. Harold felt his pulse return. If only they could carry Tom…
“Hands up, scumbag!” Two of the six rebels were holding him at gunpoint. Harold sank to the ground in despair.
“It’s my mate… he’s badly hurt and in need of a QO intervention… Please, I implore you,” he articulated, hot tears streaming down his cheeks as he gesticulated at the unmoving body behind him.
“We don’t take no government workers in our compound”, the bulky, dark-skinned rebel responded. “You’re lucky as hell I didn’t just shoot you on the spot.”
“But Tom… you don’t understand,” Harold pleaded hysterically, “the government’s got my wife and kids… you can’t let him die… please… he’s all I’ve got!” A searing pain surged through his heart as he spoke, and he rushed at the man only to be pushed back by the cold barrel of his gun.
“Nothing doing, punk. He deserved it. Now get the hell outta here before I change my mind and spill your guts all over the ground.” He gave Harold a hard shove, prompting the latter to fall backward. The other insurgents laughed, and turned to leave. Harold frantically yelled after them, his pleas interrupted by violent spasms and fits of crying. He turned and saw that one of the soldiers had not joined the others.
“Please… please… I beg you…” he muttered in unintelligible syllables, clutching at the man’s arm. The soldier shushed him, then looked around as if in fear of being overheard.
“Do you know how a Quantum Operator works?”
Harold vigorously nodded. “They’re large machines that alter whatever is placed inside at… at the will of the people… of the person controlling the machine.”
“I said do you know how they work, not what they are. Now listen here,” the soldier said, “the QO goes back to the observer effect developed a couple of centuries ago. The act of observation brings an event into reality. Before the observer looks, the event is one of infinite possibilities existing in superposition. With enough concentration, the observer can collapse the wave of possibilities into a concrete particle, a version of his choosing of the event.”
“Yes, yes!” Harold hastened to agree, shaking uncontrollably. “They use it for many things… to heal people… they can heal Tom! They can make it as if it never happened.”
“Exactly. But so do you.”
A look of ultimate stupor flickered in Harold’s eyes, quickly replaced by disbelief. “But only the Elites can… only the people with high IQs are chosen by the government to observe…” He cast another glance back and his hysteria returned. “Please…”
“Listen!” The man’s hand touched his shoulder. “You can observe. There is no machine that does it, only human willpower and awareness. This goddamn war… it’s all because we realized reality is being imposed upon us, when in fact we are all creators.” His piercing blue eyes stared into Harold’s. “You’re the only one that can help your comrade. You two are entangled, right?”
Harold nodded. “The government entangled us in pairs before they made us fight, to be more loyal. I feel what he feels.” Another pang of terror and frenzy shot through him as he said those words.
“Then you are his twin. You know him better than anyone else. Stand back and observe a different outcome. Train your awareness, change your perception, do what you must do and change reality!”
 
With that, the man turned and hurried away, leaving Harold fighting another torrent of tears. How could he perform something that took 12 Elites the full extent of their abilities to master? Tom was going to die… and he was unable to help.
Harold began coughing violently, then dropped to all fours in an attempt to calm down. He may have been entangled with Tom, but he was also his own person. Taking a long look around him, his gaze fell on a tiny, black object glinting on the ground. Harold had the sudden urge to take it and bury it somewhere far underground, and much to his surprise he reached out to do so. He looked at Tom and found himself wishing for all the blood to disappear. He wanted to remember him just as he was before the gunshot. Holding back his last tears, Harold closed his eyes.
 
The sound of gunfire snapped him awake. Tom was shouting for help, and from the corner of his eye he saw the grinning insurgent training his weapon on Tom and pulling the trigger. Harold screamed, but the gun clicked, empty. And in Harold’s hand, something pressed against his fingers: a tiny, black bullet.

About the Author: 
High school junior with a yet unpublished book under his belt and a voracious appetite for writing.

Newsletter Signup

Submit your email address so we can send you occasional competition updates and tell you who wins!

Quantum Theories

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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”.

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.

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 ... 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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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 ... 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.