Pocket Universe

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     Both sides were still murmuring and grumbling between themselves when Dickinson finally took the podium. He was wearing his best shirt and made sure his jacket was nice and straight. He adjusted the papers in front of him, tapping them against the podium. The two sides continued on as if he hadn't yet got there. He leaned forward and cleared his throat loudly into the microphone. 
     Everyone quieted down.
     Thank you all for coming, Dickinson said, nervously running his fingers over his papers and the top of the podium as if he were frantically searching for something there that wasn't there.
     Now, a vast, seemingly endless universe. Galaxies scattered hither and thither. Every galaxy mostly the same. Every galaxy consisting of all the same stuff at least. Black hole, stars, planets.
     And in one galaxy, around one star, one planet among many others sprang life. The conditions were perfect. Life was simple at first, then got more complex.
     Sooner or later there were people. They too were simple at first, then got more complex.
     They fought about everything. They separated and they warred. They crashed and collided like waves against the rocks. They fought over land, over food, and over Religion.
     Then came Science. There was never a larger rift than that between Religion and Science. Whether God existed or not. Religion said one thing. Science said another- Dickinson was interrupted.
     A tall man on Religion's side of the hall had stood up, Get on with it! he yelled.
     Everyone on Religion's side, and on Science's side for that matter, mumbled and nodded in agreement.
     Sorry, Dickinson said, straightening his jacket and checking his watch. He clicked the button in his hand and showed a picture on the screen behind him of somewhere out in space. These are recently taken photos from our newest space telescope, Dickinson said still clicking at the button, showing photo after photo.
     And now we'll go just a little bit further out, and then just zoom in, he said, there, there you'll see it.
     Both sides of the chamber breathed and stared and said nothing for some time.
     Just what are we supposed to be looking at? screamed someone from Religion.
     Excellent question, Dickinson said, and zoomed the photograph in more and more, each time the little speck growing.
     The two sides recessed and went to their separate houses to think and debate.
     Science said they had seen the edge of the universe. Religion said it was Heaven. The public was indifferent.
     It sort of looked like what the concept of Heaven was supposed to look like, even Dickinson agreed; it looked like a big white bright edge deep in the expanse of the universe, further away than had ever been seen before.
     Science finally concluded that the edge was proof of the inflationary theory, they were seeing the next universe. The edge of theirs butting up to the edge of the next. The only problem was that now that they had discovered this edge of the universe they were somehow speeding up toward it. They couldn't fathom the acceleration, moving faster and faster, faster than all their current data showed. They were headed right toward it, or it was speeding up and headed right toward them.
 
     The closer the edge got, the more defined it became. Until it wasn't so much an edge they were looking at. With quite a bit of certitude they could see it for what it was.
     A giant hand flying at them from the abyss.
     Religion said it was the hand of God. He was coming to save the righteous, he was coming to take all true believers to everlasting paradise.
     Science was out of answers. No one knew what was going on anymore. No one had even heard from Dickinson in weeks.
     People panicked, but not nearly as much as anyone would have ever expected them to. It was all over every TV screen, every internet screen, and all over the radio; the rapture was soon to be upon them. The world as they knew it had only days before the hand would collide with it. Governments all over the planet urged everyone to stay calm and act in an orderly fashion, to continue on as normal, as if nothing were happening at all.
     Instead of hitting them though, instead of destroying the planet and saving the souls of all the believers, and killing all the rest, the hand just passed by them. It didn't seem to notice as they cheered and cried and held signs and prayed. It didn't seem to care that they were raping and murdering in it's name, or in spite of it.
     It didn't care if they were at work doing their job like they were supposed to. It didn't see them sitting hospitals with loved ones who were dying or drinking in bars unbearably alone or in movie theaters looking for momentary relief from the stresses in their increasingly difficult and sad and exhausting and alienating lives.
     The hand just went past them toward the quarters at the bottom of the pocket.

 

About the Author: 
He is a truck driver. He lives in Seattle. He also writes fiction.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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!

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”.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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 ... Cryptography

People have been hiding information in messages for millennia, but the quantum world provides a whole new way to do it.

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.

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.

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.

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.