Quantum Disentanglement

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The science building was deserted late on that Saturday night. Inside, Stephen had his latest girl, Theresa, on his arm. Her long, dark curls bounced in time with her step, and the click of her Saturday night heels echoed down the hallway. This was their second date. She was a classics major, not a physics grad student like himself. He hoped that would help make him more mysterious to her. Perhaps his jargon would fire her with all the mystery and power of the flames of Samhain. Assuming she went in for that sort of drivel. She flashed him a smile of promise. She was lovely. He unlocked the door to his lab and ushered her in. He, himself, had built the device cloaking the annoying racket of the old vacuum pump. Computer stations sat interspersed throughout counters of equipment – pipes, cables, lasers, electromagnets. The dim room was filled with a gentle hum and the firefly embers of blinking power lights.

"Like Christmas. Or a temple," said Theresa, her brown eyes sparkling. In such a dark place, she must have sat at just the right angle to catch and reflect the blinks, thought Stephen. Whatever. It worked for him.

"I expected it would be interesting,” she said. “But not so…mysterious.” She smiled again, the lights catching her earrings and pendant. “Go on, Stephen. You were saying? About the space thing?"

"The idea is simple in theory, but making it happen is all pretty new – ground breaking even,” he said, taking her elbow, leading her towards a cloth-covered table in the centre of the room. “We take two entangled subatomic particles. They’re correlated. You know what that means, right?”

He continued without waiting for a response. He hoped she wasn’t rolling her eyes. It had been known to happen. “So, if you change one, the other changes. You speed this one up, the other speeds up even if it is across the room, across the country. Space becomes meaningless. You can entangle entire light fields, and then transmit many photons together." He paused and gazed at the lab equipment that had been so cleverly developed to measure even the tiniest specks of matter and their journeys through distances both vast and microscopic. He touched it reverently.

She said, "Ah. The Fates, connecting lives, spinning them out through invisible threads.”

Stephen, in the habit of ignoring that about which he knew little, continued.

"The applications are endless: encrypting and disrupting secure information passing through the internet, and even, in the near future, for transporting matter through space." He wasn’t so sure about that last part, but it made for a good story.

"Like The Fly," said Theresa, her voice filled with awe. She fingered her pendant.

"Yes," said Stephen. He moved in closer to Theresa and reached past her to switch on the photon count equipment. It bathed the room in a soft green light. He straightened, gently touching her necklace at her throat.

“This is pretty.” He left his hand at her clavicle.

“Thank you.” She lifted her necklace so the light danced along it. A wheat sheaf, a full cornucopia, and a sickle were encircled by a wreath of leaves. “Harvest symbols. ‘Theresa’ means ‘harvester’.”

“How very productive.” He reached out for her. She stepped back.

“Everything in its own time,” she said. “Both the sowing and reaping. To everything, turn, turn…”

“Fine, maybe later then.”

“Anyway, can you disentangle them? The photons?” She said, looking up into his eyes.

“Maybe,” he said. He talked on about qubits, filters, crystals, detectors, and lasers, while glancing surreptitiously down her dress. Was she mesmerized? He wasn’t sure. There was often a fine line between boredom and adulation when it came to physics.

"Can you show me? I mean, the photon stuff?"

"Some. Maybe more, very soon. Here's the exciting part: see that table and cloth? On there, we can project 3D holographic images of our research. We just finished the prototype. We're going to give it a test run tomorrow, once everything’s charged. Then we can just put on that headset and, if it works, we’ll see the whole process." He pulled his gaze from Theresa's cleavage over to the device, an equal object of desire. Its indicator lights blinked in answer.

"In fact, I think it's ready now." His fingers itched to touch it. "You want to give it a whirl?"

"Oh, yes." She nodded. The sickles at her ears danced. “Entanglement.”

He pressed a button. The room's hum increased.

"We’ve only one headset so far. Let me set it up for you." He yearned to be first, but waiting would display his gallantry.

She bent over the table and reached for the headset while Stephen admired her backside until she sat. He set the experiment to run, and then stood by, one hand on her shoulder, the other on the device. Silver arced from her fingers to the headset. It didn’t seem to bother her or the machine, so he let it go for now. He couldn’t see what she saw, but her exclamations of wonder boded well for later. She looked up and removed the headset.

"I think you’d better take a look at this. Could be a disentanglement." A blue laser flared unexpectedly. In the light, Theresa grinned, her eyes suddenly hawk-like. He took the chair and headset.

At first he saw nothing. Then blurs became shapes. Three shapes resembling dim, hunched stars. They moved slowly, rhythmically, connected by silver filaments. Lines of connection radiated from them. He zoomed in on one.

Through the lens, an old lady held a pair of pearly shears in one gnarled hand and lifted a thread with the other. She tugged it taut. He felt a sharp pull through his being, as if all within him was imploding, aligning into the sub-sub-subatomic space-within-endless-space. Until, with a flash of silver, the crone snipped.

About the Author: 
Lynne is a health research consultant and fiction writer in Ottawa, Canada, where she lives with her husband, teens, and physics-defying cats. She has had short fiction published in a variety of markets, and won two honourable mentions in contests along the way. She also writes and edits academic materials.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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

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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.

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

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R is for ... Radioactivity

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S is for ... Schrödinger Equation

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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R is for ... Randomness

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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G is for ... Gravity

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O is for ... Objective reality

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G is for ... Gluon

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T is for ... Tunnelling

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Q is for ... Quantum biology

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C is for ... Cryptography

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A is for ... Alice and Bob

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Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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A is for ... Act of observation

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N is for ... Nonlocality

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

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B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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E is for ... Entanglement

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I is for ... Interferometer

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P is for ... Probability

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P is for ... Planck's Constant

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T is for ... Teleportation

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D is for ... Dice

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S is for ... Superposition

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I is for ... Information

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D is for ... Decoherence

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X is for ... X-ray

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M is for ... Multiverse

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F is for ... Free Will

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M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

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R is for ... Reality

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L is for ... Light

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