Secret Weapon

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            Another day of the routine started: getting up, brushing teeth, washing face, eating cereal… for all of the kids in the town. Michael, like any other kid at school, was still sleeping in his bed, snoozing his alarm clock. He, however, could sense where she was coming from and how far away she was. Before she comes in his room, he gets up, and makes his bed. All his mom could see was Michael’s smiling face, ready to get ready for school. “Good morning mom!”, said Michael, who reassured his mother of his responsibility as a sixth grader. Michael would have loved going to school, but it wasn’t the best place on earth for him. In fact, it was one of the most dreaded places for him. As he was staring at the school entrance, he thought of his adversary, Nicholas. Nicholas was the boy whom everyone wanted to be friends with. He was witty, sarcastic, and scary enough that no one was willing to mess with him. It was just unfortunate that Michael was picked to be his subject of ridicule.
First period passed by… second period passed by… third period passed by…. The boring classes were not the problems. Lunch was. Lunch was when Michael had to choose where he was sitting. “Hey! You loser! Get away from here!” Laughter rises in the lunchroom; Michael guesses it is again time to eat lunch in the bathroom. It’s been 6 months into the new school year in his new middle school, and it has not been the best.
At least after lunch, it was his favorite class, Physical Educations. Coach Rogers understood Michael; Michael often went to Coach Rogers for venting out the problems he has with the people bullying at school. Coach Rogers was the only one, per say, to know Michael’s secrets. On that day, Coach Rogers told the class that they would play kickball with the other grades. The classic. Everyone got extremely excited, and the boys started to group the teams. Coach Rogers, knowing that no one would intend to include Michael in the team, decided to make everyone agree for Michael to be the team captain. It was through a game that was set up by Coach Rogers. Coach Rogers took Nicholas, the buff bully, and Michael. Both were blind folded and the class grew confused of what Coach Rogers is doing.
“Now, I am going to explain the decision of the team captains”, said Coach Rogers. “We are going to roll the kickball into the general direction of the boys at the speed of 3 meters per second. Then the boys are supposed to move their feet around and guess where the ball is, only with their feet.” The class grew louder, wondering the purpose of this game. The coach added, “the person who is able to know the location of the ball and the speed of the ball at all times will be the captain.”
How could anyone do that? That was the first thought of everyone. You can’t tell the speed of the ball when it hits your feet! It definitely changes in speed. And you also can’t tell the location of the ball when the speed is 3 meters per second! What is going on? What is Coach Rogers doing? All of these thoughts swam around the room. Nicholas, with a conceited tone, said, “if no one can do it, I can do it. Trust me guys; I can beat this kid in anything anytime.” Nicholas, blindfolded, looked like a fool looking for the ball. He obviously couldn’t tell where it was. Once the ball hit him, it went off in a different direction and he was clueless.
The next up was Michael. Seeing what Nicholas did, everyone was losing interest in seeing Michael because if Nicholas did not make it, there is no way that Michael would. Michael stood up, somewhat awkwardly, and then went in the middle. Michael, behind the blindfold, closed his eyes, and concentrated. He thought of every morning, when he always senses his mom coming into his room. He thought of every other moment where he could consider himself clairvoyant. Suddenly, he could see all these numbers in his head. It was like that movie he watched when he was in 5th grade, Matrix. All the green numbers on a screen, calculating. 2 meters per second, the location is 4 o’clock way. Walk towards that… or say it! “The location of the ball is right there”, said Michael as the ball was approaching him. Everyone looked at Michael with eyes of disbelief. Meanwhile the ball hit Michael and the ball was going in a different direction, much faster than before. The green numbers… They appeared in Michael’s head again. He felt lightheaded but he was somewhat more focused than ever. 5 meters per second! “The ball is going 5 meters per second.” Now everyone started talking at once. Coach Rogers smiled at Michael, and mouthed the words, “I knew you could do it”. Michael was confused about how he could do it. All the kids in the class started yelling, “this is boring! This is lame! Let’s play something else!” And then the bell rang, so everyone had to go to the locker room.
            The next day, life was different for Michael. He believed in his abilities, and felt proud. Sure he was alone, but he was not lonely. He was full of self confidence that he never had felt before. 

About the Author: 
A high school senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. She is currently taking honors physics and her teacher Mr. Buxman gave opportunities for her to write a short story about quantum physics.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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