Star Doors

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“I’ll watch your dream on my laptop,” Betty said as Joe lay down on her bed onboard her luxury yacht in New York Harbor. Her long soft black hair swept across his chest as she reached down to adjust his nano-electronic glasses. The ordinary-looking, black-frame glasses housed a wearable computer and miniature protonic sensors and electrodes. Joe used them as a study aid in his graduate school physics courses. They were about to use them to explore something mysterious and powerful.

One night, Joe had accidentally fallen asleep with his glasses on and had an elaborate dream that his glasses actually recorded. The dream predicted an alien ship would crash on Earth in 2020. Soon after, aliens would try to raid Earth for its resources, just as the physicist Stephen Hawkings had warned. Recently, Joe had discovered clues that the dream’s predictions might come true. He hypothesized that his glasses were quantum-entangled with the future. If true, he wanted to re-enter the alien dream to get more information.

Joe opened his eyes to see Betty’s concerned face looking down at him. He thought about how beautiful she was and how odd it was that she rarely left her yacht in the city that never sleeps.

Betty had agreed to help him find his girlfriend, Jazz. To Joe, Jazz was a super hero. She was athletic and attractive, but more importantly, despite a troubled start in college, she excelled at physics. Some compared her to Einstein. While Joe struggled in his physics courses, Jazz mastered them easily. She was often asked to explain advanced physics to others. Their shared passion for exploring the universe brought them together as modern-day adventurers and ultimately as lovers.
 
Joe closed his eyes. Jazz had disappeared months ago and he had spent all his days and nights trying to find her. The police concluded she had drowned in a river even though her body was never found.

Joe refused to believe she was dead. He wanted to look into the future to find clues about her disappearance. He recalled she had submitted a paper to a journal a few weeks before she disappeared. It described teleporting information from the future. Later on she was offered a multimillion dollar job by a top-secret financial investment firm. She turned it down because she wanted to publish her work openly and stay with Joe while he finished graduate school.
 
Joe drifted off to sleep and found himself in the front row of a crowded classroom. A physics professor he knew was finishing up a lecture on quantum electrodynamics.
 
“In the last few minutes of this class, we are going to talk about Alien Science.” Several students smiled. This was their favorite part of the class. Professor Neil would present a bizarre theory and their assignment was to tell him what was wrong with it.

“The universe began as one quantum singularity. Everything was entangled in space and time. It would have been easy to send messages across the universe. But then the singularity exploded. The Big Bang happened.” He drew pieces of a fragmented circle with arrows on the board.
 
He pointed to the back of the classroom. “What if I wanted to go to that corner of the classroom and it was a billion light-years away in another galaxy?” He waited for the students to think about the question.
 
“The fact is I can’t take my body there. It’s impossible. I would die of old age long before I got there because nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. We see the wonders of the universe through our telescopes, but nature denies us access to those wonders.”

“Please stand up, Ms. Jones.” A student in the back stood up slowly. “But nature has given us a way to travel there virtually. Each of us is made of entangled stardust. What if some matter in my brain was entangled with some matter in Ms. Jones’ brain, allowing us to instantly communicate our thoughts?”
“Isn’t it amazing that humans have evolved with the ability to dream? In essence each of us can simulate the sights and sounds of being somewhere else without actually having to go there. Now what if I dreamt I was Ms. Jones looking back at me. Her reality is my dream. I am Ms. Jones.” A few students chuckled at the idea.
 
“Theoretically we could use quantum entanglement to dream-travel somewhere even though it’s a billion light-years away. What if your brain was entangled with someone else’s in this classroom?” Several students looked around and laughed. “What if my reality on Earth was just the dream of an alien in another galaxy?” The class became silent.
 
“We’ll discuss what is right or wrong with this Alien Science next time.” The noise of shuffling books, moving chairs and jovial discussions about aliens rose and faded as the students left the room.
 
Joe walked over to the professor and said, “Hello Professor.”

“Joe. It’s good to see you.”
 
“I need to know, professor. Can matter be entangled across time as Jazz predicted in her paper?”
 
“Of course, Joe, time travels slower for matter travelling at relativistic speeds. So we can time-shift two entangled crystals by making one travel at relativistic speeds. I’ve done it. I’ve received information from the future.”
 
Joe feared the answer to his next question. “Professor, is Jazz alive in the future?”
 
Professor Neil pulled out his smart phone and smiled. “Here’s an email from the future that may help.” Joe felt optimistic as the dream world disappeared.
 
He opened his eyes and saw Betty. She had watched his entire dream on her laptop. “I’ve got the email, Joe. But it’s just one word: ‘Sojo’. It’s from a maintenance firm located below the Dog Financial Tower in New York City.”

Joe smiled. Only Jazz called him Sojo. He remembered how she’d laugh when he solved problems by thinking outside the box. Sojo was short for: “So, Joe, what have you done now?”
 

About the Author: 
As a University of Maine Chemistry Department engineering physicist, I often work on complex scientific problems. When Stephen Hawkings warned that aliens probably exist and they might raid Earth for its resources, I wondered how that could happen. I wrote a sci-fi book, Star Doors Red, which explores the possibilities.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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 ... 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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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!

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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!

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!

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.