What's the Qatch?

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“Thank you for holding.  At Qatch we appreciate your patience almost as much as we appreciate your patronage of the world’s first and foremost Quantum Mate Matching, featuring the power of the Perfect Prediction.  My name is Megan, how may I help you today?”
 
“Wait, I’m sorry, what?”
 
 
“Sir, please don’t make me repeat that again.  I’ve started answering the phone at home that way.  What can I do for you today?”
 
 
“Uh, well, the thing is, this is Qatch?”
 
 
“Yes sir.  I hope it is.  I’ve been answering the phone that way all day.”
 
 
“Look, you can call me Steve.  Don’t call me sir - that’s... it’s just weird.”
 
 
“Makes you feel like your father, sir?”
 
 
“Ugh, yes!  Look, Megan- or is it Ma’am?”
 
 
“Megan, sir.”
 
 
“Steve, ma’am.”
 
 
“Alright, Steve.  You only had to ask thrice.  Sorry.  It’s in the rules.”
 
 
“I only asked twice, though.”
 
 
“I don’t always follow the rules.  Why’d you call up Qatch, Steve?  Was it to talk about your father?”
 
 
“Ugh.  No.”
 
 
“Why not?  He sounds nice.  I bet he would let me call HIM sir.”
 
 
“Megan, the reason I called is... well, I mean, this is embarrassing, but...”
 
 
“Steve, there’s no reason to be embarrassed.  Here at Qatch we’ve used the power of the Quantum Possibility Explorer to match up many thousands of people.  I assume that you are, indeed, one of our customers?”
 
 
“Well, yes, that’s why I’m calling.  But, like I said, this is embarrassing...”
 
 
“Steve, you probably know someone in your life who has used our services.  Anyone whose meet-cute story is just TOO cute?”
 
 
“My cousin met her husband when they both reached for the same waffle at a free continental breakfast at an airport Marriot in Destin, Florida.”
 
 
“Cute.”
 
 
“They call it Destiny, Florida.”
 
 
“Exactly.  TOO cute.  They, or at least one of them, was probably a Qatch customer.  Let’s walk you through the steps, Steve.  Let’s solve your problem.  First.  When you uploaded your information to our website, you did make sure to be as thorough as possible, correct?  Even if there is only one Steve McLastname in all the world, that’s no guarantee that in the alternate worlds we explore for your Perfect Match there aren’t a full dozen McLastnames that decided ‘Steve’ would be a great name for a kid.”
 
 
“Oh yeah, name, birthdate, birthplace, height, weight, social security number, eye color.  Everything.  You even have Colonel Mustard’s information in there.”
 
 
“Colonel Mustard?”
 
 
“My labrador.”
 
 
“Yellow lab?”
 
 
“No, why would he be yellow?  Black lab.”
 
 
“Silly me.  So, moving on to the next step, we have all your information, now what did you put you were looking for?”
 
 
“Um, well I said I was looking for my perfect match.  My soulmate.”
 
 
“Obviously, sir.  That’s what we’re in the business of finding.  But, did you say you were looking for your perfect match for the year?  For, perhaps, the evening?  Those rush jobs are much less reliable, and tend to be more susceptible to the effects of quantum foaming.”
 
 
“For the evening?  You mean...”
 
 
“You know what I mean, Steve.”
 
 
“Oh, god, no!  I mean, not that... there’s anything wrong with that, or that I would necessarily OBJECT to that... but no, I put down for forever.  The best match for me, in all the universes, until we both shall die, or whatever.”
 
 
“Romantic!  Particularly the ‘or whatever’ part.  Well, good news on that front, Steve, finding a perfect soulmate for all time is actually easier, as the match exists for so much longer.  So, you entered in all the information, and we did the search, and you should have got your results.  So I can only assume somewhere in the results is the problem you’re calling me, Megan, your friendly tech support, about.”
 
 
“Well-”
 
 
“Now, you sound like a nice guy, Steve, so the problem isn’t possibly that you find the potential soulmate physically repulsive, is it?”
 
 
“No!  I hope not!”
 
 
“Good.  That’s a very rare case, certainly, but it does happen.  But then the guy starts running and loses a few dozen pounds, or the girl takes off her glasses and lets down her hair, and suddenly everything is hunky-dory, usually.  But that is not the case here!  So, your problem is in your instructions.  What you have to do to meet the love of your life.  Now, Steve, here’s the thing.  While our instructions may seem arbitrary and somewhat random, they must be followed.  To the letter.”
 
 
“Well, the thing is-”
 
 
“No objections, Steve!  We’ve used our immense, god-like power to view over the quantum multiverse, bending this power capriciously to the whim of finding one man his soulmate, and then we meticulously comb through the data, to find the proper meeting point for you and your mate-to-be.  It has to be soon, or the customer may feel cheated out of potential years of soul-mated-ness.  But it also has to be ‘cute’, or the meeting may not take, and the spark may not fire, and then the couple will not have been Perfectly Matched!  So what did your instructions say to do, to meet the love of your life?”
 
 
“They said to call up Qatch tech support, and ask to speak to Megan.”
 
 
“...”
 
 
“I’m sorry, this is embarrassing, I should let you go.”
 
“Steve...”
 
“Megan?”
 
“Please... don’t let me go.”

About the Author: 
The power of the Quantum Possibility Explorer is helping Steve to find his perfect match

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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 ... 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!

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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!

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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!