Mustard and Entropy

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Mustard and Entropy
C. Thomson
 
OHHHHM went Carrie.
Her black side gleamed brilliantly under the harsh desert sun. She seemed completely impervious to the orange dust that clung to everything else like a bad smell. MacMurdo had grit in his teeth; he had grit in his eyes; he had had grit in his sandwiches for the last sixteen days, and something told him he was right on track for ploughman's des sables number seventeen.
'She looks fine, Marie, leave her be.'
'She looks fine to you, Murdo, because you have all the aesthetic sensibility of a cane toad.' said Marie.
MacMurdo snorted and swaggered off to rest his bulk under the shade of the equipment tent, leaving Marie to fuss redundantly at Carrie's perfect feet.
Everything about Carrie was perfect. Perfect to the Nth degree. To the N to the power Nth. MacMurdo sighed and tipped a little orange sand from his shoe into the palm of his sweaty hand.
She was the most perfect thing in the known universe – except of course for her perfectly identical sisters; Terry, Sherry and Mhairi. A tetrahedral constellation of unequalled radiance – though MacMurdo knew he would always have his own special favourite...
'Look, would you give it a rest, Marie?'
'Murdo, she's got to look her best – 24/7 – today could be the day, you know! Would you let her go on camera in this state?'
She went back to her pawing. Today could be the day.
And why not? History had taught that the coalescing quantum inevitability of history resonated far below the threshold of mere human perception. A day like any other could be transformed at a moments notice into the day of the decade – the century!
MacMurdo carefully poured the pinch of sand into a tiny cairn atop the plastic comms table. He admired the energy efficient structure of the miniature orange mountain before scattering it with a single sharp puff. He swirled his pudgy fingertips through the remnants and thought of Roebuck and his team stranded somewhere in the sweltering, pest ridden rainforest of Guatemala. MacMurdo smiled. There were worse places to be.
 
Marie scuttled about Carrie's hulking black shell like a dung beetle worrying at some unfathomable alien dropping. By some measurements, Carrie massed a little over half a billion tonnes, though the great majority of that mass was fortunately smeared liberally across non-Einsteinian space. The modulated quantum singularity in her heart - and in those of her identical sisters - though tiny by astrophysical standards, was the result of more than a century of back breaking (not to mention migraine inducing) labour by the combined scientific elites of the world.
Four entangled impossibilities dancing in geometric harmony at the four corners of the globe; dragging their quantum-gravitational fingers through the substance of space-time like rakes through a zen garden.
OHHHHM went Carrie.
With the edge of his palm, MacMurdo swept the remaining dust off the cliff edge of the table. A few grains stuck stubbornly under the aluminium trim, adding to the rusty rime about everything: a pale orange shadow outlining the dimensions of human presence. The rest melted silently back into the desert floor.
An ever hopeful vulture screeched somewhere overhead. Marie hummed a little tune as she buffed Carrie's already perfect carapace to a mirror sheen. MacMurdo watched her disappear mercifully behind the curve of Carrie's five meter diameter.
The ocean of end-stage probability stirred restlessly about MacMurdo's feet, as if eager to convey some urgent message. He looked out across the shifting, shimmering horizon and imagined Carrie's modulated 3-dimensional graviton pulse bleeding out through the bulk of the metaverse; slicing through unthinkable planes of non-space, non-time – to be felt upon the shores of some unthinkable non-place … or, just maybe, to be picked up by some alternate version of himself; cringing under a mosquito net in the middle of a monsoon...
MacMurdo was ever thankful for the sense of perspective granted by scientific knowledge. There were always worse places to be – and somewhere out there, he was already in all of them.
Marie reappeared, still humming dutifuly, her pale green summerdress ruffling in the heat and rising wind.
'For gawd's sake, woman; put that thing down and come over here before you get heat stroke.'
'I'm almost done, Murdo. Why don't you do something useful yourself and make us up some sandwiches, eh?'
MacMurdo grimaced. So it had come to this. Again.
OOO-UUHHHHHHM went Carrie, her baritone rising by a perfect fourth as she cycled from transmit to receive. Two PM on the dot.
MacMurdo rose with a breathy preamble and shuffled off towards the cool box.
'Don't forget the mustard on mine, Murdo!'
MacMurdo dipped his fingers into the lukewarm refrigerator and pulled out half a loaf of white bread, a block of cheddar cheese, a jar of sandwich pickle and a single sachet of prepackaged Dijon mustard.
 
'Phew. Hot one today, eh?' beamed Marie, pulling off her flopping sunhat and patting the dust from her dress as she sat.
'Hot.' agreed MacMurdo, setting two plates and two glasses of water on the tabletop.
Marie nodded and glanced back out to the huge black sphere humming serenely a dozen metres away across the baking plain.
'Ain't she a beauty, Murdo?'
'Perfect, Marie. Just like you.'
'Hah, you old sap!' laughed Marie. 'Best eat up, eh. Can't be going on camera on an empty stomach – today could be the day, you know!'
Today could be the day.
MacMurdo picked up the sandwich and bit.

About the Author: 
After recently graduating with a degree in Art and Philosophy, Craig Thomson currently works as a carpenter in his native Scotland. He still tries (and sometimes finds) time to write, make artwork and play his guitar.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

G is for ... Gluon

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

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

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C is for ... Cryptography

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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 ... Information

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X is for ... X-ray

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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.

U is for ... Universe

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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T is for ... Tunnelling

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T is for ... Teleportation

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Q is for ... Qubit

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D is for ... Dice

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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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.

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.

R is for ... Radioactivity

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F is for ... Free Will

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R is for ... Randomness

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

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M is for ... Multiverse

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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.

Q is for ... Quantum biology

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A is for ... Atom

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L is for ... Light

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K is for ... Kaon

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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.

R is for ... Reality

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B is for ... Bell's Theorem

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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