In any other world

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Gingerly, Tom pressed his chapped lips against hers. Her strawberry taste lingered only in his memory, and the dead fish underneath his tongue felt cold and foreign.
He tried again, heaving in a deep breath with his eyes closed, and dived. Sam’s stale teeth stood stoically. Tired and desperate, Tom pumped his feelings into her, in slow, long whispers against her lips: “Sam, I Iove you. Sam, I miss you. Sam, I love you, still,” until his lips went numb. He lied awake next to his breathing wife the next morning, cheeks tingling with tears. “Another day,” his sore neck reminded him, and he smiled.
Tom watched.
Sam slept peacefully. Her chest rises and falls with the calmness of a lullaby. Her fine caramel hair melted around pale jaws. Her green vein trickled down her neck, bloomed into a pea-shaped dot at the collar bone and branched out in tiny tentacles.
Tom stared.
He used to call that dot “Shellie the jellyfish”- another of those things that helps him find her in the crowd. Sam has the sort of nondescript face that resemble anyone you meet on the street: small brown eyes, half-tight lips, nose economically shaped, and sometimes giggled in the middle of their kiss.
Tom listened.
The tubes buzzed in a laboured way, methodically pumping transparent sludge into Sam’s shoulders and nose and spine. His watch ticked, toc, tic, toc, tic. The door seethed, metal grinding on ceramic floor. The doctor was pushing the door open with her butt.
“Hi, Tom, how are you doing today?”
The silence was thick.
“Hey, are you alright?”
“Yes, Methione.”
“Call me Meth.”
“Meth.
“Alright, Tom, here’s your wife’s medtrition for today: six of these pills, 2 hours each, and two of that. I brought extra fluid packs, hook them up as per usual, alright?” She spread the pills on the table.
“Yes, Methione.”
“Tom, ” Methione sighed, “call me Meth.”
“Meth.”
“Look here, Tom.” He vaguely saw her hands akimbo on wide hips. “I know it is hard, and it has been seven months, but… will you just consider the option?”
The silence was cold, too.
Meth signed and took the tray. She stole one last look at the drooped shoulder by the bed. The tattooed eagles are mourning, she knows. She chanced upon him taking his shirt, once. She knew how magnificent those feathers look stretching in mid air. Such a waste.
Tom reached out to brush his thumb against Sam’s cheek and heaved a deep breath. “Seven months, Sam” he croaked. “I’ve missed you so.” He fumbled with his other hand search for the comb on the table, but a stack of papers met his fingers instead. Tom froze. He knew what they were. He expected anger to bloom, and was surprised when a heavy resignation settled in his lungs. Meth showed him the stack of papers after Sam’s, their, fifth chemo-treatment.
“Tom, the chance that Sam will wake up is slim to none. We are trying real hard to reprint her cells, but our speed cannot compare against  QM42. There’s another option, though…” Meth glanced sideways.
“I will do anything,” he choked out bitterly, “if it helps her, anything.”
“Not her, Tom. You.” Meth reached out to cover Tom’s hand with hers. “Quantum jump.  It’s an opt-in option for partners of patients snared by QM42. It teleports you into another quantum world, a parallel universe.”
“A parallel universe?” Tom knitted his eyebrows numbly.
“Yes, it your chance to start again. QM42 is a… peculiar virus. It exists in two superimposed states- dormant and active. The probability of its attack is exceedingly rare. That’s why your chance of finding yourself in another world with a healthy wife is very high,” Meth’s thumb rubbed his wrist in small circles as she explained.
“I won’t…”
“You won’t remember anything,” Meth squeezed his wrist gently. “Your memory from the moment your wife get infected would be wiped out, not the rest. Everything would be exactly the same as it is, sans tubes and pills and cold nights in the hospital. No, Tom, listen to me. You wouldn’t want to watch her in this wretched state, would you? And… Sam is in pain in this world too. If you consented, we can end the torture for you both.”
“Are… are you mad? You are telling me to leave my wife for a proxy wife in another world?” Anger coursed through his body as Tom restrained from lashing out at the brown eyes in front of him. Almost the same colour as Sam’s- his stomach twisted bitterly. “And what in the world would happen to the Tom in that world, when I appear? Can you imagine how he would feel when another person takes his place besides his wife?” Tom snarled.
“There’s no ‘another person’, Tom. If you are there, the Tom there will disappear. It would make no difference.”
“I would kill myself before giving up what we went through together in this world,” Tom bared his teeth in Meth’s face and jerked his fists out of her grasp.
“But you went through the same things in the other world, everything but the virus. Tom, wait!”
“Thank you, doctor. I’m sorry but I have a wife to attend to.” And with that Tom slammed the door behind him.
Tom winced at the memory. He was so angry then. It’s hard to feel angry when his shoulders ached and his eye-bags sagged. Hope drained away a bit every day, just like the colour on Sam’s lips. He held her hand against his cheek, and chuckled at himself for hoping fervently she wouldn’t wake up right then, because surely Sam would laugh at the hot tears rolling off his eyes. He missed her laugh. 
His watch ticked, toc, tic, toc. The stack of papers fluttered on the table. At the corner, pain, and what he thought was hope, shrivelled into a dot next to his name.

Signed by,
Thomas Samantha Hugh.

About the Author: 
I wonder where people are always running to, and whether they know how special they are in this big wide world. Doesn't everyone feel that urge to hug a stranger and wish him happiness with all your heart, too?

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Quantum Theories

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

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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!

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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