Hip Cat

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He stepped inside, the heels of his custom made alligator skin boots clicking on the tiles. Reggie closed the door, the latch clicking into place. It was dark and cool. No windows. No other bodies. Only the pale light of a single blue lightbulb, shrouded on most sides with the malleable black wrapping stagehands used, its sapphire light enough to illuminate the path to the door. Mercurio pressed his hands into prayer position (as the lithe 22 year old yoga instructor called it). His large, garish rings -- each of them carefully chosen so as to be noticed even from the nosebleed seats --  clicking together as they met just in front of his sternum. He lowered his head, his now perfect chin meeting his now perfect fingernails. His handlers -- Reggie and the others -- had been herding him from appointment to appointment in preparation for this moment, no procedure too bizarre to consider. This moment. Mercutio was one hundred percent aware of the gravity of this moment. His ability to disappear into the moment is what had kept him sane during the previous twelve months. “They want you to do a comeback.” From the instant he heard that phrase, he knew his life wouldn’t be his to define much longer. He knew they would make him into whatever they wanted him to be, whatever they saw him to be. What could he do? He needed the money. This is why he endured the hairline replacement, the awkward blinking following an eyelid tuck, the chin implant, the manicures, the endless fitness classes with the absurdly bendable yoga instructor, the acidic burn of the facial peels and the ensuing sensitivity to the sun, the long days in fancy boutiques with snobbish bimbo stylists trying on clothes to make him seem hip, relevant, yet still his age. After tonight, there was no going back. This debut performance would make him or break him. It could turn out either way. It was up to those fans -- those 24,576 eyes -- on the other side of the door. He knew this moment in the black box was his last before the media onslaught: always looking, always defining him, always scrutinizing him, always judging him.
He knew how the critics would react. Hell, they had been offering their thoughts and evaluations since word got out he was back in the recording studio. Before that, there would be the occasional mention of him in the media, usually on one of two topics: (1) Mercurio checks in/out of rehab; or (2) Mercurio is overrated/underrated. They say there’s no such thing as bad press, but as for the former, he had had enough of his shortcomings on display. As for the latter, he tried not to take it personally, but his blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul had been poured into the music of his youth. How could they even know what it was like to be him? He struggled everyday trying to strike a balance. Some days he felt he was two people simultaneously, trapped in a single body. Every day brought an elaborate theatre play inside of him, a showcase of two extremes, bouting for complete control. He seemed incapable of establishing allegiance to either team.
The fans understood this fact. The fans he could depend on. So much of his music had focused on the internal struggle. He knew they listened because they, too, felt the same way. He had more precious metals affiliated with his albums than he could count. He had been overwhelmed with the messages, posts, Tweets (whatever those were), video “shout outs” (that’s what Reggie called them), and actual physical letters sent by mail he had received (and been told he had received) since it was announced that “2 Extremes” would be released in the fall. The fans were his rock, his purpose, his reason for putting himself back on display again.
Now in this room -- silent, save for the low thump of a legion of people anticipating his arrival -- he knew he was both the critics’ Mercurio and the fans’ Mercurio. He was the washed up talentless nobody that fell off the map over a decade ago, and he was the comeback kid, the legend with more tricks up his sleeve. He could remain both things as long as he remained in that small, dark anteroom, away from the public eye. Mercurio continued his slow, deep breathing exercise, another product of stretching with the yoga girl. Suddenly, from deep within his mind, a memory surfaced. He was that dude’s cat. He had learned about it from a surprisingly smart groupie, a blonde bombshell named Erwina who had thought his album title held some scientific reference. They had partied together late night in Vienna after a gig on his world tour to promote his second album, “Hip Cat.” It had always stuck with him. The cat in the box, both dead and alive. How could it be both? He had never understood this bizarre science until this moment. In here, he was the winner AND the loser, he was alive AND dead. Once he walked onto that stage, the great Observer, the American Pop Culture Machine, will decide his fate. They will make him into their slave or they will cast him off like soiled underwear. Only problem was, he couldn’t figure out which outcome was the dead cat, and which one was alive. He lowered his hands, lifted his head, ,took a step forward, and reached for the knob on the door to the black box.

About the Author: 
Rebecca Kopycinski is a multi-media artist living in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. She sings, educates children through the arts, makes films, and has a fascination with quantum physics and neuroscience and how these topics relate to reality and the perceptions of reality.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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!

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.

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”.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

K is for ... Kaon

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