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I am walking around a track, maybe one of those indoor running tracks that circle above a gymnasium.  Only I can’t see down into the middle, I can only move ahead. I feel that it would be best if I don’t look back. Nothing is following me, I just don’t want to see where I’ve been.
Ahead is a small group.  An older woman points to me. “There!  There’s the man I was telling you about!” She is excited to see me, almost proud.  She leads me into a small room.
The room has two large chairs like you find in a barbershop.  It is dimly lit.  Music is playing softly. The older woman takes me to a chair and I sit, gratefully.  I am so very tired.
“You could tell he was from somewhere else.  He shimmered.”
The other chair is occupied by a beautiful woman.  No, beautiful is the wrong word.  Her face is serene, smooth, perfectly symmetrical. Her eyes study my face, and she smiles.  Her smile engulfs me.  I hear the old woman’s voice, but I see only this face.
“Look, it’s happening again!”
The eyes in the perfect face flutter, roll inwards, a tear rolls down her cheek.  I panic, for I feel I have done something wrong, and I don’t want this to end, but I feel the bottom drop out from under me.  I fall and plunge under water, a dark veil covers me, I am powerless as I struggle for air but a heavy weight is on my chest when –
I force myself awake, gasping for air, heart pounding.
I’m disoriented at first.  I look around.  I’m alone, in a small room, like in the dream only real this time. I am able to slow my breathing as I acclimate. Beethoven’s Opus 109 is playing softly in the background, and I remember I had requested it.  I find Beethoven more mathematically pure than Mozart, and it calms me.  This was an experiment, I know, but I am still fuzzy on the particulars.  I took a sleep aid, so I’m sure that’s part of the problem.
I walk to the door.  I pass by a mirror.  The face looking back is not beautiful, but it is mine.  The dream is already fading from memory, but I think the smiling woman was me.
I open the door into a hallway, also dimly lit.  Strange that a doctor or doctoral candidate or even a TA hasn’t stopped me yet.
I move to the next door, and enter a mirror image of my room.  Sitting in a chair, eyes closed, is a man. A handsome man, with regular, symmetrical features.  I should know him, he is my partner, my pair, my sparticle.  We are entangled in this experiment, we should be perfectly tuned.  But he is asleep, and I am awake, and I don’t know him.  Something is wrong.
Behind his eyelids, his eyes flutter in REM sleep.  I may not know him, but I know what he is dreaming.
In his dream he is in a room, a quiet room.  The room has two large chairs like you find in a barbershop.  It is dimly lit.  He sits in the chair across from me.  He looks so very tired, his eyes preoccupied, his face unshaven.
Yet I feel a great attraction to him, a pull.  I smile. I can see this pleases him.  We are connected.  I have a power over him that I did not ask for, and do not want.
And then he starts to shimmer, to slip from me.  Even as I study his face, his eyes, his mouth, it all changes subtly and I can no longer hold his image still in my mind. I feel myself falling away, tears in my eyes.  A terrible feeling of despair, crushing hopelessness, as I tumble backwards blindly until --  
I’m awake!  Jesus, that was scary!  I’m sweating, my heart is pounding.  I feel like I’ve just run a marathon. I’ve never had a dream like that before, a dream within a dream.
The room I’m in looks a little like the one in the dream.  The track was my health club, the chairs were like my barbershop’s.  And the woman – she looked familiar, definitely someone I’ve met before.  I felt really close to her, but I can’t really place where she’s from. 
I‘ve got to find someone to help me straighten things out -- whatever they gave me to knock me out is still messing with my head.  I know it’s important to record what I can remember from the dreams. I’m in some sort of experiment and they want me to be as detailed as I can be, so where the hell are they?
I go to the door and step into the hall. Nobody. Typical. Your taxpayer dollars at work.  Hello, I woke up early, I need to pee, and I need to write this stuff down!
I’m really pissed off now.  I walk down to the next room and throw the door open.  There’s a woman in a hospital gown with her back to me.  She’s standing in front of a man in a chair, his face turned away from me.  That’s the bastard!  That’s the guy who shimmers!  I’m going to kick his--!
I wake up quickly.  I take in the room in a moment, the dim lighting, the soft music.  I raise my hands and look at them.  They are distant, foreign, but they respond to me.  I touch my face, feel stubble.  I have been gone for more than a day, perhaps several. 
I look up at you.  We are complete.  We were apart, and now we are found.  Our eyes meet.  I know that look.  It was a success, yes, but there is a problem.  I am so terribly sorry.
There is a sound.  The knob turns, the door is thrown open.  We both turn away.  We dare not look.

About the Author: 
Frank Rose lives in Chicago and has read Scientific American since he was young. He is not so young now.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.