A bond stronger than diamond

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“I miss you, Charm.”
Ada spoke towards the horizon where a slight change in hues marked the end of the blue earth and the start of the heavens. She imagined her words sailing past the South China Sea, flying over the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi, squeezing through the Torres Strait and finally landing, exhausted, in the forests of Taveuni.
“I cannot hear you, Charm. Talk to me.”
She didn't expect an answer from her twin sister but it still felt right, comforting. When they were little girls, they role-played at conquering the world with their extrasensory communication, their secret superpower. Even as adolescents they half-believed there was a supernatural connection, until finally a rigorous science education had made them outgrow it. Even so, they still gave each other that complicit wink when a weird coincidence made it feel real for a minute.
Ada's eyes were watery but she was not crying. She found the noise of the crashing waves and the white froth running through the rocks calming. The randomness of nature quieted her thoughts.
It had been so different just a few months earlier when the whiz twins were on top of the world. They had never dreamed of becoming rich. They just wanted to do the physics they loved and were good at. The two had been part of the collaboration that finally cracked the problem of creating ultra stable entangled states. It was a breakthrough for the future of quantum computing. Their contribution to the scientific undertaking gave them an immense sense of accomplishment. The best part was that they shared the experience although they worked in different teams at different labs. But one day, Charm was experimenting with diamonds, testing them as a host material for the entangled complex, when a beautiful change in color happened. The patent for doping diamonds and the founding of a startup company followed like a blur.
Ada caressed the crystal in her bracelet. The diamond was a teal color, almost green. The IP manager of the startup had copyrighted its name as Quantum Green. Wherever Charm was, she had a diamond the same color. According to accelerated aging tests they had performed, the diamonds should remain that color for a millennium. In the very unlikely event that they lost their entanglement, however, one would become a light blue and the other a dark red. The individual diamonds' eventual colors could not be predicted, but the twins had promised each other that if the entanglement should be lost, Charm would keep the red one and Ada the blue.
A trace of a smile slightly stretched Ada's lips. One of the few things that the twins could not agree on was their preferred color. The reason, everybody assumed, was that their mother used red and blue bows to tell them apart when they were little. But to Ada blue was indisputably prettier.
The wind buffeted her face and grains of sand pelted her legs. The sun was coming down, and the air was getting colder.
She wished she had given Charm one more hug when she left to accompany Marco on his expedition to research arachnids in the Fiji archipelago.
“A honeymoon searching for spiders in the jungle. You fool,” Ada whispered.
Her mother could not understand when she told her she was returning home after only two weeks of searching in Fiji. She came up with excuses because she could not tell her that she was certain Charm was dead. She knew because she felt alone over there.
A quickly-moving shadow glided across the sand at her feet. Ada looked up and saw a large albatross flapping its wings to gain height. She followed it with her eyes as it flew away into the sea, its silhouette becoming smaller and smaller until it was a white speck and then finally disappeared.
It was time to leave the beach. She slapped her sandals together to shake off the sand. Right then, she noticed the diamond in her bracelet.
“Red!” she cried out loud. But the white noise of the waves overpowered her scream. Or perhaps she just shouted inside her head; she couldn't be sure.
It was almost dark when Ada finally stood up. She took out her smart phone; she knew she had to call her mom. But there, in the news feed there was something about Taveuni. The volcano that had been expelling fumes for several weeks had finally erupted. Pyroclastic flows were putting several communities at risk.
“Very hot lava. That would do it.”
Ada wiped her eyes with the back of her wrist; then spoke one last time into the wind.
“Goodbye, Charm. You can keep my blue stone. I'll keep yours.”

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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!

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”.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Randomness

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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