Do Parallel Lines Intersect?

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Do Parallel Worlds Intersect?
   It was just a regular summer day in New York City.  The sky was fairly blue, the traffic in the city was congested, and the coming events were uncertain.  Charles was sitting in his favorite diner in the middle of Manhattan having a cup of coffee and a bagel. 
  He peered away from his newspaper to look out the diner window.  He noticed a seemingly crazy homeless man with a cardboard sign on his chest.  “Today your world ends!”  Charles had seen signs like this before, but they were never quite worded like this.  It seemed strange.  It seemed personal.
  He quickly remembered that he had to get to the office, so he finished his bagel, swallowed his coffee, paid, and left.  Even as he was walking down the street, he could not shake the strange feeling that sign gave him.  It just felt so significant.  He couldn’t understand why.
  WORLD 1:  He walks a little ways and then signals for a cab.  After two or three ignoring him and passing by, one sees the rapid waves of Charles’ s arms and the cab stops.  He walks towards the cab, noticing the number 14 on top of the car, quickly scrapes off something that was stuck on his shoe, and enters the cab.  As he gets comfortable in his seat, he tells the driver the address of the office.  He looks at the traffic, it is moving very slow.  He thinks if it might be faster to walk, but decided against it.  He just sits in his seat and thinks about the coming day, about his coming work.  He stops thinking.  He notices something.  He hadn’t seen it before.  In back of the driver’s seat, there is a paper note.  His breath becomes short, he feels a cold chill.  He reads the words.  “Today your world ends!”
  World 2:  He walks a little ways and then signals for a cab.  After the first cab passes by, the next one notices Charles’s waves and stops.  Charles walks to the cab and notices a small paper on the bottom of his shoe.  Before he scrapes it off, he notices that there are words written on it.  He pulls the paper from his shoe, straightens it out, and reads the words.  “Today your world ends!”
  WORLD 1:  Charles is in a panic.  Nothing makes sense.  Could this be only a coincidence?  Is he going crazy?  Or maybe, God forbid, it is a sign.  Maybe he will die, maybe everyone will die.  He doesn’t  know, but sitting in that cab, all the possibilities race through his mind; each more frightening than the next.  He looks all around him.  He looks at the cab driver, the other cars, their drivers, the buildings, everything.  Everything invokes fear, everything makes him suspicious.  It doesn’t matter if he is being paranoid, it doesn’t  matter if the note has no meaning; it isn’t  worth the risk of being wrong.
  World 2:  Charles cannot believe his eyes.  He doesn’t know what to think.  In shock, he walks away from the cab as it drives away, holding the note to his eyes.
As he walks down the sidewalk, he tries to calm himself down.  He tells himself that it is just a coincidence, it isn’t an omen, even that it is all a dream.  After all, it is only a piece of paper.  How could it predict the future?  How could it predict his future? Impossible.  Or is it?  This thought begins to enter his mind.  Maybe it is more than a coincidence.  Maybe his world will end.  But how? Panic.  Just as this thought enters his mind, the thought that the paper might have meaning, that it is telling the future, Charles becomes overwhelmed with fear.  He runs.  He runs as fast as he can down the sidewalk.  Everything he sees scares him, every person he passes is a threat.  He doesn’t know what he is running from, but he feels like he was running for his life.  He notices everything.  He notices a man leaning up against a building and smoking a cigarette, he notices a small pizzeria, a street sign that reads Wilcott Street.
  World 2:  The paranoia is almost becoming too much.  All logic has left his mind.  He doesn’t know what to do.  He considers just getting out of the cab.  He considers running.  Hiding.  But running from what?  Where would he hide?  What is he trying to avoid, and will he be any safer outside the cab?  Maybe he is crazy.  Maybe the note is a coincidence.  Maybe.  Suddenly, there is a quick jerk.  The cab makes a sharp right turn.  Maybe the driver is trying to avoid a crash.  Maybe he is more crazy than Charles.  Maybe there is such a thing as destiny.  It doesn’t matter.  The cab is moving violently now.  It is inevitable now.  As the cab spins to its end, Charles sees random blurry sights out the window.  He sees the blue sky, he sees the sidewalk, he sees a woman walking a dog, he sees a sign with the words Wilcott Street.  For some reason, as the cab moves him to his doom, this sign gives him a sense of clarity, all be it void of details.
  World 1:  Just as Charles sees the sign Wilcott Street, he feels something.  Not really fear, but resolution.  He feels like everything, his whole life, was leading up to this moment, but he doesn’t understand why.  Suddenly, he turns away from the sign.  He looked at the street.  A cab is roaring towards him.  There is no escaping it.  There is no running.  There is almost no time to think.  As the car speeds ever closer, bringing impending death, he only notices one detail:  the number 14 on top of the cab.  

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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 ... Act of observation

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

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!

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.

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!

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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 ... 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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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”.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.