The Encrypted Detective

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Two decades ago Detective Jackson’s pilot was flying Chinooks off a gravel pad in Helmand, Afghanistan. Cutting within a couple of feet of power lines and dodging roosting pigeons apparently reminds the man of the good old days.
“Check the thermal imaging, gents,” the pilot shouts. “House is lit up like the Fourth of July. Enough transformers and stolen electricity to hydroponically grow Jack’s flipping beanstalk. Show this to the court registrar and you’ve got your surveillance warrant.” 
Jackson tries to man-up and nod sternly, but in about twenty seconds he knows he’s going to hurl.
 
                                                                                   #
 
The briefing is standing room only. Mostly because some rumor has gotten around the station that Jackson is going undercover as a pool boy.
Inspector Gross stares at him deadpan. “I know you’re disappointed. We’re all disappointed. But damn, they just don’t make tight pool boy shorts in your fulsome size. Alas, we’re faking a gas leak, instead. You’re going to finally get a chance to display your hairy plumber’s crack for Queen and country.” He pauses. “God bless you, Constable.”
“I’m here to clean the pool, baby!” some smartass shouts.
“I’m a Detective Sergeant,” Jackson says.
“Ah, I forgot. For a moment I thought you worked for a living.” Then Gross is off to the front of the room to begin the briefing.
Beside him, Stacy Chan laughs. “Heard you puked in Thompson’s lap. You keep on trying for that mile high club, baby.”
“Ha.”
“You have to change your pants too? Nice outfit.” She surreptiously adjusts her smart glasses and snaps an image of him in his gas man get-up. “For posterity and the internet.”
Gross brings up a sketch plan of the drug house on the smart wall. We reckon they’ve even hollowed out the drywalls for growing space,” he says.
“Any reason we aren’t just kicking in the door?” one of the Tactical Squad knuckledraggers says.
Gross stares at him like a cobra hypnotizing a mouse. “They’re using proxies from a remote location. They’re using the Underweb with quantum encryption. Outdated protocol, outdated equipment, but still unconditionally secure. We need to prove conspiracy to supply, and for that we need telecommunication intercepts. You know what conspiracy means, son?”
The Tactical Squad guy frowns. “Is that with a k?”
Jackson wonders why this guy isn’t an Inspector yet.
Gross turns purple and looks toward the front row spectators. “Get up here and explain it, Abel. Otherwise I’m going to shoot myself before I get any dumber.”
“It’s like this,” Abel says. “They’re using a Quantum Key Distribution system for comms. We can’t intercept their secret keys or we’ll tip them off. So we need to get on site and hack the equipment. Covert entry isn’t possible, because they got Smart Dust everywhere. So we fake the gas leak, cut the power, and Jackson talks his way in and douses the terminal with nanite hackers. The crooks will need to re-initialize their gear when the power comes back on and they switch from the generator back to the grid, and that’s when our nanites will insert dodgy Quantum Channel loss values into the gear. Meaning they won’t know we’re stealing photons with our photon splitter. We use those to work out the keys. Team two will be out on the road, installing the photon splitter down on the actual optic lines.”  
“So, are we kicking the door in or not?” the Tactical Squad guy asks.
 
                                                            #
 
The proxy is an ex-military castoff, seven feet of bullet-proof alloy. It reeks of enhanced marijuana.
“Gas leak?” it says, leaning out past the front door and looking left and right.
“You think I’d wear this uniform for free?” Jackson says. “My boys are already working on the problem down on the road. See them?”
The proxy’s hydraulics hiss.
Jackson doesn’t wait for his invite. Before he loses his nerve he ducks in, to beard the lion in its den as they say.
“Kind of an empty guest room,” he says. There’s nothing but bare walls. Presumably the good stuff is in the back rooms. The curtains are drawn and a single light bulb burns in the ceiling.
“This body don’t do much entertaining,” the proxy says. Its lenses zoom in on Jackson’s face. Arms equipped with wicked implements click and whirr.
Where would the Quantum Channel interface be? Somewhere secure. Easily accessible. They really needed more intelligence on the location, but the embedded Smart Dust screwed up their surveillance.
Then Jackson looks at the proxy and knows exactly where he’d safekeep such a device. He palms the nanite patch and tries to figure out how he’s going to slap it on the proxy’s back.
“Have we met?” the proxy says.
Jackson’s blood goes cold. “I can’t see your face. Don’t even know what city you’re in. So who knows?” He laughs like a neutered hyena.
The proxy leans forwards, so close that Jackson can actually feel the chill coming off its alloy skin. The lenses in its eyes click – a photograph. Then they shutter closed for an instant. Jackson slaps the nanite patch onto the proxy’s back, trusting that this old model won’t have high-fidelity touch relays.
Right now the proxy is doing an internet recognition search, and suddenly Jackson remembers Stacy Chan laughing, photographing him in the briefing room, all those uniformed cops in the background. For thirty years now the internet has been an undercover cop’s worst nightmare.
The proxy raises its right arm, meat hook attachments glinting. Then it says, “You all right? You’ve gone real pale?”
“No, no. All good. No leaks here. I’ll be going.”
 
                                                            #
 
“How was it?” Stacy asks back at the muster point. He tells her about the photograph.
“Lucky my photos go to a site with quantum key encryption,” she says jovially. “The knife cuts both ways. A force for good –“ she drops her voice theatrically “—or evil.”
“I’d like to change my pants now,” Jackson says. 

About the Author: 
Durand Welsh has been a police officer in Sydney for the past 12 years. He's also a graduate of Clarion San Diego 2008 and has published in Apex Magazine and a few other places.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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!

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 ... 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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

R is for ... Radioactivity

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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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Q is for ... Quantum biology

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S is for ... Schrödinger Equation

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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.

A is for ... Atom

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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

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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.

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.

V is for ... Virtual particles

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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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!

R is for ... Randomness

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O is for ... Objective reality

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J is for ... Josephson Junction

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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G is for ... Gravity

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U is for ... Universe

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I is for ... Information

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

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.

I is for ... Interferometer

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A is for ... Alice and Bob

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A is for ... Act of observation

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

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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