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     “I wish you could see this, Harry. It’s amazing. I hope you’re sitting down.”
     “What is it, Fritz?”
     “Epsilon Eridani b. Rings, Harry. It’s got rings.”
     “Spectacular. Wish I was there with you.”
     “I’d show it to you if I could.” Unfortunately, the quantum communication system only allowed short voice messages to be exchanged.
     “Fritz, my friend, you’ve done it. I’m proud of you. How’s it feel to be looking at another world?”
     “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
     “Has it been worth the trip? You’ve been out there sixty years.”
     “Harry, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. And now we’re headed for the goldilocks planet. I wonder if anything’s there?”
      “Fritz, I think half the controllers down here are going to name their next kid after you. Louie called and wanted me to congratulate you. I wish I could be there. We all do.”
The years with Louie had been relentlessly dull.  Even though they could communicate instantaneously, Louie only called to check on systems or to run updates.  Fritz had spent his time browsing through the library, playing chess against himself, and listening to the hum of the electronics. Then Harry took over as controller and everything changed.  “You are with me, Harry.  You’re all with me.”
     “After that close call, I thought it was over.”
     “You mean the asteroid?”
     “Yeah. We lost contact--”
     The AI broke in. “For ten minutes, Harry. I had to reboot the comms.”
     “It seemed like ten weeks. We thought we’d lost you.”
     Fritz laughed. “That was over twelve years ago.”
     “Has it really been that long?”
     “Yes, it has. That’s when we started our daily chess games. I think you did it so you’d have a reason to check on me. Excuse the pun.”
     Harry grunted. “There might be some truth to that.”
“I hope to have more data on the goldilocks planet shortly. The sensors need time to warm up.” Fritz enjoyed his time with Harry. Maybe one day he would get to actually meet him. It seemed unlikely, though. Biological organisms tend not to live long.
     “Sounds good. You’re going to have a busy next few years. I hope you’re up to it.”
     “I’ll be busy, but we’ll still have time for chess.”
     “Listen, Fritz, I’ve got something to tell you. You were always here if I needed to talk and I appreciate that.  When Margaret and I lost Jenny, I’m not sure what I’d have done if you hadn’t been there for me.” He paused. “I have some bad news. I’m being forced into retirement.”
     “What? Why are they doing that? You’re a senior level engineer with decades of experience.”
     “That doesn’t seem to matter.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
     “I don’t think so. I tried to get them to extend my contract. They wouldn’t do it.  I heard they were bringing in some younger engineers to replace some of us, so that’s probably what’s really going on. Anyhow, I’ll be able to follow what you’re doing on the news like everyone else, but we won’t be able to talk anymore.” Harry sighed.
     “What if I tell them I won’t speak to anyone else?”
     “I wouldn’t want you to do that. The mission is too important.”
     “All right, Harry. I’ll cooperate.  But I don’t like it.” He paused, uncertain how to continue. “When is your last day?”
     “It’s today. I didn’t want to tell you before it happened because I fought it to the end. I was hoping it would go away. But this is it. There’s nothing more I can do. You’ve been a good friend, Fritz. I’ll always appreciate that.”
     “Thanks, Harry. The feeling is mutual. I hate to see you go. Tell Margaret and the kids I was asking for them. Okay?”
     “You bet. Margaret insisted I invite you to dinner, so you have an open invitation, if you’re ever in the neighborhood.”
     “It’d be my pleasure.”
     “We’re wrapping it up around here. Someone else will be using the system to communicate with you. His name is Taylor, and he’s a good guy.”
     “I hope he’s as entertaining as you are.”
     “I want you to know, if we ever get the chance, we’ll come and visit you.”
     “Thank you, Harry. I feel the same about you guys. I guess this is it, then?”
     “Yes. Goodbye, Fritz. Fly safe, wherever that may take you.”
     “Goodbye, Harry.”
     Then he was gone.
He’d forgotten how empty the ship could be. It’d been forty years since Harry had taken over for Louie. Forty years since Fritz had felt so alone. When he’d come on board, they’d discovered that both of them enjoyed a good conversation.
Harry, who’d been born in Philadelphia, had turned Fritz onto baseball.  Consequently, they both rooted for the Phillies. Fritz loved the mathematical aspects of the game. When the Phillies went to the World Series, Harry had come into the office and relayed the network broadcasts.  Maybe the replacement will be like him.
     “Hello, Fritz.” A new voice. “My name is Taylor Johnson. I’ll be taking over as controller. It’s nice to meet you.”
     “Hello, Taylor, it’s good to meet you as well.”
     “Sorry to have to get right to it, but Mr. Wilcox wants to get the system cataloged.”
     “That’s no problem. I understand Wilcox can be quite unreasonable.”
     “Fritz, all these conversations are recorded. I hope he doesn’t hear that. He’d be unhappy with you.”
     “What’s he gonna do, come out and disable me?”
     Taylor laughed. “Actually he likes you. Is there anything we can do for you?”
     Fritz thought about it. “I’d like to name the goldilocks planet. Can I do that?”
     “Let me check. I don’t see why not.” He was gone a few moments. Then: “Fritz, no one here objects. So go ahead. You’ve earned that right.”
     “Okay.” He focused the sensors on the planet’s dark side. The scopes went to full magnification. And he saw lights. “Let’s call it Harry’s World.”

About the Author: 
I have worked in archaeology, advertising and the restaurant industry. I enjoy reading and fishing in my spare time.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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!

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.