The Mathemetician and the Engineer

Average: 4 (2 votes)
Your rating: None

The date is 2315.240 and Dr. Josephine Norberg is in her study refining one of her equations on the properties of quantum bits, or qubits.  She has been interested in quantum mechanics since she was ten and a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She demonstrated her unique genius at age five when she predicted, using Bloch sphere equations, that teleportation could exist when the unique properties of element 120 which was discovered in 2193 were properly considered.
 Dr. Norberg is a tall woman now in her early thirties.  A brunette with deep blue eyes who has bleached her hair blonde since her college days, she has no trouble attracting males.  Finding one who is her intellectual equal, however, has proved to be a formidable task – so she lives alone, prowling the various night spots when the urge arises.
 Working with element 120 and her revised quantum equations, Dr. Norberg was able to develop a theory of teleportation, as recent work in advanced physics had shown that particles could move backwards as well as forwards in time.  These equations had become easier to work with than those developed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries due to a proof by mathematician Ngura Ng in 2252 that tachyons did indeed exist.
 For over three centuries physicists had been arguing about whether time was in fact the fourth dimension because particles could move at will in three dimensions but only forward in time.  Arguments about this had run from a denial of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to agreement about Rutherford’s atomic structure.  Niels Bohr, four centuries ago, teased out what was to be called quantum theory, a crazy idea at the time, which was debated by Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger and Wolfgang Pauli among others when it was first proposed.  Since then luminaries and Nobel Laureates such as Richard Feynman, Noragi Yamiri, Sinjay Samaritan and most recently Hoi Yang So of the California Institute of Technology fine-tuned the equations and modified them as new information became available.
 Quantum computers had become ubiquitous by 2130 and when the first large-scale quantum computer with a 200 exabyte memory found that pi began repeating at 21,238,154 places, all of mathematics and physics was shaken.  This discovery, along with the unique properties of element 120 and the discovery that bidirectional movement through time was possible because of the properties of tachyon particles caused resurgences in both theoretical mathematics and physics.
 Dr. Norberg’s equations astonished the scientific community and were at first dismissed.  But because of her accomplishments at such a young age, a few scientific institutions had begun working with her equations.  About a year and a half after she had published her mathematics, a young engineering post-doctoral student by the name of Chow Fu-Tang at the China Institute for Physics and the Public Good was studying her work and discovered that if combined with the latest results in particle physics from the new Ultra Large Hadron Collider on the far side of the moon, it would indeed be possible to teleport any object.  When Fu-Tang contacted Dr. Norberg with his design for a machine which he claimed could verify her results, she was both overjoyed and skeptical.  After all, no one had yet even verified her work.  The engineer was adamant, however, and Dr. Norberg finally agreed to meet and discuss the design.  Josephine lived in Geneva and she did most of her work in the calmness of her warm, wood-paneled study.  They had agreed to meet at her home on 2315.354 as that was during the holiday break.  At 16:30 Geneva time when Fu-Tang appeared it was clear that quantum theory and teleportation were no longer just theories.
 Because appear is just what he did.  Josephine was in her study, her Smart Board covered with some equations on which she was working, when Fu-Tang suddenly appeared beside her.  She looked at him and fainted.  He carried her to her couch and got a cool cloth for her head.  He then went into her kitchen and prepared some tea.  When Josephine awoke, she saw Fu-Tang sitting at her table, two cups and a hot pot of tea on it.  He was not at all what she expected - tall for an Asian with a muscular build and intense black eyes.  She arose and joined him at the table.  As she recovered, he poured her some tea and awaited her questions.  When they came, they came in a torrent.  How, what, when, is he a projection?  (Holographic projections had been around for over a hundred years and they had reached the equivalent of reality despite the slight delay that was a result of the limits of light speed.)  Fu-Tang calmly sipped his tea and presented an answer that took Josephine aback. 
 He had been studying her equations since he was in junior high.  They were an unproven backwater theory at the time but he was intrigued.  His science project in his junior year of high school was a quantum computer that could calculate not only from an input to a result, but from a result to an input (or more accurately a series of inputs).   It won first class at the Chinese National Science Competition in 2298.  Now, at 29, he had used Dr. Norberg’s equations in quantum mechanics, the unique properties of element 120, the results of several of the latest experiments at the ULHC, the confirmation of tachyons and his engineering expertise to develop a machine capable of teleportation.  In reality he existed in two places at once.  He was still in China but he was also in her study.  Using a device he carried with him, he could choose in which place he wished to remain.  As they talked, Dr. Norberg realized that she had discovered her intellectual equal.  The pace of their romance was torrid and an excited world embraced the couple as their combined talents finally allowed humanity’s journey to the stars – and beyond.

About the Author: 
Henri V. De Roule is the founder and CEO of The Science Experience in California, USA. He has had an abiding interest in science since before his appearance on a radio show about space and space travel in 1955.

Newsletter Signup

Submit your email address so we can send you occasional competition updates and tell you who wins!

Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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!

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.