The Perfect Pair

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Barry Proton was an optimist. Leaving university with an MSc in Applied Physics, he’d worked his way up from an intern to become the C.E.O of Hadron Laboratory Solutions Limited. Life was comfortable, money was in bountiful supply, yet Barry did not feel complete. Aged 31, he had not had a sustainable relationship with a woman, and was determined to find ‘the one’ as he liked to call it.

After another lonely evening watching bad romcoms with Erwin his cat and his budgie Quark, Barry decided enough was enough. If those losers on TV could find love, why couldn’t he? So he suited up and set off for his local nightclub, Fusion. The high energy atmosphere lured Barry onto the dance floor, where he spotted the first girl. She was wearing a stunning sequenced mini top that dazzled in the light of the disco ball. Across the packed dance floor, their eyes met and Barry made a beeline for her. They had just begun to dance when she bumped into him and knocked him over. She helped him up and apologised.

“Sorry,” she said “I am overweight. Have tried every diet but cannot seem to lose it.”

Embarrassed, she walked off.

“At least she is truthful” Barry muttered to himself.

Undeterred, he made his way to the bar. As he was doing so, he noticed a young woman drop her purse. As she bent over, Barry noticed what a beautiful bottom she had.

“I want some of that!” he thought as he sauntered over to her. As she stood up, he made his move.

“Hey beautiful. Can I buy you a drink?” he asked, placing a hand on her waist.

The woman looked him in the eye disdainfully.

“Get lost, creep!” she shouted before storming toward the exit.

“How negative!” Barry exclaimed, surprised yet not disappointed “Plenty of other fish to fry.”

Deciding he needed a bit of Dutch courage, he bought a cherry flavoured cocktail. He was about to find a table when he spotted an absolute stunner. The petite redhead wore an elegant white dress that matched her sparkling teeth. She was dancing alone in a deserted corner of the club.

“Perfect,” thought Barry “alone, beautiful and mine.”

He approached her, cool, calm and collected, but then stopped dead in his tracks.

The girl began laughing manically, spinning round and round like an ice skater, increasing her angular velocity by the second.

“I am a beautiful butterfly!” she cried triumphantly.

At those words, Barry turned on his heels and walked in the opposite direction.

“She’s too strange” he said to himself.

Barry decided that clubbing was not his scene. He finished his drink and made his way to a swanky cocktail bar down the road. As he was walking down the street, a blushing brunette approached him.

“Hello! Sorry to bother you, Sir. My name is Julie Psi. My phone is dead and I need to call for a cab, could you help me?”

She smiled innocently at Barry; a charming smile that melted his heart. Finally, the perfect opportunity had presented itself.

“Of course!” he chirped.

As he was reaching into his pocket, he heard a voice.

“Julie, Julie! Come here you stupid cow!”

An inebriated man staggered up behind him.

“Oi mate” he snorted “Leave off, yeah? She’s mine.”

“Please Jerry, try to control yourself” Julie pleaded.

He ushered Julie away, shouting obscenities at her as they disappeared into the night.

“Well, he’s the opposite of charming. What an ironic pair!” Barry thought to himself.

His bravado had all but evaporated. He walked home, defeated, concluding that he was destined to remain single, in isolation, confined to his colourless grey apartment; unobservable to the outside world. As he was trudging along the pavement, he walked past an all-night laundrette.  A woman was sitting in the waiting room, mesmerised by the spinning tumble driers. Barry stopped.

A strong force prevented him from walking any further and seemed to pull him directly toward her. He wondered inside almost automatically and sat down next to her. She did not appear to notice, captivated by the effects of centripetal force on her smalls. On the spur of the moment, he came up with the cheesiest, most absurd pick up line he could think of.

“Excuse me, miss” he said, tapping her on the shoulder.

“May I please know your mass?” he asked innocently.

The woman turned around in surprise, caught off guard by the odd question.

“Urm, why?” she asked quizzically.

“Well,” Barry continued, “if you tell me, I can work out the gravitational force pulling us both together.”

She stared at him blankly for a fraction of a second before bursting into hysterical laughter. Barry could not believe his tactic had paid off!

“Haha, you’re so funny!” she shrieked, attempting to catch her breath.

“No, it’s true!” Barry said “if I know two masses, and the distance between them, I can work out the magnitude of the force by Newton’s law of universal gravitation” he explained.

She smiled; a brilliant, radiant smile.

“You’re smart,” she said “I think smart people are sexy. My name is Pauline by the way.”

From there on their relationship blossomed. Pauline, as it turned out, was also an optimistic character. She had worked her way up from a poor deprived family to build a successful business from scratch. They married a year later; a magical affair on a Caribbean beach, paid for by Barry. A year after that, they gave birth to a baby daughter. The child was born with Down’s Syndrome, but received the very best of care from her parents and grew up happy and healthy. Barry’s life was now complete; a beautiful wife and a loving daughter forming the perfect Proton family unit.



About the Author: 
I am an undergraduate studying meteorology and oceanography at UEA in Norwich. I love physics. I also love writing.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Randomness

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

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”.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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!

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.