Quantum entanglement: or Schrodinger’s unopened Letters to Heisenberg.

Average: 4.3 (16 votes)
Your rating: None

Quantum entanglement: or Schrodinger’s unopened Letters to Heisenberg.
There is a time in every relationship where a certain critical mass of passion is attained.  An emotional chain reaction primed and waiting to be catalyzed by the actions of one party or the other transforming both forever into a new state of being. 
We were childhood sweethearts, grew up in the same small town, on the same street, attended the same elementary school.  We even graduated with the same SAT scores.  Don’t ask me how, statistically it was unlikely that we would both land solidly in the 97Th percentile, but we did.  We were even members of the same science clubs and don’t even get me started on who was the bigger Star Trek fan - for the record it was me.
It seemed like our lives were very much on parallel courses. 
One might say we were destined to meet, but in fact our lives were so similar in so many respects that we were so similar to each other that we were less destined to meet and more destined to always be together.  Identical souls separated at birth if you will, except we were never separated, or at least not for long.  Lovers from different mothers, two peas in a pod, kindred spirits, soul mates through and through and while we never actually discussed marriage, we both just assumed we would get married when we were ready. 
I suppose it was inevitable that we would both continue our graduate studies together, even securing joint positions at the prestigious TRIUMF particle accelerator in Vancouver.  We got the house in Kerrisdale, the requisite two cats, a crippling mortgage and everything was on track of the rest of our lives.  We didn’t expect any surprises and for the most part we didn’t get any, until the letters from CERN arrived. 
Our section head had been very pleased by the work we’d been doing with regards to quantum entanglement.  You know the theory that two particles will become attached in such a manner that one particle will mirror any change in state of the other particle even over great distances.  It was revolutionary, groundbreaking, filled with esoteric math and secured grant funding for years to come.  It also attracted the attention of the international community and an invitation from the world renowned CERN to use their Large Hadron Collider to continue our experiments.  It was a great honor and the university was ecstatic that one of us was being invited to Geneva.
One of us.
And there the letters sat, one for each of us.  One, an invitation and the other no doubt a politely worded rejection.  Which was which, we wouldn’t know until they were opened.  They were both of similar size and bulk, and while the words would be different the message would be the same.  We were in no rush to open either letter and potentially put an end to our relationship.  The answer would come soon enough.
Over the next few weeks the lab was inundated with mail: approved visa applications, for one, corporate credit cards, for one, CERN security access card, for one.  Each package came, special delivered to the project lead signed for and stacked with the others, none of them providing a clue to the actual intended recipient.  Each was dutifully placed in the lab’s inbox.  Once we had passed over opening the first package it became easier to ignore the next. Well maybe not ignore, because they were always there in the inbox, waiting for one of us to open them.  For one of us to leave.
As the day and weeks passed the packages weighed heavily upon us, an unspoken weight that neither of us wanted to acknowledge, but which was always in our minds.  The travel date was looming ahead but the depths of our denial forced us to put off opening any of the letters.  Something had to happen to break this deadlock of dread and uncertainty.  The project, our careers and our relationship wouldn’t – couldn’t wait. There was only one thing to do, another package to send.
The next morning the interoffice mail delivered a new package, no return address, no recipient and no indication of what it contained.  A small envelop with no discerning marks, as nondescript as you could imagine.  It was of course the answer we were looking for.  It had written on it as single word. ‘Yes?’
To this day I couldn’t definitively answer which of us sent the letter containing the rings.  But our experiment in quantum entanglement was well received in Geneva.
Both of them.


About the Author: 
Andrew J Lucas is a Canadian author, best known for his contributions in the roleplaying and wargaming industry. Not especially prolific he enjoys writing whenever his day job and family allow him time to do so.

Newsletter Signup

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

Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Computing

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.