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"Todd," She whispered gently. "Are you awake?" Nothing. Strange. Not even the sound of his usually steady breath, slow and with a high whistle near the end. A high C note, she thought, accurately.  But it wasn’t there. The room was unusually still.  Opening her eyes, Ralie scanned the room. She could easily see in the darkness that Todd was not there. He had come home from work at the normal time, and said he was going to take a nap. She hadn’t heard him get up. Ralie normally heard everything. His bed was a mess of scattered sheets. Turning, she left the doorway of the dark room and willed her one foot in front of the other to the dark living room. It was now very apparent that Todd had left and she was alone. Without moving any further in to the living room, she stepped to the left, and with her back up against the wall, she waited. There was no need for her to go anywhere else. This was an appropriate place to be.

Across town, Todd sat on a barstool with his freckled hand wrapped around a pint of mead. Todd had been making mead in his apartment for years, but this was the first bar he had seen who sold any variety of the honeyed ale. Around the room, people laughed, a woman shrilly screamed the name ‘TEDDY!’ and there was a consistent buzz of conversation. Todd had his eyes on the round table in front of him, trying to read the names and pictures scratched into the wood top, his eyes blurred from what he assumed was the alcohol in his system. "Todd!" a close and very clear voice said. "Are you awake?" Todd’s eyes looked up at the man across the table. He blinked and the blurriness subsided. The man across the table was Jeff, his childhood friend, and now business partner. "Todd, you are unusually spaced out tonight, brother," he continued. "I thought you were just caught up in the project, but is something else is going on."

"No," Todd shook his head. "It’s nothing." He focused back on his drink. He was hesitant to say anything else.    

"Ralie?" he whispered as he opened the door. "Todd, you’re home. I hadn’t realized you were going out tonight." Ralie was standing against the wall, beside the hallway that lead to the bedroom and bathroom. It was a small apartment, but Todd lived alone and didn’t need much space. "You were deactivated for maintenance, Ralie. The server said you would be offline for several hours. I didn’t see a need to stop the download." He flipped the light switch on the wall to his right, and closed the door behind him. With a hand on the wall for balance, he used his toes to grasp the heel of his shoes and wiggle his feet out. Suddenly, Ralie was right in front of him. Todd breathed in sharply. She had no sense of ‘personal space’. Her face was hard to look at up close. It was near human, but too angular, much like an image from a graphic novel he had read as a teenager. When her model had been designed, it sold out in record time, probably because of her humanistic characteristics. They, the company, were still building more for a second release. A male version had barely sold at all. Ralie didn’t blink. She had no need to breath. Her mouth made talking motions, but her lips and her tongue had nothing to do with her voice, which came from a speaker placed in the back of her throat.  "I have to go to sleep, Ralie." Todd said.

"Is it possible, and I mean, just think about this for a second, but, is it possible that we really f-ed this up?" Jeff, who was almost incapable of swearing, was looking at him with a concentrated furrow in his brow and harsh eyes that made him appear older than 36. "I can’t put my finger on it, but I can’t sleep at night, man, and I know you feel it too. When we were at the bar last night, I could tell. You feel it." He lowered his voice and asked again. "You feel it, don’t you? Something’s changed." Todd lifted his hand to his face and put his fingers against his beard. He did feel it. After two years working on the same project, in the same lab, with the same equipment, he knew something had gone awry. "Todd, are you listening to me?" Jeff pleaded. In their small rented lab, in the basement of a building they shared with a cosmetics company, everything looked the same but to Todd everything felt different. Todd made eye contact with Jeff. "We didn’t change anything," he started, "and when the spin reached maximum acceleration, none of our equipment read anything unusual."

"The science is sound." Jeff said, quoting Todd.

"The science is sound." Todd agreed.

Ralie knew something had changed but her systems could only detect that Todd had changed somehow, and that his body, his structure, was weaker. The Ralie of this world did not need to evaluate the increased radiation in the air; the other humans, the ones born here, were immune to it. Todd would not survive here. Based on his newly weakened body, and the standard radiation levels, she predicted he would only be alive for another five weeks and two days. A slow death. Ralie, with all her complex components and electrical wizardry, was only informed of the discordance. Her systems did not provide her with an algorithm for dealing with the variance; she could not warn Todd. Standing up against the wall, next to the hallway, she connected to the server and waited to for another update. 


About the Author: 
Based out of Toronto, I spend my days as a customer support advisor and my evenings as a caffeine-fuelled poet. When my poems stretch on too long, they become stories that would primarily fit in the science fiction / fantasy genre.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Computing

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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!

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.