Schroedinger's Couple

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“We’re not getting anywhere. All we get is this noise.” Sudhir knew Edwards, his advisor, was touchy after his wife’s death, but he wanted to get back to his girlfriend. It was already well after midnight, and he didn’t want another argument. He’d had enough of those recently, with Edwards’ late hours.

“There has to be something here.” Edwards had buried himself in his work. “I know it.” He stared at the computer screen, but it showed only noise. “This used to work. We could teleport photons from the next room, not just over there” as he waved towards the equipment at the other side of the room. He stood up and paced, mumbling to himself. “This has to work – it has to. She… was too good. This was Marie’s idea. She’d have it working already.” He sat down, limply. “If only.. if only I’d pushed her out of the way.” His voice dropped off, and his face fell.

“But it’s almost one AM. We’ll work better tomorrow. And I told my girlfriend…” Sudhir realized his mistake too late.

“GO! At least you can still be with her. Marie…” his voice dropped off, and he turned away from Sudhir, back to the equipment. Sudhir left. He knew Edwards needed to be alone. When the door closed, Edwards rested his head in his hands and cried. “Marie, you were the brains behind this. Maybe… maybe it would be all working now if … if I had saved you. I could have. I saw the truck….” He took a breath. “I have to get this working. For you.” And he turned back and started changing the program.

“Maybe if I remove our signal, I’ll see what the noise is.” He typed for a while, lost in his thoughts of his dead wife and her experiment. “There. That should show me the noise.” Then he looked at the screen. It showed the noise – but it wasn’t noise. One word “Ed-bear.” He shook his head. That shouldn’t be there. She – she was dead. The only other person than himself who knew what she called him. Hesitantly, he walked across the room to the transmitter. It was sending the same message it had been for months – before.. before she was dead.

He changed the message. “Maroo?” he typed hopefully. His word for her. And then he returned to the receiver. He couldn’t believe… could she still live, somewhere? Another world? That’s it – maybe the many-worlds interpretation was right. Every time a measurement was made, every time a decision was made, an entire universe branched off, one universe for each possibility.

Could she still be alive in some other world? Marie had always said it made more sense. No spooky action at a distance. No waveform collapse. The uncertainty was in the observer. But before his thoughts wandered too far, the screen answered “I FOUND YOU! YES! Many-worlds! Please forgive me.” He ran to the transmitter.

“Forgive you for what?” By the time he was back across the room, he had the answer.

“For dying for me. For pushing me out of the way of the truck.” He was dumbstruck. In some worlds, at least one, he had saved her – only to die in the process. Nothing was free, was it? Maybe that other him was better; this version had been frozen at the sight of the oncoming truck. He had done nothing. The other one had saved her. It took everything he had to force himself to walk to the transmitter.

“You have to forgive me, Maroo.” He steeled himself to type the rest. “In this world, I didn’t save you.” And then he went back to the receiver, knowing he didn’t even stand up to his other self. Dejectedly, he waited to hear how bad he was. She wasn’t as critical.

“It was you or me. I don’t know how the world works, but I know there’s no world where we both survived.”

“How could you tell?”

“Because if we were together, we’d have figured this out in a few hours. I’ve been sending for weeks. I’ve found other worlds where I survived, but not you. And a few others where you survived, but not me. But none where we both survived. I guess we’re like Schroedinger’s cat. Schroedinger’s couple. We’re both alive and dead.” Edwards stared at the screen. Marie always had a strange sense of humor. She was dead and joking. Or she was alive and joking about his death. “We don’t have much time. Changes between the worlds build up, and then the worlds are too different to communicate between.”

It was too much. Frantically, he typed everything he’d wanted to say since… since the accident. They talked like kids who just started dating. They talked about how their children took their deaths. But mostly they talked of their love. Over the hours, the messages got harder and harder to receive. “Our worlds are drifting apart,” came one message from Marie. “Too many changes between our worlds now. But before I go, I forgive you. I love you…” Desperately, he ran and typed the same message.

“I love you. I forgive you.” And watched for her reply. There were a few symbols more, and that was it. Did she forgive him? Did he, could he, forgive himself? Or was it all, like so many quantum results, uncertain? He rested his head on the desk and fell asleep, the first sound sleep he’d had since she died. He jumped up as the door opened. It was 8:15 the next morning.

“Didn’t you go home?” Sudhir asked.

“No, no I didn’t. But I think this works now.” They checked, and whatever they sent was received across the room. Even across the building, it still worked. She was gone. But no one believed Edwards when he said his wife solved the problems.

About the Author: 
Steven B. Kovner has a Master's in Physics, but has been working as a software engineer for many years. I also teach astronomy and math, part-time, at the University of Phoenix online.

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Quantum Theories

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 ... 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.

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

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F is for ... Free Will

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A is for ... Atom

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R is for ... Randomness

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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R is for ... Radioactivity

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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B is for ... Bell's Theorem

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M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

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D is for ... Decoherence

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C is for ... Computing

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I is for ... Interferometer

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D is for ... Dice

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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A is for ... Alice and Bob

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K is for ... Kaon

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N is for ... Nonlocality

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T is for ... Teleportation

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T is for ... Tunnelling

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I is for ... Information

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E is for ... Entanglement

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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Q is for ... Qubit

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A is for ... Act of observation

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G is for ... Gluon

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J is for ... Josephson Junction

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P is for ... Planck's Constant

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X is for ... X-ray

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S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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M is for ... Multiverse

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O is for ... Objective reality

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P is for ... Probability

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S is for ... Schrödinger Equation

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

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W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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Q is for ... Quantum biology

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G is for ... Gravity

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U is for ... Universe

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