The Shark Superposition: Putting a Spin on Things

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It is exactly twenty-three minutes past five o’clock in the afternoon when the miracle happens. He knows this because he is looking at his phone when the heavens deliver. He has come to the river to think. Though it is barely a river, swelling only in the rainy season when runoff from the road high above it turns it oily brown and slippery with rainbows. But he likes the sound of water and the distant tides of traffic. They smooth out the shore of his mind. Today he is battling an animal sort of anger. He tries to reason it through but can’t, it is too acutely sensory, raised like the hair of something backed into a corner. He swats at an insistent fly. He should be celebrating. The money will let him complete his degree. But it is not that simple, it feels like a crisis of faith, a choice between the subject he excels at and what he has been brought up to believe, the intricacies of belonging. He draws an absent-minded line in the dirt with the edge of his shoe. For a moment his foot hovers over it, then with a sigh he swings the satchel from his shoulder and lets it fall to the ground.
This rough treatment of his precious books gives him a vicious satisfaction. He weighs the thought. He could squat on the water’s edge and fold each page into a boat. Turn Darwin’s beautiful theory into a flock of white sails aimed at the horizon. He remembers how, from his sister’s careful childhood lessons. The first and the last fold especially; that easy-to-forget double over and the final gleeful pull, transforming paper into boat. He looks up to see an arrow of geese point their way north in unquestioning flight. Their cries go through him like loss. He kicks at a rock, drags his phone from a pocket and wonders who to call.
It is then that it happens. The air rushing like a slap to the plummeting shape as it meets the ground. At first he is stupid with shock, ruptured from thought. But when nothing further happens the adrenalin sets him trembling. He sits where he stood. Grinning back at him is a shark, one eye fixed on him. He considers it blankly — a shark — at least one hundred kilometres from the sea and fallen from the sky. A moment later the elation takes him and he looks up, a sun-blind Saul, delivered out of doubt. Of all the things to land at his feet — this one! — creature of the first seas, keeping its ancient shape. Made in an image and enduring in it; outside of the progress shown in the facts of bones, their brittle histories. His eyes go back to the shark in its shallow dent. He thinks: this is the Cheshire cat of evolution, leaving only its teeth behind, as boneless as a miracle. He walks home as though on water.
It is exactly twenty-three minutes past five o’clock in the afternoon when he pulls over. He knows this because he looks at the clock on the dashboard before he climbs out of the truck. It has been a long day. At half past three in the morning his alarm peels him from sleep. In the dim kitchen he makes tea and takes the day’s food from the fridge. Outside it is too early for the line of the horizon to be drawn in by light behind it. The truck, loaded the evening before, shows a silhouette overflowing with cabbages. He drives east towards the sea and the sun rises to meet him. The windscreen, mirrors, metal, even the dull grey dashboard, catch fire. He drives blind, his eyes narrowed against the glare. By six o’clock the road drops to where salt water meets salt air. He parks at the market, under a ribcage of bridges. For the next nine hours he sells cabbages to the crowds of people that move in and out of the buses and taxis and trains that meet at the city’s concrete heart. It is a good day, by afternoon the truck empties, a few loose cabbage leaves frilling in the heat.
It is almost four o’clock before he makes it to the Shark’s Board. He parks in a loading zone under the stylised image of a shark, where a group of men are already waiting to load the bodies. Those sharks caught in the nets that protect swimmers at the tourist beaches. Some of them have bloodless incisions down the length of them from the weekly public dissections, the macabre finale an evisceration: the sudden pungent stink of pierced intestine. But the meat is still good. He has almost perfected the recipe for the sausages he makes from it, even if his wife still tastes the ammonia under the spice. It is food, and cheap, a good industry in a lean year. He bends to hoist one of the bodies and gags. The smell is more than chemical; it is the smell of rot. But he can’t refuse to take it; it would raise too many questions. The sharks come on condition that he disposes of them all. The Board doesn’t know he is processing them for food.
He waits until he is at least an hour out of the city and when the traffic thins finds a place to stop. The bridge is perfect, with a high wall concealing the steep drop on the other side. He hoists the rotten shark until it rests on the edge of the wall and catches his breath, turning his face from the smell. Then he launches it into space. Without waiting to see gravity take it, he climbs back into the truck. He thinks: this shirt will always smell of shark, no scrubbing will get it out. He drives west, into the sun, his eyes once more in slits against the light.

About the Author: 
The reader is author, this story will collapse according to the basis it is read in: the religious or the secular.

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Quantum Theories

K is for ... Kaon

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

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 ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

S is for ... Superposition

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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.

B is for ... Bell's Theorem

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M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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D is for ... Decoherence

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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.

A is for ... Alice and Bob

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C is for ... Computing

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A is for ... Atom

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

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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.

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.

N is for ... Nonlocality

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I is for ... Interferometer

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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I is for ... Information

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

D is for ... Dice

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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.

C is for ... Cryptography

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O is for ... Objective reality

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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U is for ... Universe

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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.

F is for ... Free Will

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A is for ... Act of observation

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T is for ... Teleportation

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X is for ... X-ray

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G is for ... Gravity

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R is for ... Randomness

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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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!

J is for ... Josephson Junction

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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.

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.

Q is for ... Qubit

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L is for ... Light

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