The Silence Project

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We never see the truth until it is too late.
  “Excuse me, sir…” “Yes? Make this quick.” The Supervisor was one that did not like to waste time. Cold and unfeeling. Inhumane. “I… Would like to opt out of this project.” Lewis almost stuttered on his words, afraid of what The Supervisor might do to him. He wasn’t expecting The Supervisor to give him freedom; but he had to hope. Lewis was one of the leading scientists involved in what many called the most important, or dangerous scientific projects of human history: The Silence Project. It was only known to the top personnel of CERN, and was definitely not made public. As clichéd as it may sound, it was top secret. The Supervisor stared at Lewis with piercing black eyes, seeming to stare deep into his soul, to read his thoughts. “No.” The single resounding syllable crawled menacingly out of The Supervisor’s lips, into the dark depths of Lewis’ ears. “Your team is so close. Are you worried about the consequences this will have on the human race?” A smirk danced across The Supervisor’s face fleetingly. “Get back to work. Now.” Lewis shrunk back into the shadows and fled for his workspace. His thoughts had been read exactly.
  Lewis stared at the long string of numbers on his monitor before sobbing quietly on the table. Why did he have to do this? It was cruel; nothing short of world domination. In fact, it was madness. Nature should be left as it were, without humans manipulating it. His team’s role was to somehow enhance an atom such that it had radioactivity levels that would make a Geiger counter sound like a mosquito. The long, incessant drone of radioactivity. They almost had it; all that was left was making the atom slightly more stable. For him, it was simple. But he didn’t want to do it, for who would want to witness the near extinction of his own kind? The atom would probably be used in an atomic bomb; one that would destroy Earth almost completely. Why The Supervisor, or anyone higher up would do this, he had no idea. He could only delay the results a little, and hope for a miracle.
  The intercom buzzed to life. “Lewis, you’re needed in the basement.” The public thought that CERN was a safe place for scientific research because of what happens on the first 5 stories: the discovery of new particles, thanks to the Large Hadron Collider. That was because they didn’t know what happens in the basement. Just the obliteration of most of Earth, that’s all. Lewis smiled bitterly at the naivety of the public. If he had kept his family safer, this wouldn’t be happening. But it was too late.
  A younger scientist presented Lewis with a document, full of data. “I’ve noticed something rather odd about the properties of the new atom. There are several anomalies…” Lewis shut himself out from the drabble of the other scientist. The anomalies were probably a result of Lewis himself tweaking the results slightly to hinder progress of The Silence Project. Nevertheless, he scanned through the data methodically. He would have to revert the results later on, so as to prevent suspicion by The Supervisor. The stakes were just so high.
A few days later…
  The electric shock jolted Lewis’ body once more. Not enough to kill, but still excruciating. “Did you think we wouldn’t find the tweaked results?” The voice of The Supervisor boomed over Lewis’ limp body. “Nothing escapes these eyes.” After another shock, guards dragged Lewis out, back to his workspace. How? He had definitely reverted the results. There was practically no way The Supervisor could have known. How… Lewis’ thoughts floated away as he fell into unconsciousness.
  The next day, Lewis scanned the data, more alert this time. He finally found the anomaly on line 67; but it was not him that had implanted the error there. Who then?
  As Lewis compared the error with the predicted results, he started to note a trend in the anomaly. Like a long string of numbers represented by qubits, repeated over and over. Like quantum cryptography; but who had planted it there? He quickly tweaked the results such that no one else would notice it. And thus, for days at end, Lewis decoded the numbers, trying everything he knew. It was like learning a new language. It was only after 2 weeks worth of analysing was the message even vaguely uncoded. What Lewis read chilled him to the core.
Everything began, and we awoke; and as we sleep, everything shall end.
  It wasn’t from anyone in CERN. It was from the particles. This message was hardcoded into their properties. The solution to the act of observation. Why particles move like they have a mind of their own. It was all to pass the message.
  As Lewis stared at the computer screen at fascination and horror, a shock passed through his body. He could not move, but all his senses were intact. Lewis could only stare in shock as he watched The Supervisor pocket his Taser and read the words on his computer. The Supervisor smiled.
  “Thank you, Lewis, for making The Silence Project a success. You are now dismissed.”

About the Author: 
14 year old Singaporean student.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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”.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Act of observation

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

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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