Tankard and Fact

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Tankard lifted his head and announced to Fact, his friend: “Sad thing about those two youngsters, Lynx and Fox, killing themselves for love.”
Fact nodded, “Took emotion too high, I’d say.”  She paused and then added, “The line between life and death seems so blurry most of the time.”
It’s an old story.  Lynx and Fox had fallen passionately in love much to the displeasure of Fox’s father.  He secretly blocked Lynx from his territory forcing him to leave and likely condemning him to starvation.  Fox found out and the two lovers leapt to their deaths.
“I’ll tell you why,” Tankard said.  “Their love was so strong it blinded them.  Their bodies became existential slaves to their singular mind, a necessarily incomplete reality with a tragic outcome.  You could see the love when they were together, they had an aura about them like a light in fog.”
“They were naifs,” Fact asserted, “and you’re a pontificator.  Love is only chemical reactions, nerve firings.  They had too many reactants.  Best they’re gone from the pool, Tankard, it’s safer for the rest of us.”
“So callous!” Tankard said.  “Those chemicals of yours, they actually just follow the real action.  First there’s a mystical joining of minds, a shared soul, a unity, if you will.  That’s the poignancy here.
“How long have you been in la-la-land, my friend?  Look,” she said staring straight at him, “we read one another with surpassing fineness, keen to the slightest clue.  A furtive glance, a subtle stance, an emotional shadow crossing a face, you name it, little passes our watch.  All this stuff enters our head, we think, we act.  Wake up, smell the roses,” she said with a wry smile
She annoys me, he thought, taking a bite at the bait.
“Fact,” he said appealing to reason, “love is emotion, a state conjured in old brain, ancient brain, brain so old it ain’t even brain anymore.  Go to a place before words where the light becomes blinding, see it ulterior to all your nerves and hormones.  All this later stuff, it’s just window dressing three and a half billion years in the making.”
She opened her eyes full glancing at him.  “Tankard, hold my hand, share the chemistry,” she said, reaching out.
“Have you ever been in love, Fact?” he said, ignoring her hand.  “You know, head over heels, infatuated.”
Caught off guard, she stammered something about a beau long ago.
He laughed, “Then I can tell you anything.  Your reasons are the stuff of our everyday world yet just out of view lies another world begging to be a part.  We know it’s there, Fact, deeply we know it, but we just don’t get it.  Until now, that is!” he said with a flourish, relishing the role.
“Come, enter the quantum realm,” he commanded, “a fabulous place where knowing is instantaneous!  Where hearts mix and minds meld and none’s the wiser.”  She drew back with a skeptical look.  “Lift your eyes, Fact, step forward, it’s a bit frightening, I know, no place to hide.  You can’t hold it, it’s quicksilver for the brain; yet you can’t forget it either, it pierces your core, it’s always shared, it’s never alone.  All life, love, the whole nine yards all starts with that knowing, that little piece of entanglement.”
“You’re as full of stuffing as a holiday turkey, Tankard,” she said testily.  “No one knows what quantum mechanics means.  It works, that’s enough, it’s doesn’t need a reason, a story.  Minds greater than both of our’s have struggled with this for a damn long time, all to no avail,” she said finally exclaiming, “Good grief, at heart it’s counterintuitive, it’s just plain unreal!” 
“Then do you believe in received knowledge?” he queried as he looked her in the eye.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Randomness

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.