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"Thank you, Elvis," the Midwestern tourist said, putting her camera away in a voluminous designer handbag. She was a redhead with high cheekbones, somewhere in her forties, and quite attractive. Her cat's eye sunglasses made Elvis smile.
"It's my pleasure, darlin'" he drawled. "That'll be ten dollars."
Her smile tightened just a fraction, as if The King was supposed to be standing there on Hollywood Boulevard and posing with the tourists just for fun. This was his livelihood, after all. He normally got the money up front, but something about this woman had dazed him in the moment that she'd drawn out her camera. Since she had no one to take the photo for her, she had to stretch her arm way out, and then squeeze tight against him so they would both be in the shot. Elvis could still smell her delicate perfume.
"Here you go," she said, passing him a crisp new ten. As he took it from her, her fingers brushed against his and lingered for a moment. "Say, today's my birthday. Would you join me for a drink?"
"Seriously?" he said, nearly breaking character.
"Sure. We can just grab a beer somewhere nearby. Would that be okay?"
"I'd love to, ma'am, but my peak period's comin' up soon, and if I'm not here, White Elvis'll take my spot."
"White Elvis?"
"Yes, ma'am. Got a white jumpsuit, not 'cause he's white. I'm white too, y'see."
"So does that make you Black Elvis?"
"Naw. Black Elvis is a guy named Leroy. Young fella. Don't know what that makes me."
"Oh come on, it's just one drink, and I'm buying. What do you say?"
Elvis hesitated for a moment. There was no real harm in one drink, not now. His fourth wife had walked out on him the month before, telling him quite calmly that their eight years of marriage had meant nothing, that she'd only settled for him, that she'd never loved him as much as he loved her and thank god they'd never had any kids together. He absently rubbed at the tan line on his ring finger.
"All right, ma'am. That's right nice of you. There's a place not far from here."
"You lead the way. And no more of this 'ma'am' stuff. I'm only forty-eight. And my name is Kate."
"Yes, ma'am. Kate."
A quick five-minute walk later, and then they stepped into a little hole-in-the-wall dive bar called Power House, still mostly empty but reeking of cigarette smoke. Elvis ordered a Budweiser on tap, Kate chose a bottle of Irish cider, and then they nabbed a booth in the corner. Something by Hank Williams, Jr. was playing on the jukebox. Elvis felt abruptly nervous, as though he was a teenager going on his first date rather than a 56-year-old celebrity impersonator with four failed marriages and three children he hadn't heard from in years.
"So," Kate said, "how long have you been Elvis?"
"About five years now," he said, dropping the drawl. "A casting agent said I'd be good at it; I already had the sideburns and the 'tude, all I needed was the jumpsuit."
"You're an actor?" she said, her eyebrows raising.
"Not a successful one," he said. "Picked up a regional commercial here and there, but television and film don't seem to want me. I figured character actors would be in demand, but no one gives a shit about washed-up nobodies like me. Impersonating pays the bills for the most part. Better than waiting tables, that's for damn sure."
"Tell me something about yourself."
"Like what?"
"Oh, I don't know," she said with a smile. "Something you wouldn't normally tell to a stranger who just picked you up off the street."
"All right, then."
And so he told her about flying as support crew with the Navy at only twenty years old, and evacuating Americans and Europeans from Lebanon. He told her about being in Oklahoma City when the Murrah Building was bombed. He told her about being a scared eight-year-old in Los Angeles during the Watts Riots. He told her about being in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001, and how that event had convinced him to move back to the city of his birth, as far away as he could get from that moment of terror and still be in the USA.
"For a while," he said "I thought it was me, all these disasters happening because I was there. But then I started thinking how extremely lucky I was to have lived through all that shit and still come out of it in one piece. You ever watch The Discovery Channel?"
"Sure, sometimes."
"On one of those science shows, they talked about alternate universes, and I got to thinking about the versions of me where I wasn't so fortunate. Every second in a different reality, I'm dying, in an endless number of ways. Stabbed, shot, heart attack, terrorist bombing, alien death ray. Every single second I'm alive is a gift, a sacrifice from all those me's who are out there suffering and dying."
Kate placed her empty bottle of cider down on the table. "That is a wonderful life philosophy," she said. "I have to say, I pegged you for a kind man out there, but I never could have imagined that you were such an incredibly interesting person."
Elvis smiled and tipped an imaginary hat. "Thank you kindly."
"Look, I know you need to get back to work, but I'd really like to meet up with you later." Kate reached into her handbag and produced a business card and a pen, and wrote a hotel room number on the back. "I'm staying at the Radisson nearby. Why don't you come by later, call me at the front desk, and we go to dinner?"
"I think that sounds great, ma'am."
"Thank you, Elvis."
"No, thank you, Kate," he said, curling his lip. "Thank you very much."
About the Author: 
Jason Erik Lundberg is a judge for the competition's international category. "TCB" was created for the literary/visual arts exhibition Microcosmos: Orbital Decay curated by studioKALEIDO, and also appears in the August 2013 issue of Esquire (Singapore).

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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!

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!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.