Teacher, Student and Assassin

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                The slate gray sky hangs oppressively overhead. The old man and the young boy sit across from each other with the dying embers of their previous night’s fire smoldering between them. They are camped at the foot hills of great jagged mountain peaks. Out of a leather bag, the old man pulls out a strange metallic device.
                The student tentatively asks, “Is that one of those Long-Voice things?”
                “Yes, it is,” smiles the teacher, “what can you tell me of it?”
                The boy thinks carefully a moment and tries to dredge up every fact he can recall from school about the mysterious devices commonly known as Long-Voices. “Well,” he begins uncertainly pulling at his loose fitting dark green tunic. “They are used for long distance communication. They fold up like a piece of paper for easier storage.”
                “Yes, but how does it work?” counters the teacher.
                Once again the boy hesitates. “They… use… the magic of entanglement.”
                “The atoms in this device are connected or entangled with the atoms in the central computer. If I change the spin of the atoms in my device the atoms in the central computer instantaneously change their spin to match as well. Thus I can send information faster even than light.
                “Spooky,” murmurs the pupil.
                “Indeed,” intones the teacher as he slowly gets to his feet. He straightens his clothes. The gold star overlaid with a V, he wears on a chain glints in the sunlight. With strength belying his age, the tall man easily pulls the large twelve year old boy to his feet.
                The master and the apprentice begin to make their way up the mountain. They encounter no other travelers on the road, but they can hear the noises of various animals in the forest around them. By midday they enter a tree filled valley and begin following a mountain stream. As the pair round a bend they find themselves in a clearing with strange long metal objects sticking up at odd angles from the ground.
                “What are they?” inquires the learner.
                “Remnants of a lost civilization,” answers the teacher softly. “Many millenniums ago there was once a gargantuan city of stone and metal here.”
                The boy wonders aloud: “What happened to the city?”
                Somehow for a moment the teacher looks even older. The lines in his face deepen. His thin frame seems to hunch over more. “They lost control of the power of the quantum realm and obliterated themselves. “
                The boy lightly rubs his hand over one of the enormous rusted metal stub that is sticking out of the crumbly stone. He ponders all he has seen thus far of this strange quantum power that the teacher has been tutoring him in. “How can simple magic tricks destroy a civilization that is powerful enough to build with metal and stone on this grand of scale?”
                “Simple magic tricks?” sputters the teacher indignantly, “the quantum realm is all around us! The ground beneath your feet! The trees! The air you are breathing! Even our bodies are made of quantum waves!”
                “Really?” questions the boy patting his own body surreptitiously, “I’m made of those little particles that can teleport and be in two places at the same time and all that other crazy—“
                The boy’s line of questioning is interrupted when the forest behind them explodes in a barrage of foliage flinging both of them to the ground. Instantly a creature that the boy has always feared, yet never really believed in is on top of him and choking his life away with tentacle hands. The bulbous head with its pincher-like beak is only centimeters away from his terrified face. The student can’t reach his sword. Abruptly a green light envelops the attacker, who gives one piercing scream that seems to hang in the air forever then dissolves into dust.
               Lying on his back breathing hard the apprentice looks up to see his master with his hands on his knees bent over from the obvious exertion of dispatching the creature. “Thank you, sir!”
               “Don’t mention it, kid,” chuckles the old man as he straightens. “Now let’s get going before more of our cephalopod friends show up.”
                The two of them quickly cross the valley with its broken metal from the past. They keep a fast pace for the rest of the day and early evening and by the time that night falls the master and the apprentice are high up in the mountains. They stop to rest and eat near a large mountain lake. Even with the light of the full moon they cannot see the other side of the lake.
                The boy puts down the piece of jerky he is chewing. “Tell me the creation story again, please.”
                The old man cocks his head and looks at the boy a moment. “You haven’t wanted to hear that story in long time.
                In the distance a wolf howls. The boy looks around furtively. “I think tonight I could use the comfort of a familiar tale.”
                The old man sits back and nods his head. “Before time began there was nothing, not even darkness.” He pauses and pulls out a small pouch filled with a purplish blue powder. He throws the triturate on the fire and it flairs up. Soon images begin to appear illustrating what he is saying. “The Unnamed God that is without form spoke a Word and a singularity appeared that contained all of energy and time. The singularity began to expand at an infinitesimal rate of the Fibonacci sequence in Planck lengths at a corresponding ratio of Planck time. The Planck length is derived from the three constants of the universe—“
                A large metal arrow bursts from the teacher’s chest and he falls forward into the dirt to reveal a shrouded assassin 20 meters away holding a bow silhouetted by the moon.  The student draws his blade and slowly stands.
                “Now your education will truly begin boy!” calls out the assassin.

About the Author: 
Hello, my name is Nick Henrichs. I am Special Education Teacher. I graduated from Purdue University. I have been writing for fun most of my life and over the last two years I have written my first science fiction novel and I am looking for a publisher.

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Quantum Theories

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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 ... 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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.