Telephone Operator

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Miles examined the reporter’s eyes for any hint of seriousness.  This whole exercise was far lower than his pay grade and only the fact that she was female – and he was under orders – allowed him to provide the time necessary for what was little more than the latest ‘transparency effort’ targeting the Deep Space Network. 
“Yes, life on Bohr Station can be boring, as you state, but I am not a telephone operator,” Miles objected with a fixed smile and a strong desire to return to his data monitor.
“But as you’ve described, your primary role is to ensure that all communications received here at Bohr are re-transmitted to their ultimate destination,” asserted Molina.  “To me that’s akin to a 20th century telephone operator.”
It wasn’t that she was all that far off, thought Miles.  To be honest, he used that same analogy for his sister’s pre-schooler once if, for any reason, to stop that line of questioning and be able to focus on the Three World’s Championship game on the holo-net.
“Remember,” prodded Molina, sensing Miles’ hesitancy and growing agitation with the entire interview, “I have to make this understandable to the readers whose understanding of quantum physics is limited to what they learned in the second grade.”
He couldn’t help but to be mesmerized by her.  It could be her smile.  It could be the uncertainty of whether she truly was as beautiful of a woman as she appeared on the secure holo-path.  Galaxy Corporation, his and just about everyone else’s employer, had nearly perfected such sensual manipulation programming.  After five years working at Bohr, any resemblance to his first crush was a welcome distraction.  Miles softened.
“Yes.  You are right. The intent is the same but as I’m sure you are well aware, while we have come along way from understanding simple quantum cryptography of the past, there are many intricacies to ensuring the thousands of simultaneous states that are represented in the Deep Space Network,” lectured Miles, now returning to his pre-rehearsed demeanor.  Strong resemblance to Kelsie, or not, his role was to explain how colonies and exploration craft alike utilized atomic resonance to transmit all forms of communication – to include the solid holographic image he was addressing now – to his station.  And, yes, like a pre-historic telephone operator, he enabled the communication to go to its UD – ultimate destination in station speak. 
Miles continued, now not at all concerned whether Molina was generated or natural.  “The success of our operation, that is of this station, is the pivotal reason that humankind can explore the galaxy and share all of the information gained by each individual.  In the early days of exploration information was transmitted at painfully slow intervals, one sided and often with missed conversations, as you well know.”
Miles shifted in his chair, leaning to the right as he cupped his hands and held them below his chin.  While he knew only his shoulders and head appeared at the other end of the holo-path, his habit of talking with his hands threatened to move the conversation to a more energetic level if not for the measure of self control he taught himself.
“When Galaxy Co placed Bohr Station here – we knew we were taking part in what was to be the most rapid fit of exploration since the discovery of the Americas – by Columbus, not the earlier explorers,” Miles noted, showing his love of history as surely known by the reporter’s review of his personal file.
“Now we can send remote probes every which way we want with an entangled split particle contained here at Bohr and receive the data instantaneously!” 
Molina’s smile spread, she returned the cupped hand gesture along with a tilt of her head towards the camera sensor on her end (or the computer generated all of this – Miles didn’t care) and she pressed on, singularly focused less on Mile’s words and more on Miles himself.
Almost flatteringly she stated, “And you are in the middle of it all!  The man who ensures that  humankind gains this knowledge and shares the stories.  But tell me, what is it that you do?  It is all about you right now!”
Miles straightened up, his eyes focusing on the holograph image.  “I’m the curator so to speak.  Through the centuries we’ve had many great minds contribute to the advancement of quantum theories: Plank, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger to name just the earliest.  The basis of the Quantanet follows the five ideas behind quantum theory:  energy is continuous; particle behavior; that particles are random; and that the atomic world is nothing like the world we all experience every day.  But it’s the fifth original idea, that has since been overcome, that has contributed to our success: it is now possible to know both the position and the momentum of a particle and not reduce its measurement.”  Miles realized this last thought caused his hands to erupt in dance in front of his face and consciously now sat on them.
“It’s less an advancement in theory and more in quantum electrodynamics and quantum computer ability to both manipulate the split particle on one end and decipher its entangled partner on the other.  We have been extremely capable in our manipulation transmission ability and using the resources here at Bohr Station to essentially decipher and retransmit with its nonlocal pair.  I make sure all of this is successful.”
Molina’s eyes bore through Miles. Her expression dulled from lack of interest.  Miles now believed she was a live person and not a simulation.  Her next question was indicative that the interview was near its end.
“As I understand it, your role is to ensure that this communication is complete and that Bohr Station maintains its 100% transmission record?”
“Yes, exactly!” claimed Miles.
“So, you are 22nd century telephone operator.”  There was no question there.  Miles was sure Molina’s headline would say just that.
“Yes,” he resigned to answer. 

About the Author: 
The author likes learning science, reading science fiction, and hopes to inspire his children to appreciate the world and science as a subject.

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Quantum Theories

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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!

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.

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 ... 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 ... 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.