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“These tunnels are so dark.” Christine said, holding out her hand in front of her face as she tried to make out its shape. “This abandoned mine will be a perfect meeting place,” Charles said in response, “trust me.” As he said this he grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze as if to say, “everything will be ok.” She smiled lovingly at the gesture, and he lead her deeper into the tunnels. She blindly followed him in the dark, trusting his lead because she knew he had been here many times before, and she would not dare to risk turning on her flashlight at this point in case her father the sheriff and the rest of the men in her small town had followed their trail. How had the daughter of the sheriff fallen in love with the most wanted man in the county? She laughed to herself as she thought about this, her heart pumping as she made her way through the darkness.

            Charles must have sensed her nervousness as he held her hand tighter and said, “Don’t worry, we’re almost there.” Finally he stopped, let go of her hand, and turned on his flashlight. He laughed at the worried look on Christine’s face and said, “You know, about 75 years ago this mine collapsed with the workers inside and…Oh my gosh look out!” he yelled as he grabbed her shoulders and gave a quick jerk. Christine let out a small scream then turned towards Charles, who was laughing at her reaction to his prank and she hit him playfully on the arm. “That’s not funny!” She scolded him, but couldn’t help to smile back at him.

“But seriously,” she said as she looked around, “what would you do if it collapsed?”

“Well there’s not much you could do,” he said, “except preserve the oxygen for as long as you could.” He looked at her worried expression and smiled. “Don’t worry it’s perfectly safe! I’ve been coming here since I was a kid.” He pulled her towards him and kissed her gently on the lips.

She pulled away, “and what if my dad…” she trailed off, not able to finish the sentence, “you know what he’d do to you.” She looked away as the tears welled up in her eyes. Charles turned her face gently back towards his, “If your dad comes then here’s what we’ll do” he walked over to the wall and pressed up against it.

“What, hide?” she asked.

“Nope.” he smiled at her, “Tunnel.”

“You mean, like, dig?”

“No, you see, it’s possible for something to move through walls. It’s not probable, but it’s possible. So if your dad comes we’ll just come over to the wall and next thing you know we’ll be on the other side!”

“Really?” she knew Charles understood concepts way beyond her comprehension, but this didn’t seem believable. It was probably just another of his antics to make her feel better. He smiled at her. “Well, it works better with smaller things… and it’s actually more likely that you’ll end up inside the wall than on the other side of it, but…” he stopped mid-sentence. “Do you hear that?” he asked her. She listened closely and could make out a faint barking. She gasped, “My fath – “ and they heard a loud boom and felt the ground shaking beneath them. Rocks started falling and Charles yelled, “DUCK!” Christine followed his orders. After the shaking stopped just moments later, she turned around to find a huge mass of rubble forming a wall between her and where Charles stood.

“CHARLES!” she yelled as she tried to dig through the wall, she cried hysterically as she called out his name. After hearing no response she looked over hopelessly at the wall. As soon as she looked over a rock fell down and rolled a few inches towards her. She blinked in surprise. Some rocks had been rolling off the wall after the explosion, but that had mostly subsided by now. But this rock, as she saw it fall, did not seem to come from the wall. It seemed as though when she looked over it just appeared in the air – near the wall – and then dropped down. She crawled over and picked it up. She turned it around and saw written on it: DON’T TALK. She suddenly remembered what Charles had said about preserving the oxygen for as long as possible.

Suddenly focused on her survival, she looked around her. She was in a dark enclosed space, with dust filling the air. She didn’t need to have Charles’ brain to realize that she didn’t have very long. She retrieved the flashlight she had and took out one of the screws. She took a rock from the pile of rubble and scratched in with the screw: I LOVE YOU. She held the rock up against the wall, just as Charles had pressed against the wall when he told her about tunneling. She closed her eyes and when she opened them, the rock had disappeared. She listened hard, and finally heard a distant thud. The message was received. She waited for his response. Nothing came. She closed her eyes then looked at the wall. Still nothing.  She thought back to what he told her about tunneling, to try to figure out what she was doing wrong. Then she remembered, “It’s actually more likely that you’ll end up inside the wall…” She desperately pounded at the pile of stones that separated them. She pressed her hand against it, hoping to reach inside and get the message. It had to be in there somewhere. She tried and tried, but it was all in vain. She closed her eyes and began to cry as she sank into the wall. And there in the cold, complete darkness, she felt the warmth of a hand grabbing her own. It gave a squeeze as if to say, “everything will be ok."

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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 ... Universe

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

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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 ... 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 ... 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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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 ... 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.

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”.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.