What Remains

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 The morning gloom had begun to lift as the two figures reached the double doors of the abandoned squash complex, its rundown appearance betrayed by the new security camera that blinked vigilantly as they entered. Pavel and Beth walked through the disused changing area and into the main corridor that was flanked on either side by courts. At the far end light spilled out from the last two courts. A silhouetted figure appeared. “This must be the journalist who you tell me so much about,” the voice echoed down the corridor. Pavel blushed.
“Professor Vallone, let me introduce Beth Ward, editor of our salubrious college magazine.”
“A pleasure, my dear. I hope you find this little experiment of ours diverting,” said the Professor, but made little attempt to hide his apathy towards Beth’s presence. An alert sounded in the court to his right.
“Pavel, the access protocols have begun. Soon we will have full processing power. Let’s run the diagnostics again – oh, and I’ll take that.” He reached for the briefcase which Pavel had carried uncomfortably from his dorm. “Shall we?” said the Professor as he led them into the court.

A monolithic body cast stood empty in the centre of the court encircled by crescent shaped scanners which were in turn surrounded by control systems. Above the doorway was a large, flat screen which showed a room similar in almost every way to the one in which they stood, except in reverse. A mirror image, Beth thought, but quickly realised that the image actually showed the court across the corridor. “One minute forty five seconds,” the Professor announced.
 “Systems operating within tolerances,” declared Pavel, reading from a panel against the wall. “Professor, this is your last chance to reconsider.”
“We may never get this opportunity again, Pavel. It has taken a decade to get this time on the network. This is the processing power we need. We are so close!” the Professor replied from the cast as he strapped himself in.

The lights dimmed as the datacubes that formed the University’s ‘brain’ entwined with the processors of the squash courts. The Professor looked up at Beth. “You’ll want to watch the screen,” he said, and closed his eyes. On cue Pavel punched a command into his control panel. The scanners began to rotate around the Professor faster and faster obscuring him from view, every atom simultaneously being identified and mapped. Pavel turned to look at the screen above the doorway. Beth could see the same blur of activity and watched awestruck as a figure could be seen materialising in the other court.
“That’s….unbelievable,” she murmured.
“That’s the easy part,” said Pavel, “We’re simply organic building blocks. It’s an exact copy…..” Before he finished his sentence there was a flash as the state of every atom was transferred to the court across the corridor. Pavel took a step towards the screen as the machines fell silent and he could see the beaming face of the Professor wave back at him.
 “....Now that’s the hard part, the stasis transfer, information - it’s all we really are..."
Beth couldn't contain herself. "What about the Professor that’s in here?” she stared horrified at the now vacant body in front of her.
“It's simply a framework of atoms now. The process scrambles any connections. The Professor has gone Beth, he’s across the hall. It's incredible isn't it?” Awestruck, Beth looked up at the screen. 

As Beth watched the Professor on the screen Pavel’s gaze stayed on the lifeless form in the middle of their court. Something was wrong. There it was again - a flinch, then the head jerked from side to side. Beth turned and screamed as the now familiar but somehow vacant and silent Professor began to flail manically in the straps. Pavel leapt across the court through the tangle of cables, scrabbling to release the straps holding the body in place. The body collapsed to the floor as the straps fell away, a loud wheezing punctuating each breath. Pavel stepped back in terror. Confused eyes searched for Pavel’s face, arms reached for him, the contorted mouth opened to speak… But before it had the chance a gunshot rang out through the court. Breathless the Professor stood in the entrance way the gun still shaking in his hand.

Pavel spoke first while Beth gently sobbed. "It didn't work...."
"It did work! Pavel, look here I am, flesh and blood, we made a perfect copy!" an elated Vallone exclaimed as he entered the court again.
"But look what you....we…did." 
"We did nothing but advance civilisation! No crime has been committed here," came the Professor’s irritated response. 
"But it was functioning, it was trying to communicate," Pavel pleaded.
"Nonsense, we had transferred everything. There was nothing left, simply residual electrical activity. Pavel, look what we have achieved! Quantum teleportation on a huge scale! Think what this means we can change the world!"
Pavel sigh deeply. "It was more than that Professor. You knew something might happen. Why else would you have me bring the gun?”
“It was for our security, Pavel. The models showed that our process takes all that there is.”
“No, Professor, that can’t be true. It looked at me. Come on Beth, let me take you home."
They made to leave but the click of a gun stopped them both in their tracks.
The Professor shook his head. "You witnessed history today. With great advances the costs can also be great. I'm sorry. I can't let you leave."
The sound of two gunshots reverberated down the empty halls. 

A day later the Professor adjusted the baseball cap on his head and lowered himself into a window seat as the train pulled out of the station. A newspaper lay on the seat opposite him. He picked it up to see Pavel's grainy picture on the cover under the headline 'Professor murdered in College love triangle'. Vallone grinned ruefully to himself, then settled down for the long journey ahead.

About the Author: 
I'm a Physics Teacher in Belfast, Northern Ireland

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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 ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.