Black Roses Red Roses

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A big thump wakes me. I open my eyes slowly, hoping to hear my mother’s sweet voice calling “Cora, honey, breakfast!” Nothing. The strange thing is, I don’t feel the sense of abandonment and loneliness alienated by my own family. I went down the stairs to watch my mother make herself a sandwich. Her hair was a big mess and her swollen red eyes stood out on her pale bony cheeks. I’ve never seen her thinner in my whole life—her legs can snap any second.
            “Good morning” I hear myself say. Still nothing. She didn’t even look at me. Putting her sandwich in her bag, she walked out the backdoor. Well, I tried. I’m meeting up with Timmy this morning anyways. Ever since my parents stopped talking to me, I don’t even bother going to school. For the past few days, there kids have been walking around on the streets during the day. (Do all the kids skip school?) I’ve met so many different people every day. Strangely, the only person I’ve seen more than once is Timmy. According to Timmy, Donna, Johny, Jackie, and Aaron all disappeared after they went to the “hut.” I never understood him, but I don’t really care as long as he doesn’t disappear as well.
            I go out on our front lawn, skipping on the stepping stones as I think about the sandwich I want to get for lunch. Timmy promised me yesterday that he would take me to one of the new cafés for the “most delectable sandwich.” Suddenly, see a boy across the street dragging his body across the street to approach me, almost grunting as he pulls his feet up. I am afraid that he faint before he makes out any words.
            “Can you show me how to get to the closest gas station?” he asks.
            “Let’s take a shortcut,” I try to sound cheerful, fighting my urge to take this emaciated little boy to the nearest McDonalds instead. “We can go through the park.” The boy smiles weakly and quietly follows through the street, answering briefly at my many attempts at chitchatting. I finally give up after a few minutes. When we turn into the corner for the park, I realized I had already lost my little companion.
            When I decide to head back to find him, a gush of wild wind forces my eyes shut. Suddenly, a vision of my mother comes before me. She is sitting next to the bed at the hospital. My face and most of my body was covered in bandages with big red spots on it. Then I remembered. The night before my parents stopped talking to me, I was on my way home from Angel’s house working on our theater project when two bright beams of light flew straight at me. Now, I hear my mother sobbing, I can even feel her soft skin as I see her place her hand on mine.
            Have I been dead all this time? As I try to turn back toward the park, my trembling legs gave up and I fall on the grass. The trees in front of me were covering something…I start to hear ocean waves but my house is nowhere close to the beach. I haven’t been to the beach in months and I’ve been wishing that I can finally smell the salty ocean ever since school started. Am I in heaven? But how is it that I can still feel my mother’s hand?
            When I finally gain the strength to turn my head, I see that a hut has appeared next to me. Is this the “hut” Timmy has been telling me about? Something tells me that I will know exactly where I am if I go in there. Even if it means that I have to disappear like everyone else. Pushing myself off the wet grass, I force myself to go into the hut. There is nothing in here except for a bedside table with a glass jar. On the floor, there were many roses: some red and some black. Strangely, none of these roses have withered. I pick one of the red roses up, on the stem of the rose “Viva Donna” was engraved. Then, I pick up a black rose. Although I know the opposite of “living,” I was hoping I would see something else. I restrain myself from crying as I dropped the black rose with the engraving “Mortus Johny.”
            On the bedside table in the center is an opaque glass jar. On the jar, “Cora” was engraved. Here is my answer. The color of the rose at this moment can be either black or red and I can stay here, but when I open lift that glass, I will either have to go back to my mom or to heaven. Do I want to know if I am dead or alive? Do I want to be woken up from this world…whatever this is? Do I want to go to heaven? I thought about Timmy, the sandwich he and I were supposed to share about an hour from now. What about the beach that I just saw? What about all the other places I haven’t been to in this world? Then I thought about my mom and her swollen eyes and untended hair. I thought about my project…is Angel done with it now?
The opaque glass stares at me, its white covering reflecting hints of amber from the setting sun. Everything outside the window seems to be waiting for me to make a move. The usually chirping birds put their harmonies on pause, the wind carrying sweet smells of baked goods now stands still, the waves usually drumming with steady rhythm now fall to whimpering murmurs. It seems that the very existence of this place lies in my decision. I slowly place my quivering hands on the glass covering the rose. If I had a heart, if it was still there, it would have stopped beating.

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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.

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

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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.

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!

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.

T is for ... Tunnelling

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P is for ... Probability

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G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

V is for ... Virtual particles

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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.

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.

R is for ... Reality

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T is for ... Teleportation

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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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

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G is for ... Gravity

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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 ... 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 ... 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.

B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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M is for ... Multiverse

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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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.

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”.

Q is for ... Quantum biology

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I is for ... Information

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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.

O is for ... Objective reality

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Q is for ... Qubit

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A is for ... Act of observation

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R is for ... Randomness

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R is for ... Radioactivity

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I is for ... Interferometer

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L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

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P is for ... Planck's Constant

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X is for ... X-ray

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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.

E is for ... Entanglement

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A is for ... Atom

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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.