Through the Quantum Glass

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Bob concentrated as he tapped the keys on his keyboard and simultaneously turned the dial on the control panel. Months of careful planning and calculation had led to this moment and soon he would leave this world and never return. Bob marveled at the nearby Casimir device, the machine that would generate the exotic matter needed to open his wormhole. Its plates were a thing of beauty, he thought, made from the lightest, thinnest and flattest room temperature superconducting material known to man. It was smooth. Scaled up to the size of the Earth, the height between the tallest ridge and deepest valley would be nanometers tall.
Bob would soon have enough exotic matter. He pushed his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose and pondered why, no matter what he did, it always slid down. He could never get a pair to fit properly and his face always made the frames appear slightly askew. Was it some strange quirk of the bridge of his nose or just a choice of really bad frames? “It doesn’t matter,” he thought to himself.
It was somewhat ironic with all the money and focus on SETI that mankind’s first contact wasn’t with an alien species from some distant solar system but with another us from another parallel universe. That was five years ago. Despite what the physics said Bob found opening wormholes to be somewhat meditative. It wasn’t like a sci-fi TV shows or movie. The process was almost silent. Bob came on the worm-hole project as a post-doc to work on the Casimir device.
Bob sent the slow and steady stream through the wormhole and gently pried the mouth open. He looked at the opening and there she was. His heart stopped for a moment as he looked at her. There she was—Alice. She was smiling and she was beautiful though her face appeared to stretch and skew under the ripples of the event horizon as if he were looking at her underwater.  She waved and mouthed the word hello and though he couldn’t hear her, the event horizon didn’t transmit sound, he could read her lips. They had spent months together, hiding their blossoming romance from their respective co-workers, as they scrawled words on pieces of papers and drew on tablets so the other could see.
This wasn’t their first wormhole. There were many in those early days, each of introducing them to a universe that was the same but slightly different from their own. The trick was to keep the wormhole active all the time by sending a constant but infinitesimal stream of exotic matter into the mouth of the wormhole, something Bob eventually figured out how to do.
While they had perfected opening worm-holes and keeping two universes connected, no one had managed to send an object through without destabilizing the wormhole and losing it completely. Bob believed he, again, finally had the answer. He could change the geometry of the tunnel and allow an object—possibly a human—to traverse the wormhole.
Alice hates Bob. This much was true in every universe except one; of all the Alices this one loved him for some reason. Bob could feel the contempt the officemate version felt for him which made him ponder the mysterious implications of parallel realities. Every counterpart was to be identical in every way, the events of their lives the same. Well, not quite the same. They would discover there were some subtle differences but not what anyone would think significant.
Bob’s Alice’s first kiss was with the chubby president of her high school’s Physics club with a taste for Monty Python sketch comedies, a kid not too different from Bob himself. Bob wondered if that kid was alive or grew up to be anything like him. His officemate’s first kiss was with the preppy football captain. Both events seemed insignificant. A small blip in the space-time continuum but there were differences in the taste of men of the two women. Maybe it was because each boy showed Alice something different and like a sliding door led her to a new path; a new Alice. Or maybe there was nothing to it Bob told himself.
Bob tried dating and, for him, there rarely ever was a second date. Alice completed him on so many levels and he found the irony cruel that his soul mate existed in another universe. They would spend hours after work when everyone had left to be together but this was soon discovered. Despite the fact the project was where it was because of Bob, he was reprimanded for abusing lab resources. One more slipup and he would never work in a lab ever again. He would be lucky to teach high school he was told. But that didn’t matter anymore. Soon he was going to be with the woman he loved.
Bob made the final adjustments to the wormhole’s geometry. If he did it right, it would allow one object his mass to go through and then destabilize and pop out of existence. Given the infinite parallel universes out there and with no way to track him, it would be impossible to open a new wormhole and visit the same universe twice. There was no turning back now.
Bob widened the wormhole a little more, enough for him to jump through as Alice looked expectantly. The lab door opened and his boss entered. Bob turned to look at him. There would be no teaching high school in his future, not now or ever. The tall, greying and arrogant head of the lab saw what was going to happen and his face contorted to shout something and started running. Bob leaped and was never seen again.

Walking through the wormhole was as. Bob emerged on the other side and there she was.
“You know what the Monty Python boys say?” he asked, hoping to be funny.
“Always look on the bright side of life?”
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition,” he smirked.

About the Author: 
David Latchman is a freelance science writer who loves writing on physics topics. He is taking his first stab at writing hard science fiction.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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!

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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!

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”.

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 ... 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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!