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I didn't like his answer.  It wasn't all it could be.  I sent Guinny back to his workspace to tweak his project.  Guinny is not his real name. Most of us think it's funny but the Chief Whiner finds it offensive.  I don't really care but that's because I don't really care.  What we are doing to Guinny is clearly immoral and probably dangerous but he signed up for it.  He was determined to be a better man.  Okay maybe we should have told him that his private workspace is a tunnel reactor.  Maybe we should have told him his project is not some banal overwrite of a quantum quotient.  His job is to sit in a DNA twisting cloud until he gives me the right answer.  


Friday was promising and I was tempted to keep Guinny for the weekend but budgets override science so off he went to his wife and kiddies.  I wonder if she will notice his eyes are greener...not the answer but an interesting sidebar.


On Monday we had a staff meeting.  The admin wants us to hurry up with the experiment as he can't keep justifing our salaries without results.  Chief Whiner mentioned the eye colour thing and budget boy lit up like a Christmas tree.  I gave up long ago trying to understand why they put accountants in charge of the future but as he was already wetting his pants I gave him the wink that promised the money shot.  He gave me six more weeks.  I needed a shower but it was worth it.


We actually tried to explain to money man once what we were doing but we lost him at anterior insular cortex.  That's when, whiners and all, we decided not to mention anything else interesting.  The guy's about as deep as a billfold. 


Every Friday I ask Guinny about his progress with quasiparticles in condensed matter physics.  It takes just about everything I have not to scream with boredom. The man is as dry as the Mojave.  After the debriefing I get to pose the question.  So Greg, how's the wife and kids?


Week One got me a confused blink that had me looking at his file to confirm he was a family man.  Week Two he offered up a "small talk" answer of fine, just fine.  Week Three he coughed up their names.  Week Four he mentioned his wife thought his eyes were greener.  Week Five he told me his kids were in sports.  Week Six he told me which sports.  Week Seven he told me his wife's birthday was on Monday and could he come in late?  Week Eight he asked why the hair on his head had regrown?   I told him it was something in the carrot juice in the cafeteria and he really should't ask any more questions. He said Carol thought the blonde looked really good against his mocha skin. She sounds like a peach.  Week Nine he asked for a night off to attend an awards ceremony for one of his kids.  So close.  Also, he's stopped drinking the carrot juice, something about his toes. 


Week Ten Guinny said I was looking tired and maybe I should get some rest, take a vacation, that sort of thing.  Eureka!  God bless his little furry, emerald eyed, webbed toed heart!  


Mushroom boy popped an artery when we told him we had spent all the money but our experiment was a dismal failure.  Cruel yes but highly entertaining.  Than we told him all we seemed to have accomplished was a solution for male pattern baldness. I've never been kissed by a man before. 


Chief Whiner asked me where the rest of the grant money really went and I told her I gave it to Greg to take his family to Disneyland.  That scored me a week in Cozumel with a physicist who really knows her way around a solid object.  


Back at the ranch, Rodney, he asked us to call him that, announced his masters needed him to be more in touch with all us wonderful people.  We gave him Greg's old office.  It's a very comfortable room even if it doesn't have a view.


Paula Nurmikivi





About the Author: 
I have been described as a chameleon when it comes to my personality and as a squirrel when it comes to my writing, anything that catches my eye I chase. I have enjoyed the opportunity to apply my style to the world of science.

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Quantum Theories

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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 ... 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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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 ... 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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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 ... 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.