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One dot-something rests in what appears to be the void of open space. If your field of view does not stray too far to one side or the other, there is no indication that this dot-something is surrounded by countless kin. But it is.
All you would have to do is step back a hair – not even that much – and you would see two more dot-somethings. So tiny are these things that no one actually knows what they look like. So insignificant are these things that no one would know of their existence if they had never grouped together. So important are these things that there would be no one to know of them if they had never grouped together.
These three dot-somethings are joined together to form a very special thing – a proton. In its own world, this particular proton is surrounded by five other protons and six neutrons, all of which are made up of three quarks each – that makes thirty-six dot-somethings if you're keeping track. Here we have a carbon atom's nucleus, ever-spinning in what again appears to be a wide empty space. But surely you know better.
Move back a little more are you will see two electrons swarming around the nucleus, giving it a wide berth. As they flit from one spot to the next at incomprehensible speed, not actually moving in the way that most people would think, you might stop to wonder if there are really only two of them there. Zoom out further and you will see four more electrons carrying on the same dance, but over a wider distance. Still you might wonder if there are really so few there.
Even further out, you can see the carbon atom in its entirety, joined by three hydrogen atoms, totaling one molecule. The more you look around, the more you see this and many other combinations of atoms repeated, all jingling with motion, all very much alive.
An even wider frame of reference reveals many interconnected molecules in the shape of a double helix with each side connected by two pairs of molecules lining the center, spanning the entire length of the double helix. This helix folds onto itself many times over. It is a visually chaotic display of someone's genetic code, holding every tiny detail about that person at the moment of conception.
Further out you can see a white blood cell swimming among a horde of red blood cells pulsing through a current of protein-rich water. There are trillions of these cells, all made possible by quarks, inside of this person, but we are only seeing a sneak peek inside of a single vein. This vein is covered on the outside with collagen, the thread that holds the person's body together. Jump back and you've just left the person's body, your vision occupied by a wasteland of dead skin. Who would have thought that so much life was flourishing just below the surface? Zoom out again and the surface of the skin does not look all that uninviting, except for maybe a few blemishes here and there that will go away with time, each being a marvel in its own right.
You are now looking at the forehead of a young man. Most people would still refer to him as a boy, and he couldn't disagree. He still has so much to learn about the world; so many experiences will change him forever in the years soon to come. He has on his mind today a video that he had watched on the internet the night before. It was a clip taken from a public access television show that airs from states away. The topic was one he does not joke about.
He had seen these videos before, but yesterday something in his mind switch on, or maybe it turned off, and he was able to watch the broadcast through different eyes. For some reason, he decided to put all of his understanding about the way the world works aside, and watch with a completely open mind. He saw that the show's hosts were not mean and much less condescending than he had previously thought, but instead it was the callers who had chips on their shoulders. These callers would fill just about every clip he watched with their burning hatred for these people who were only sharing their beliefs. They wished horrible things on the hosts, and when the hosts should have been furious, they just laughed about it – much better than the boy himself would have handled such insults. To be honest, on any other day he would have cheered the callers on, but not yesterday – and not today.
For months the surreal discomfort of cognitive dissonance played with his mind. It danced around in his head, evading every rational explanation the boy could conjure in an attempt to make sense of his conflicting beliefs. It shackled his brain and veiled his sight, allowing him only to see what it wanted him to. For the longest time, he didn't even know it was there, but it seeped through in the form of anger and contempt that he held for others – classmates, his uncle, his best friend. This cruel doublethink was not his friend, but it was his only ally for longer than he cared to think about. But yesterday it disappeared. His worst enemy evaporated in a puff of noxious neural vapor.
Sitting there, thinking, he mulled over the cover of the book he had bought this morning in the discount section of the mall's bookstore. He could see that the authors were taking a passionate stand against scientific illiteracy. It seemed worth the three dollars, even though he would not have given it a second glance any other time before. He wants answers, not stories. This seems like a good place to start. He opens it and begins reading. Today he is reborn, rediscovering a world he thought he knew.

About the Author: 
My name is Brian, and I am a science enthusiast.

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Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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”.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.