Alice from Wonderland Enrolls in Community College

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Alice had just turned 17 and decided to enroll in the local community college.  She was a bright girl and could have gone to the University except for the fact that her stories of falling down a rabbit hole and visiting Wonderland earned her the reputation of being a bit touched in the head.
Alice was curious about everything but her passion was art.  She signed up for art classes and a mandatory science class for art majors.  One class, Introduction to Relativity and Quantum Physics for non-science majors caught her eye.  She liked the fact that it introduced strange ideas like the fact that clocks on trains run slower than clocks on the ground and how particles can be in two places at once. It sounded a lot like her visit to Wonderland.
During the first week of science class she listened intently while the professor explained how the faster the clocks on the train move the slower they appear to run.  She wondered how that could be.  "Maybe it's because it takes time itself longer to catch up with the fast moving clocks on the train so the clocks measure time slower than those on the ground," she wondered. "I wonder what the wise old Inchworm would say about that?" 
The next class was even stranger than the first.  This time the professor said there were particles that could be in two places at once, but only if you didn't look at them.  She raised her hand and asked,"could they be in two places very far apart and then come together as soon as I look at one?"  
"They could be a galaxy apart" the professor replied.  "And they'd come together instantly" he added. 
Alice thought this was even stranger than the two clocks.  "I think he's been visiting the hookah smoking inchworm," she quietly giggled. 
As she continued through the course it got curiouser and curiouser.  She learned that some guy named Bell proved that quantum logic doesn't follow classical rules.  The professor explained it like this. If A is greater than B and B is greater than C, A isn't necessarily greater than C.  
At least that's how the professor tried to explain the math to a class full of art majors.  
Alice protested and said "that's like saying 1 + 1 + 1 isn't 3!"  
"Well in quantum mechanics it doesn't necessarily have to be" the professor replied.  
"And I thought the Hatter was mad!" Alice mumbled a little too loud.  
But the Professor was right.  Cause and effect have been stood on their heads.  Outcomes aren't necessarily determined by preceding events.  In quantum mechanics 1+1+1 doesn't have to add up to 3.  
Alice pondered that for a bit and suddenly realized that this just might be how God broke the chains of strict determinism.  "If 1+1+1 didn't always have to be 3, then 3 could choose what it wanted to be.  It had free will!" She concluded.    
Alice, who almost never went to church, thought this was a very clever conclusion.  She wrote it in her physics essay and shared it with the village priest who she hadn't seen since she visited Wonderland.  
The priest scoffed at the suggestion that quantum physics might say something about free will and encouraged her to quit wasting her time in that class and come to church more often. 
The professor gave her a D minus and told her religion has no place in science.
The D- so discouraged Alice that she dropped out of the physics class and never showed up in the science department again.  
"It wasn't so much the D-" she thought as she sat with tears flowing down her eyes while she looked at her essay with the big red D- crayoned on it.  It was the fact that the Professor never even told her why her idea was wrong.  
All was not completely lost though.  Her classroom doodles hang in the village art museum.  If you stand close, one of them looks like grandfather clocks surfing on light beams.  If you stand further away you can see two cheshire cats in the middle of the picture, one is looking right at you, the other is laying on it's side vacantly looking away.  
The cats both know something the Professor didn't.  Alice would have made a good physicist.  

About the Author: 
The author is a retired civil servant. He has a Bachelor of Arts from California State University. He's interested in modern physics even if he can't completely understand the math. Getting a chance to talk with a physicist is on his bucket list.

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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.

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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!

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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