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.
A Q&A with Morgan Long, runner up in the Youth Category
Are you studying science? What makes you interested in quantum physics?
I will be attending Wesleyan University in the fall where I plan to study Physics. I have been drawn to physics for quite some time primarily because I find the unintuitive world of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics to inspire a deep sense of curiosity within me. I love being able to understand the world, and these two fields are an integral part of this understanding..
What inspired your story, and what kind of research did you do?
While writing this story, I wanted an authentic feeling set of documents, while at the same time feeling ridiculous. To this end, I looked up examples of technical writing, as I wanted my story to feel rooted in reality, even as it contained outlandish clauses. As I recall I used a couple EULA’s for inspiration, as well as the manual for a toaster. I referenced these documents as inspiration for both the mundane concepts that no one follows, ie “Read all instructions”, and the basis for those that start sensical, and then quickly end up bizarre.
I like how this story analyzes these important documents of our society, which no one reads. No one reads EULA’s to completion, and really spend time to understand the complex writing. One of my goals while writing this was to take a boring type of writing, and make it a fun read, and I hope I succeed with this. I enjoyed comparing the EULA and the manual, with Quantum Mechanics. The unintuitive parts of the two subjects was fun to try and blend together into a cohesive whole.
What are your hopes regarding quantum computing? Do you expect to buy one, one day?
I hope quantum computers will become powerful enough that I will need one, as a physicist. They look promising as a superior alternative to modern supercomputers. Despite this, I don’t expect to personally buy one. The technology is best suited to larger scale applications, and is not all that good for modern household tasks. However, there is still more work to be done on quantum computers, and I look forward to being proven wrong.
Why should we Beware of Evil Squirrels?
The Evil Squirrels are one of the story’s Easter eggs. They are a reference to the squirrels in How To Teach Physics to Your Dog, by Chad Orzel, one of the youth competition judges. The Squirrels are all the pseudo-science sellers who misunderstand, or lie about, quantum mechanics to turn a profit. Chad Orzel uses them to tell the reader of common untruths about quantum mechanics, which are used to scam people. It is mostly used here to honor the work of an author whose books I had read, and enjoyed.
Can you name one or two science-inspired books you've read in the past year that you would recommend to others?
Despite having read How To Teach Physics to Your Dog quite a while ago, I can still highly recommend it. Some other books I have more recently read include Redshift Rendezvous, by John Stith and the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. The first novel is a fun exploration of the idea that in hyperspace, the speed of light is 10 meters per second. The author accurately uses Einstein's equations to describe the consequences of humans being able to directly experience relativistic effects. The Mars trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, on the other hand, are a blend of science and humans. It depicts a realistic Mars, and is filled with authentic details, yet also features a compellingly real cast of characters.