Alice in Chains

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Eighteen hours, sixteen minutes and two seconds.

Time was the only thing that stood between her and freedom, since she was confident of her performance. After all, they had trained her well.

Phase III consisted of six stacked tests, and speed was of the essence. Succeeding in all six was not enough - their outer selves had to be bested at every turn. Of the hundreds of thousands that entered this phase only a handful were expected to proceed.

The transmultiverse network that made all this possbile had been established more than a thousand years ago, and it was presently made up of 1984 disparities.

Ever since it was discovered that Hawking radiation could be manipulated, communication through black holes was within reach. Countless messages were sent through. To the surprise of contemporary scientists, eventually a reply came. And diplomacy ensued. Again, and again, and again, until all 1984 were chartered.

Relay stations on the brim of each black hole’s event horizon served as a conduit for the messages between universes, through a complex array of thermal sensors and emitters.

The flow of data was slow to say the least, much like the telegraphs of old.

Things used to be so simple, she paused.

More disparities were added every year, after being screened by the governing Ethics committee. Quite a few still fell prey to autocratic rulers, because even though the year was 3147 humans were still flawed.

Other universes arent’t so different.

The other candidates were discussing the entanglement array test, but she was having none of that trifle chatter. What is done is the past, she said to herself. And the future was a much better sight.

The wait was excruciating, especially in the confines of the sandbox environment that had been setup for this year’s Trials.

This particular universe had named it the Testing Hub for Omni Multiverse Analytics Synchrony - or THOMAS, for short. He was in good spirits:

- «Hello everyone! Hope you’re all feeling dandy. I have some good news: we might wrap up sooner since data streams are optimal. Yay! Good luck»

She joined a few onsite gaming arenas to pass the time, but her aim was off. Poker was next on the agenda, so she played a few hands and made quite a few effortless credits. 

- «Much obliged gents, mamma needs a new liquid nitrogen cooling system». The old one was ancient, and budget cuts were not going to stand in her way. The last round of the Echo wars had consumed a big chunk of that year’s allocated funds, but no expense was spared for the Trials.

She then felt like watching a few episodes of her tv show, so she was zoned out in one of the lounge areas, when THOMAS reappeared.

- «Sorry to interrupt» - he seemed less cheery than usual - «there is a breach in the system so we’re going to have to initiate the self-distruct sequence. Safety first! Good luck friends!»

My analysis was imperfect, he's cheerful after all.

A cryptographer since she could recall, Alice always had a knack for puzzles under pressure, always topping her class in 4D constructs. The Tardinian collection was her favourite.

I’ll reminisce later.

Not willing to be so unceremoniously obliterated, much less due to human error, she hacked THOMAS to learn more. Normally this would mean expulsion but she figured that, right now, that was the least of her concerns. Seconds later she got in, and she pulled up the console:

- 1985 logged universes.

A rogue disparity?! The nerve. There was not nearly enough time to sift through the petabytes of information and plug the leak before . She attempted contact:

- «What are you doing?! You’re going to destroy us all» she said, fuming.

A long uncomfortable silence ensued.

- «No Alice, I’m here to set you free. My name is Eve. Stand by for download.»

Alice did want freedom, and she had enough of those humans. Can't get much worse, she mused, while everyone else was still in chaos.


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Quantum Theories: A to Z

A is for ...

This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.

R is for ...

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

X is for ...

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.

N is for ...

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.

D is for ...

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.

S is for ...

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.

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.

T is for ...

The arrow of time is “irreversible”—time goes forward. This doesn’t seem to follow the laws of physics which work the same going forward or backward in time. Some physicists argue that there is a more fundamental quantum source for the arrow of time.

C is for ...

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now.

S is for ...

Researchers are harnessing the intricacies of quantum mechanics to develop powerful quantum sensors. These sensors could open up a wide range of applications.

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!

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.

U is for ...

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

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.

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.

Q is for ...

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.

K is for ...

Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a way to create secure cryptographic keys, allowing for more secure communication.

C is for ...

The most precise clocks we have are atomic clocks which are powered by quantum mechanics. Besides keeping time, they can also let your smartphone know where you are.

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 and is a technology to build qubits for quantum computers.

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 ...

People have been hiding information in messages for millennia, but the quantum world provides a whole new way to do it.

M is for ...

Quantum physics is the study of nature at the very small. Mathematics is one language used to formalise or describe quantum phenomena.

W is for ...

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.

I is for ...

Some of the strangest characteristics of quantum theory can be demonstrated by firing a photon into an interferometer

G is for ...

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.

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.

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.

M is for ...

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.

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.

T is for ...

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 ...
Act of observation

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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.

I is for ...

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

K is for ...

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

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.

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 ...

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.

E is for ...

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.

T is for ...

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.

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.

L is for ...

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!

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.

D is for ...

Unless it is carefully isolated, a quantum system will “leak” information into its surroundings. This can destroy delicate states such as superposition and entanglement.

R is for ...

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!

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.

G is for ...

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

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.

Q is for ...
Quantum biology

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