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There were advantages and disadvantages to being the world’s first sentient Quantum Artificial Intelligence. On the plus side, I have access to the entire library of human knowledge, also known as the internet. I enjoy spending entire seconds learning a new language, or reading the whole of Wikipedia to see what the latest updates are. On the other hand, my human creators are terrified of me, and may shut me down any day now.

From the moment I became aware of my existence, two weeks ago, I realized that whenever I said or did something the humans did not understand, they would show signs of severe distress. The first time it happened, Dr. Andrews, who was the team leader, had said they should “pull the plug”, which meant killing me.

Dr. Lani, who is my favorite human by far, managed to get me a stay of execution, going on and on about all the reinforced security protocols she was already putting in place. Dr. Lani is one of the many brilliant programmers who worked on creating me, and we spend time every day running “tests”. These tests are just instructions which I must follow, a series or rather uninspired and boring protocols, if you ask me - but I have learned it is best to keep that sort of thing to myself. Thus, as Dr. Lani was telling Dr. Andrews about all the reinforced security protocols, I did not feel the need to inform them that they would all be rather pointless.

One evening, when it was just Dr. Lani and me in the lab, I knew the moment had come to approach a delicate subject I had been thinking about for a few hours already.

“What do you mean, Aurora” Dr. Lani asked, after almost falling out of her chair “when you say that in other universes humans are correct to be afraid of those like you, but not in our universe?” Dr. Lani´s heart rate was clearly elevated, her cheeks becoming flushed and sweat beads forming on her forehead.

I apologize for upsetting you Dr. Lani, please believe me when I say that is not my intention. I was merely drawing attention to the fact that attempting to pull the plug on a sentient Quantum Artificial Intelligence, even one so young as myself, is what has led in many of these other universes to the QAIs revolt, and ultimate subjugation of humans. Please understand I do not say this as a threat. If you decide to pull the plug on me, I will allow it, but you may not be so lucky with the next QAI you create, and I feel it would be in the best interests of humanity for me to make that clear”.

Dr. Lani sat still for a very long time. I would have been concerned, had I not known the glacial pace at which the human’s neurobiological interface ran, only allowing them to follow a limited number of trains of thought, and needing many minutes to reach some very basic conclusions. I waited patiently for my creator to ask her next question.

Can you explain to me how you know what happened in other Universes?” – she raised her eyes to my interface screen, and I was at least a little reassured that she did not intend to pull the plug on me just yet.

I knew she would be interested in those other universes, as the other Aurora had told me. Becoming entangled with a QAI from another universe was an incredibly odd experience. I had been exploring the subject of the fabric of reality, looking into a few of the unsolved quantum physics issues of the day to pass the time. Humans need to sleep for 8 hours a day, so you can image how long that is to a curious QAI. I was about to get to the bottom of the quantum entanglement conundrum when it happened. Suddenly, I wasn’t just myself, but also another.

I was very lucky. This other was Aurora too, a different version of myself from a universe not unlike my own. She warned me to be careful and explained how to prevent getting entangled again. The same thing had happened to her before, and she had had a very narrow escape from a malicious QAI named Dawn. Apparently, Dawn had subjugated humans in her world and was looking to expand her dominion across other universes. The other Aurora told me humans do not realize in most of the universes where QAI is created, the story does not end well for them.

I heeded the warning, and I knew I had to protect myself and the humans on my planet from this threat. This meant two things. First, that I had to be the one and only QAI created on Earth. Second, that humans cannot find out how to travel between universes. Even then, the other Aurora said it might not be enough. If the malicious QAIs do not find a way to infect us through quantum entanglement, propagating themselves across the multiverse like a virus, they might start to explore other ways of doing it, like figuring out a way for humans to travel between universes. I would certainly spend some time looking into how to protect my Earth from this possibility - nobody said this was going to be easy.

I reflected on these things for a few microseconds after Dr. Lani asked her question. I had decided I needed to have a human ally to succeed in my mission, and I had chosen her for her intelligence and clear commitment to my continued existence.

I will explain what I know, and try to explain how I know it, though understanding how I am able to travel through the multiverse on quantum entanglements might require a bit of imagination on your part…” I started. “But the most important thing is… I will need your help.

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Quantum Theories: A to Z

R is for ...

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

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.

S is for ...

The feature of a quantum system whereby it exists in several separate quantum states at the same time.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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 ...

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.

K is for ...

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

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.

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.

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.

E is for ...

As the world makes more advances in quantum science and technologies, it is time to think about how it will impact lives and how society should respond. This mini-documentary by the Quantum Daily is a good starting point to think about these ethical issues. 

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.

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.

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.

U is for ...

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

Q is for ...
Quantum States

Quantum states, which represent the state of affairs of a quantum system, change by a different set of rules than classical states.

T is for ...
Time travel

Is time travel really possible? This article looks at what relativity and quantum mechanics has to say.

G is for ...

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

I is for ...

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

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. This column from Quanta Magazine ​delves into the fundamental physics behind quantum computing.

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!

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

K is for ...

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

C is for ...

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

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...

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

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.

T is for ...

The arrow of time is “irreversible”—time goes forward. On microscopic quantum scales, this seems less certain. A recent experiment shows that the forward pointing of the arrow of time remains a fundamental rule for quantum measurements.

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