Betty Botter

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As Esmeralda led me in to her workspace she was practically vibrating with excitement.
“You won’t believe the results we’re getting James. It worked, it actually worked!”
Her lab was just like mine, an untidy room on the edge of the campus, filled with the same kind of equipment; mirrors, high powered lasers, sand tables, second hand computers and so on. Most of it scavenged from old e-waste. Trying to make our grants stretch to meet our goals.
“What worked Esme?”
She pointed to the far wall, where a large, circular sheet of silver backed glass, basically a household mirror, was clamped in to a careful arrangement of metal arms. “Watch!”
I looked into the mirror. Saw my short blonde hair and baggy sweatshirt. Saw my tired eyes looking back through my thick rimmed spectacles. Nothing strange so far. There was an array of lasers angled around the mirror, bouncing their light off the surface at an oblique angle, to smaller mirrors set on metal arms which reflected them back.
“What does it do?”
“Just watch!”
The lasers began to pulse, flickering faster and faster, until their flashing was too fast to observe. The surface of the mirror seemed to go opaque for a moment, then it cleared and I was looking at myself again, but something was off.
Esme touched my shoulder, and I watched the other Esme repeat the gesture. But in the mirror, I was Esme, and Esme was me.
My friend said, “You know about quantum wave uncertainty, right?”
“Yeah, dead cat, alive cat, at the same time, blah, blah, blah.”
I remembered before I had chosen my major; things used to be so simple.
Esme laughed. “Yeah, somewhat more complex than that, but we know the idea.”
“So what’s this all about then?”
“We found a way to collapse the wave in such a way that here we get one result and”- She pointed to the mirror, where I pointed back, “Over there there is another result.”
“Our cat is dead and theirs is alive?”
“Exactly!” Her eyes shone with the light of a thousand grants.
“Not a chance!”

I stood in front of the mirror for an hour trying to disprove what I was seeing. Other Esme stared back at me. A frown creased her face.
I tried to smooth out my own face, smiling a fake smile in to the mirror which was reflected back at me from other Esme’s dark skinned face.
I moved my hand. Other Esme did the same.
I turned away and quickly turned back.
There she was, staring accusingly back at me.
I blinked. She blinked.
I made a peace sign.
Gave her the finger.
She followed me exactly.
I picked up a sheet of paper and wrote on it.
I tried to think of the most crazy nonsense.
Held it up in front of me.
Betty Botter bought some butter.
I spoke the rest of the tongue twister and watched other Esme follow me line for line.
This was crazy.
I looked deeper in to her room, through the mirror. Everything was the same. Or was it?
“Esme, you have to look at this!”
She stood next to me, and in the mirror, I stood next to her.
We pointed through our event horizons at a calendar on the desk.
Ours read January 2020, hers was still on July 2019.
My Esme took a step back. “That’s impossible. It’s not really a different reality, just a twisted refection. Like looking in a fun house mirror. It’s just not possible to see in to other worlds.”
“There’s more, look!”
I pointed to the flag on the wall. On the other side of the mirror, the familiar stars and stripes were missing. In their place was a deep red field, decorated with yellow stars and a Hammer and Sickle. Esme looked shocked to her core. More differences were quickly seen. Other Esme’s hair and clothes were subtly off. An inspirational poster on the wall held a different meaning. But what was more shocking was the things that were the same.
Everything on the other side looked ill made and worn out, just like here, but for different reasons. The shoddy cloth of my second hand sweatshirt, with its picture of Che Guevara was reflected by a garment which was the same, but different. Entirely free of irony.
I wanted to try something.
I picked up the paper again. I crossed out my writing and on a new line, wrote;
What are you making?
Other Esme was holding the same message. I noticed that her handwriting was different.
At least it was in English, I couldn’t read Cyrillic.
“This makes sense, they would be asking the same question.”
My Esme nodded. “Try answering it.”
I looked at her questioningly. She took the paper and wrote;
A window.
The mirror me held up the same message.
“Keep going!” I urged Esme to continue.
What is your intention?
Our efforts were mirrored by our reflections.
To send a message.
My Esme looked at me and shrugged. She handed me the paper and pen.
I was shaking as I thought of what to write. Whatever I wrote, mirror Esme would write the same, wouldn’t she? That’s what had happened so far.
But they knew what this was. We knew what this was. What message could trigger a different response and break the cycle of reflection?
I held up the paper.
You are me.
She held hers up.
I am you.
I felt something like an electric shock. Esme reached out and touched my arm. I looked down and saw the dark skin of my bare arm. Her... no my, hand was touching me. I looked up in to my own face, then turned to face the mirror. A blond haired man in a baggy sweatshirt and spectacles looked back at me. His eyes were no longer tired. His mouth moved and I read his lips.
“Oh boy!”

About the Author: 
I am an English teacher living in South Korea. My hobbies include video game development and writing short stories. I'm married and I have two sons, Robert and Henry.
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

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”.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

K is for ...
Key

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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.

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.

U is for ...
Universe

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

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

S is for ...
Sensors

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

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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!

M is for ...
Maths

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

C is for ...
Clocks

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.

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.

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.

T is for ...
Time

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.

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.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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