A child's brain

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The smooth floors and walls sucked any joy out of the people it enclosed. The laughter of children echoing in the hallways. Slowly, giggles getting distorted into sobs of desperate mothers. It had terrified me years ago as a young man. Later, mothers called me charismatic and warm. My fellows saw ambition and focus. A kingdom needed a king, and that was me.

 

“We had to transfer a patient from Dr. Murphy to you, Professor.”  

Without changing his tone, the assistant continued to read out the medical summary of the patient.

“I’ll do a quick scan to map the diffuse tumor in the brain stem. We can go from there.”

“Understood, I’ll make sure to notify the mother that it might take a little longer.”

Another day, another patient.

 

The big doors slid open revealing his piercing chestnut eyes and dangling feet. The room was cold and dark. It housed nothing but a bed too big for a twelve-year-old. Small hands held on to a diamond encrusted crown.

“What are you doing here on your own? Where is the nurse?” I asked surprised.

“I know my way around here very well, sir,” a faint voice told me.

“Well have you ever seen something like this before?” I said while pointing at the device in his hands. “The shiny parts are made of diamonds with tiny holes. We are going to use these to measure what is going on in your head. I am one of the inventors, so you are in good hands!”

An appeasing voice responded, “That’s very cool, Professor.”

My enthusiasm about my invention, and decades of research, had crashed on to a lethargic face. That wasn’t going to stop me though.

“The little holes contain locked particles. Every time the cells in your brain send out an electric signal, they will send out a magnetic one as well. Depending on what magnetic signals are coming out of your brain, the particles in the diamonds are going to do cool things.”

“Like what?” he asked as his freezing fingers caressed the inside of the crown.

As I kneeled next to him, I said with all the amazement I could muster in my voice “They shoot out all colors of the rainbow. It tells me where in your brain you have a lot going on. I am going to capture all those rainbow particles and send them with tiny wires down to a supercomputer underneath us.”

“Photons?”

Well, I was immediately intrigued. It’s not that common to know such a term already. I had found the hook to pull him into my amazing world.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. Little energy packets with their energy depending on the magnitude of the magnetic signals reaching each diamond. How did you know that term? You must be very smart!”

“My mom is a physicist. She used to talk about it all the time.”

Suddenly it dawned on me. We were still alone. It was as if my breath could echo in the room.

 “Where is she?” I nervously asked.

“She doesn’t like to see me anymore. Since the diagnosis, she can’t look at me the way she did before.”

My heart was slowly sinking in my chest. Even though, his voice wouldn’t reveal how much it had hurt.

“Doctors keep giving her more pills. She hasn’t been the same. It’s like she is completely gone.”

A cabinet full of awards had not prepared me for what was about to come.

“She is the reverse of me. We know why I am sick and not why she is. Every part of my body is failing. My face is sinking, I keep falling, I… I am going to die, and she is going to live with this forever.”

My gut-feeling told me this kid didn’t believe in Santa and neither in lies of uncomfortable doctors. Finding treatments for psychiatric diseases had been a problem. To the point that people proposed creating brain-computer hybrids. However, running the risk of destroying the last part of what made his mom herself due to electrocution felt somewhat unappealing. I didn’t know what to say.

“It’s okay Professor. We can just start the scan. I am used to it by now.”

He had put the crown on his head as a wounded king trying to portray strength to his distraught servant. Through diamonds every part of his brain was being mapped. It was dead silent.

“You know… s-some people think that quantum physics is at the basis of how the brain works,” I stammered.

With the words barely out of my mouth, a feeling of embarrassment engulfed me. Was this really the most appropriate answer I could come up with? Confused eyes looked at me searching for any meaning behind what I just said.

“Like diamonds shooting photons in my head?” he asked with a little spark in his eyes.

“Euhm, in a way. There are many theories, not all equally likely. Some think shielded molecules in your cells can stay entangled with each other. That means if they are far apart, maybe in different cells, their state will still be linked.”

“Shielded like in a diamond?”

With nimble steps only a child with its head in the clouds could take, he came towards me.

“We can build a diamond computer in the head of my mom!” he announced loudly to the world.

While the sentence sunk in, it became more real. What if we could build a quantum computer and artificially correct for her thoughts. Not a drug, but a self-designed network as a cure. A quantum brain computer. Not electricity, but magnetism, photons, and quantum entanglement.

“We would need to figure out a lot first. There is much more available than just diamonds,” I smirked.

“We need to get to work! We have a lot to think about.”

As the image of the scan lit up my face, a deep sigh left my mouth.

“For sure it is. It’s a lot to think about.”

About the Author: 
Bram is a Belgian bio-engineer with a passion for neuroscience, nanotechnology and child health. Prior to this, he had no experience in writing.
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

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.

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.

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.

T is for ...
Time

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.

Q is for ...
Qubit

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D is for ...
Dice

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S is for ...
Schrödinger Equation

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S is for ...
Superposition

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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!

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.

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.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

S is for ...
Sensors

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Quantum biology

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G is for ...
Gravity

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U is for ...
Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

R is for ...
Randomness

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L is for ...
Light

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I is for ...
Interferometer

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

J is for ...
Josephson Junction

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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.

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.

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.

Y is for ...
Young's Double Slit Experiment

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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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

F is for ...
Free Will

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A is for ...
Alice and Bob

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A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

Q is for ...
Quantum States

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O is for ...
Objective reality

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E is for ...
Ethics

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qc7gpabEhQ&t=2s 

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.

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.

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.

C is for ...
Computing

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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.

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.

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.

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