Don't Die Before You're Dead, Sally Wu

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QUANTUM SHORTS 2015: RUNNER UP, OPEN CATEGORY
 

April 1, 2027. MUnet sysadmin message.
Please, please (please!) stop using the multiple-universe message system for relationship advice. This is a serious scientific endeavor we are engaged in; every day it costs millions to keep the wormholes open. If you're going to chat, use it to find ways of justifying the expense.

April 5, 2027. Sally Wu (U103).
What if we conduct clinical trials for new drugs? If we use the same patients across several universes, we can dramatically expand the total trial size. Even better, a patient could take the placebo in one universe and the active drug in another. Contact me if you'd like to work on a grant application together, especially if you're a Sally Wu.

Also, my cat Mindy is missing here in Universe 103. Is she missing in yours? Anybody found her? I miss the old scamp already.

June 12, 2027. MUnet sysadmin message.
To everyone sending winning lottery numbers to your other selves: Professor Naidoo's paper in PLOS Many Worlds in May conclusively proved that laws of probability apply uniquely to every event in each universe. Your odds are just as small as they always were. So quit it! Remember, these wormholes are minuscule and bandwidth is limited.

July 1, 2027. Frank Crane (U9023).
Other Franks: what the hell? How many of you are divorced? What happened? Did you do something wrong? Did Barbara? Send me a PM. I thought she and I were happy but now I can hardly sleep.

July 17, 2027. MUnet sysadmin message.
Okay people, dial it back. Traffic analysis shows personal communication is taking up over 60% of network resources. We've been fairly relaxed about this so far, but now we have commercial and government users, and they need reliable service.

August 1, 2027. Mary Walshe, FBI multi-universe office (U299). Private Message --> Mary Walshe (U-All). Urgent.
The extremists in the Tempe compound have a fertilizer bomb wired to the back door. Do not try to breach the compound. It will detonate. The Mary Walshe in U1022 brought in Murphy's sister and she managed to talk him into surrendering. If you do this, tell her to remind him of his daughter Tayla.

We lost good people in Universe 299 today. Keep them alive in yours.

September 13, 2027. MUnet sysadmin message.
We're scientists. We tried to make a time machine and instead, we proved the many-worlds theory. It's a Nobel-worthy discovery. But when our colleagues use the wormholes for personal gain it brings the whole project into disrepute. I will not name names, as only some of your other selves have done this, but the people who are selling public access to dead loved ones who are still alive in other universes--you have to stop. This is why ethics boards were created. Make a proposal first.

October 1, 2027. Sally Wu (U103).
So I didn't get funding. Sigh. Thanks to the other Sallys who did for your kind words, and for promising to share the research results. This gave me an idea: I'm going to propose that the drug regulation bodies in each universe accept the decisions of their alternate-universe counterparts. It only makes sense. Could you all email your Member of Parliament / Congressperson today?

Also, I forgot to thank you for the cat advice. At least I got Mindy back safe and sound, as did 92% of us who lost her. There's a list for condolence e-cards if you want to send some to the 8% who didn't. Poor wee thing.

November 8, 2027. MUnet sysadmin message.
Urgent. In light of the alarming news about comet C/2027 U1, we are dedicating all system bandwidth to information sharing and planning for deflection missions. Let's pull together on this one, people. We have access to ten thousand parallel universes, and we can share good ideas from any one of them with the rest. We'll make the Manhattan Project look like a primary school science fair.

January 7, 2028. MUnet sysadmin message.
Thank you for your many weeks of hard work. Final comet deflection mission decisions have now been made in all connected universes. We know the odds are sobering. A lottery for all of us. Good luck.

February 10, 2028. MUnet sysadmin message.
Today is the day. As results from the redirect missions in each universe come in, please forward them to the clearinghouse for analysis and evaluation.

February 11, 2028. MUnet sysadmin message: all users.
My name is Jayden. I'm the person behind the sysadmin reports. I just wanted to say that my heart is breaking for everyone in the universes where the redirect missions failed. The final tally shows that 98.8% of the attempts were not successful. We're opening up the message system for people to say their farewells now.

February 26, 2028. Sally Wu (U103).
To the hundred or so lucky Sallys who're going to make it. Most of the engineers and scientists have gone home now to their families. Just a few of us antisocial loners keeping the system up. I brought Mindy here. Silly old lump doesn't have a clue what's coming.

I know some people in your universes are saying the wormholes were a mistake. They just made everyone sad for all the people they never would have known about who are now going to die. But that isn't true. Those clinical trials are going to save lives. There will be other ideas too. I can't speak for everyone here, but I actually find it comforting knowing that you, the other versions of me, will carry on.

Almost time now. My last words? You got lucky, so now you have to do something with it. Don't hide from life. Don't die before you're dead, Sally Wu.

Goodbye.

About the Author: 
Andrew Neil Gray is a writer and educator who lives on Canada's West Coast.
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

R is for ...
Radioactivity

The atoms of a radioactive substance break apart, emitting particles. It is impossible to predict when the next particle will be emitted as it happens at random. All we can do is give the probability that any particular atom will have decayed by a given time.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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 ...
Cryptography

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

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 ...
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!

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

U is for ...
Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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 ...
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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
Computing

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

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.

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