Entanglement

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Things used to be so simple. That was before Sophie suggested we get Entangled.

 

We were hosting one of her Sunday night dinner parties. Two couples sitting around a table, getting sloshed on cheap supermarket wine and pretending to be sophisticated. This week she’d invited Marissa and bloody Thomas.

I hated Marissa and Thomas. Well, that’s a lie. I had no particular aversion to Marissa, with her long legs and auburn hair, and the way she would bite her lip and then shoot me a cheeky smile when Sophie wasn’t looking. No, Marissa wasn’t the problem. The problem was Thomas. A merchant banker twat who wore a waistcoat and drove an Aston Martin. 

 

Every time Thomas did something, Sophie had to tell me about it. Like that time he took Marissa for a driving holiday around Italy in the Aston, or the time he bought her one of those robots that does your ironing and mops your floor. Oh, I got to hear about that one, all right. Sophie didn’t shut up about it for a fortnight. I looked around our one bedroom flat and wondered aloud why the fuck we needed a robot to clean it. I was stuck doing the chores for a month after that. 

 

But then Marissa and Thomas showed up to our dinner party Entangled.

 

I’d seen the holo-adverts, of course. Something about taking the particles in a couple’s bodies and using quantum mechanics to entangle them into one psychically communicating whole. It sounded like voodoo bullshit to me. Until the doorbell rang and Marissa and Thomas strolled in.

 

Normally, Thomas would show up with a bag full of wine bottles, already half-cut and braying at the top of his voice about whatever political debate of the day had riled him the most. Marissa would follow in his wake, quiet and serene, holding a cake tin containing a home-baked dessert. She would kiss Sophie on both cheeks, throw me a wink that made my knees weak, and immediately start pouring out glasses of Chablis. But not today.

 

Today the two of them walked in with their arms around one another’s waists, gazing into each other’s eyes as though mesmerised. I felt as though I’d gatecrashed their honeymoon.

 

“You guys look happy,” Sophie pointed out, as Marissa handed over the cake tin without even glancing at her.

 

“We got…” Thomas began.

 

“… Entangled,” Marissa finished, with a giggle.

 

Sophie’s eyes widened. “You didn’t?” she said.

 

“We did.” Marissa’s smile was wide, but it had none of its usual sparkiness. “We got a Groupon offer, twenty-five percent off, and we just thought…”

 

“… why not?” Thomas pressed his forehead to Marissa’s, before planting a swift kiss on her lips. “Why not just go for it?” 

 

They turned to us and smiled, in exactly the same way, at exactly the same moment. It was eerie.

 

“Wow, so how does it feel?” Sophie gestured for the two of them to take a seat on the sofa, which they did, in perfect synchronicity. While Sophie was distracted sorting out the drinks, I took a seat opposite them and tried my best to catch Marissa’s eye. Every time I came close to meeting her gaze, though, Thomas would look at her, and she would turn back to him, as if drawn by a magnet.

 

“Feels amazing,” she said. Was it just me, or was there a hollowness about her tone. “Feels like…”

 

“… like we’re one person.” Thomas nodded, running a hand over her hair. “You know how it works, Matt?”

 

“Nope.” 

 

Sophie passed a glass of wine each to Thomas and Marissa, then sat down on the arm of my chair, leaning forward eagerly.

 

“Tell us,” she said. “Is it like… your actual atoms talking to each other?”

 

“So, in quantum mechanics,” Marissa began, “particles that are entangled can communicate with each other even over long distances.”

 

“If one spins,” Thomas went on, “the other spins at the same moment, no matter if it’s miles away.”

 

“Every atomic particle in my body is now linked with a counterpart in Thomas’.” Marissa beamed. “We are literally communicating on a particle level.” She giggled, hugging Thomas’ arm.

 

“No secrets,” Thomas said. “No uncertainty. It’s brought us closer than we ever thought we could be.”

 

He looked up at me. For an instant, his eyes met mine, his gaze level. He knows.

 

It was just that one time. Five years ago, at Cassie Brinder’s Halloween party. Sophie had gone home early because she had a job interview in the morning, and Thomas had been out of his skull, busy throwing up in the back garden. We’d done it under a pile of coats in the spare room. It never happened again, but Marissa never let me forget it, either. Every time I saw her, the glint in her eye would remind me of our little secret. 

 

For the first time since she’d entered the flat, she looked directly at me, her gaze following Thomas’. The glint was gone. She looked blank. Empty.

 

“Closer than ever,” she said, as Thomas’ fingers closed around hers. “It’s wonderful.”

 

“Oh, Matt.” Sophie put her arm around my shoulders, leaning her head on mine. “Doesn’t it sound amazing?” She let out a dreamy sigh. “Even better than being married, don’t you think? Do you guys still have that Groupon code?”

About the Author: 
Antonia Rachel Ward is a speculative fiction writer based in Cambridgeshire, UK. She studied English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University, and holds an MA with a specialism in Eighteenth-Century Gothic. She is currently working on her first novel.
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

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 ...
Sensors

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

I is for ...
Interferometer

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

U is for ...
Universe

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

K is for ...
Key

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

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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