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“It’s cold in here,” the woman says, lighting a cigarette, blue smoke catching in the light of the laser.
 
“It needs to be cold to work,” I say, “and there’s no smoking in here.”
 
In the reflection of my computer screen, I notice her looking around the lab. Her left arm sticking up, the still-lit cigarette in between thin fingers, right arm around her waist supporting the left elbow.
 
“I need to know why you’re here,” I say, punching in the code for the entanglement.
 
“Why?”
 
My chair squeaks unprofessionally as I spin around, “Because, what if I send you to another reality where whatever brought you here has already happened?”
 
I wait. This was usually the time where either the reality of what they were about to do hit them or their brain began doubting what I was saying.
 
Her body slumps a little, “My son died.”
 
I nod and spin back around with a counter squeak from my chair. Typing in random coordinates, I let the quantum machine hum on the desk. The black box was doing its job. It would be a few minutes before she spoke again.
 
“Is that it?” she steps over, staring the flat black box.
 
It was unimpressive at best. I could hear it in her voice. Just a small six-inch square metal cube, humming as if thinking, which it was.
 
“Yep.”
 
I took in the full measure of this woman. Tall, well-dressed, nails impeccably done, hair unimaginably soft with expensive products. She had money. It wasn’t cheap to buy a new life, a new reality where the tragedy never happened. Or a new life where they were rich, or a woman, or man, or had no children, or their mothers loved them. But these days, it was mostly a dead kid. Word must be spreading.
 
“How long?” she asks.
 
“Couple minutes.”
 
On the edges of the machine, I could already see the white frost. It was working hard, finding the right coordinates to send this lady back where her son was alive and well.
 
“How does it work?’ she steps closer to the oblong ring in the center of the room. A see-through sheet of clear glass covering the opening.
 
“I don’t know.”
 
Twisting in surprise, her perfectly tailored eyebrows raise. “You don’t know?”
 
“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” I smile at my joke.
 
 The temperature drops ten degrees as the glass on the portal changes.
 
“It’s a mirror now,” the woman whispers.
 
Letting the air out of my lungs, I say, “It’s not a…seriously, didn’t you read the contract?”
 
Hugging herself against the cold, she stares at the woman staring back at her, “Most of it.”
 
“It’s a reflection from a similar world as ours. She’s you, looking at you from another dimension. Okay?”
 
Raising her hand, she waves at herself in the next world.
 
“She’s not the one I’m going to replace, is it?” stepping closer to the aperture.
 
“No, but that’s the closest world to ours, so it comes up first.” I kept typing, the humming box slows, and the cold stabilizes. By this time, it was nearly forty degrees in the lab.
 
“So, I just walk through here and boom, I’m back with my son?”
 
“More or less.”
 
Another flash and the woman in the reflection is gone, only a copy of my lab staring back.
 
“Hey, where did I go?” she says, upset.
 
“Well, the other you is probably doing something else. Like at work or with your husband,” I hesitate, “Or with your kid.”
 
The words sting. Enough for her straighten her back and almost jump through the portal. This was the moment.
 
“There’s a little business we need to take care of,” I say casually.
 
Shaking hands pull a silver ring from her pocket, she touches it to mine. On the outer ring, my credits jump six figures.
 
Reaching over, I pull out a silver box and open it. Taking out the small device, I walk over and hand it to her. “Now, you do know what happens next?”
 
“I go across, and my son’s alive.”
 
“Jesus, did you read any of the contract?” I mutter, dropping the round object into her hand.
 
“Oh, you mean the fine print? Yeah, I read it. I need to kill the other me, then take over her life.”
 
I nod, “Place this within ten feet of her, and there’ll be nothing left.”
 
Hefting the ball, the woman asks, “Then what?”
 
“Then you live with the guilt.”
 
 A curt laugh escapes her lips, “No guilt here, buddy. Besides, it’s me, right? I can’t really feel guilty replacing myself?”
 
I don’t answer. Instead, I say, “Safe trip.”
 
She’s two feet from the portal.
 
“Now?” she asks.
 
“Anytime.”
 
Placing the ball in her pocket, the woman steps through the glass window, disappearing from this world.
 
“What happened?” she asks, stunned.
 
“Jesus, did you read any of the contract?” I ask.
 
“Yeah, but...”
 
“You went through. I’m the other guy in the other lab.”
 
It always took a few seconds for their brains to figure it out. Multiverses, other dimensions, portals. And I look slightly different.
 
“You know where to go?” I ask.
 
Her face changes; she knew where to go. It was her life, after all.
 
“Yeah.”
 
“Don’t get caught,” I call out as the woman leaves.
 
“Hey.”
 
I turn and see myself looking out of the portal.
 
“Hey,” I say back.
 
“Did you send anyone today?” I ask.
 
“Yeah, he wanted to be rich. What’s with her?” I nod to the door.
 
“Dead kid.”
 
“Damn,” I say.
 
“Things used to be so simple. Now there’s all this emotional baggage they bring with them. I mean killing yourself, who does that?”
 
Staring at myself, I look well dressed, thinner, and have a wedding ring. Turning back, I mark the coordinates in the computer and smile.
 
“It’s a lot to think about,” I tell him.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About the Author: 
C.R. Long lives in Southern California with his wife and three girls, where he writes Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels. His new series After Earth will be hitting the shelves this December.
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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”.

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.

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.

L is for ...
Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

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F is for ...
Free Will

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I is for ...
Information

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

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

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S is for ...
Sensors

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G is for ...
Gluon

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

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 ...
Computing

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

E is for ...
Entanglement

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A is for ...
Alice and Bob

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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.

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.

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.

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.

T is for ...
Teleportation

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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.

I is for ...
Interferometer

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

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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