Helping Hands

Your rating: None
No votes yet


>> Read an interview with the author

CAUTION: Do Not Put Hand Into or Under Quantum Machinery.
You’d think it didn’t need to be said. QLabs specifically requires people to use their brains to do their jobs, and it doesn't take a genius to consider basic lab safety. Unfortunately, if the rule exists, it's probably because it happened before. Maybe it's ignorance, bad luck, or maybe people just aren't paid enough to care.
For the record, I'm unpaid and happy to keep my limbs where they are.
Shoot, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Shoot. Shoit. She it. 
So, explicit language is blocked on these monitors. Funk.
Anyways, my name’s Miles Thatcher, I'm a junior researcher in QLabs’ Quantum Development Department (QDD). Not that anyone will be reading this, but if I'm going to commit to this journaling thing I'll try to keep things organized. That's been the hardest thing to do this week. Nobody said this was going to be easy; anything with ‘quantum’ in the name is bound to cause some headaches. Still, no one could have anticipated the sheer madness of these past few days. Despite it all, Dr. Angel has insisted that I remain her assistant in the following experiments, even offered me a promotion. I didn’t sink myself into student debt to not pursue the impossibilities of quantum physics, or not get paid for it, but the reality of it all… 
It’s a lot to think about - too much honestly. That's why I need to get this written down before I lose my head or...  other vital extremities.
Quantum machinery is what we call the tangle of wires, metal, and blinking lights that encompass the entire wing of the QDD. It was a lot more dazzling the first time I toured the facility, like waltzing through a techno Christmas party. I won't lie, the urge to touch literally everything was strong. Though after countless hours of tests and lackluster results, you’d feel more inclined to kick the funky thing. But that's what happens when you try to construct a bridge to a parallel universe.  
That's exactly what Dr. Angel and her team were obsessed with achieving. Holed up in the observation booth, I’d copy down their ramblings as they performed test after test. That day, I'd taken enough coffee runs to count as a marathon, though caffeine didn’t help anyone’s frustration. Dr. Angel was fuming about some calculations being incorrect; Dr. Baker looked like he wanted to correct Dr. Angel’s face with his fist. Love that workplace camaraderie. At some point, Dr. Baker decided it was not the fault of their impeccable minds, but the machine not working properly. 
I'll make this clear, Dr. Baker is brilliant, but not a technician. 
The jewel of this isolated section of machinery was the huge funnel-like appendage meant to simulate a wormhole. It can adjust to any size we want, but at the center it narrows and disappears into the inner workings of the machine. I swear I only looked away for a moment, sipping at the cold remains of my coffee. That's all it took.
Dr. Baker, the remarkable physicist, stuck his right hand inside the funnel.
Apparently, IT upstairs heard his screams. 
I bravely choked on my coffee, which saved me the grittier details. By the time I'd recovered the entire wing was in a panicked frenzy. Medics swarmed the wailing Dr. Baker while Dr. Angel kept worried onlookers at bay. I didn't quite grasp what happened until Dr. Baker was dragged away with someone's coat wrapped around his right arm.
His hand was gone. 
I don’t mean that it was crushed or chopped up - It was literally gone. They couldn’t find it. The funnel was opened to let the biohazard team investigate, but the scene was alarmingly spotless. Apparently, there was a distinct smell in the air, like burnt charcoal. That's as far as I'd like to know. 
Fortunately, Dr. Baker survived, even made a swift recovery. Unfortunately, our work had just begun. At some point Dr. Angel had escorted me to her office where I sat, stunned silent, who knows for how long. When Dr. Angel returned, she'd tell me something that I’m still grappling with. 
She'd found the hand. It just… wasn't the right one.
In fact, it was the left hand. 
A perfectly cauterized left hand was found in front of the funnel, Dr. Angel explained. I said it was impossible, she called it a miracle. Apparently, Dr. Baker was right. There was a mechanical error, and whatever he had done actually caused it to, well, work. He’d reached into the fabric of the multiverse and pulled out a fate worse than anything I could imagine, and it didn't stop there.
At this time we've received thirteen hands total, five left hands, eight right hands, and all belonging to Dr. Baker. 
With a piercing hum, the machine belches out another piece of Dr. Baker from the multiverse, sometimes with a souvenir. So far, we’ve found a watch still clinging to a wrist that counted a thirteenth hour. Another had what appeared to be a university ring from a place called Texas, which definitely doesn't exist. The multiverse is literally spilling out at our feet, all we have to do is let the machine do its job. 
I'm not sure how, but Dr. Angel has managed to keep this entire thing under wraps while everyone else assumes the funnel was decommissioned. As she put it, they can't possibly stop now, and the higher ups agreed. This whole ordeal is straight out of a nightmare, yet I’m still here, typing away. This is real. Insane. Astounding. It's everything I expected from the quantum realm. I was reminded again today of the open position. Dr. Angel told me to think about it, and I suppose that's what this rambling is about. Curiosity has a 50% chance of killing the cat, but you have to observe it to find out. 
Well, at least it will look good on my resume.
About the Author: 
Just your average burnt-out college grad trying to make her way in the world. Will she ever keep a consistent writing schedule? In a different reality, absolutely!
Share this fiction

Quantum Theories: A to Z

E is for ...

As the world makes more advances in quantum science and technologies, it is time to think about how it will impact lives and how society should respond. This mini-documentary by the Quantum Daily is a good starting point to think about these ethical issues. 

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

S is for ...

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

C is for ...

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

C is for ...

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now. This column from Quanta Magazine ​delves into the fundamental physics behind quantum computing.

D is for ...

Unless it is carefully isolated, a quantum system will “leak” information into its surroundings. This can destroy delicate states such as superposition and entanglement.

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.

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 travel

Is time travel really possible? This article looks at what relativity and quantum mechanics has to say.

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.

K is for ...

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

T is for ...

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.

N is for ...

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.

X is for ...

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.

Q is for ...
Quantum States

Quantum states, which represent the state of affairs of a quantum system, change by a different set of rules than classical states.

D is for ...

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.

U is for ...

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

W is for ...

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.

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”.

S is for ...

The feature of a quantum system whereby it exists in several separate quantum states at the same time.

R is for ...

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!

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.

T is for ...

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.

T is for ...

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.

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.

E is for ...

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.

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.

I is for ...

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

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.

M is for ...

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.

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.

R is for ...

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

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 ...

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

G is for ...

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.

I is for ...

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

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.

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.

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!

Q is for ...

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.

G is for ...

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

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.

M is for ...

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

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.

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.

A is for ...

This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.

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.

L is for ...

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 ...

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.

C is for ...

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.

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.

Copyright © 2024 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.