Your rating: None
No votes yet


Last week, I dreamt of worms wriggling in holes and woke and worried. A foretelling of decay? Forces, gravitational, electrical, magnetic hurtling towards an abyss of nothingness? I visited Agnes, my friend, who pulled out a card about New Beginnings from her Healing with the Angles box, and reassured me that worm-dreaming did not equate necessarily to death. Think of worms all warm in their wormholes, she said. Think of worms as a necessary to clear up all that is useless. Think of wormholes as opportunities, shortcuts leading a way through hardships. On returning home, I googled worms in wormholes and worried again: ceilings collapsing, toxic radiation, unpredictable alien-matter and a world filled with physics beyond any comprehension.  
I continued to sleep poorly and dreamt more of pink spheroidal-shaped mouths and straight, stretched throats and slurping greedy lips to suck me into… Into what? 
The alarm-clock rings to interrupt the nocturnal terrors of worms, I sigh, and open my eyes to face the sad truth: the worms are right to seek me out. They know I am useless. I am worthlessness, passé, past my sell-by-date. I am the mother of a TEENAGER. 
I used to understand that my daughter was either happy or sad. She was either dancing with waves on the shore in summer or she was pensive, watching golden dust-particles drift in winter-warmth of the fire. She was either one or the other. Now she is a bewildering mess of happiness, sadness, pensiveness and intermittent dashes of rage, all muddled and swapping from positions to momentums in the spilt of a milli-second. 
If I am concerned for her (dear child, are you cold, hot, hungry, sad?) she pulls the duvet over her face. If I am not concerned enough, she cries that I am too busy to notice her exclusive sufferings. There is only one thing certain in living with a teenager- there can be no certainty.    
I shake off the images of worms and rise to face the day. It is already past eight and the door to her bedroom remains stubbornly closed. Her bag is not yet packed, lunch not prepared, homework unfinished and school bus arrives in twenty minutes. 
I push open the door wishing again that there was a multiverse, or at least a duoverse, where I would not be gazing into a firewall of massy, hungover Dark Matter, but rather I would be looking at the bright nova of a crisp teenager neatly dressed in a uniform, smiling and offering to wash last night`s supper dishes. Ah, I yearn for a renormalization of my child.    
My daughter, entropy personified, a living example of a conjugate variable, is awake. Her cell phone, glued to her fingers, is Facebooking, engaging with lives that are so boring, so uncurious that nihilism has died an unnoticed death. 
In this room, chaos in not a theory, it is factual: one school-shoe lies up on a chair, the other sprawls down on the floor, her white shirt tangles as a strange bundle balancing on the tip of a clothes` pile, charms are nowhere in sight, her head is planted at the bottom of her bed, feet at the top. 
I pause to gather up a quantum of energy. For goodness sake, how hard must this all be? She has my DNA, half of her helixes are entangled with mine, our base-pairs are interlinked. My DNA has already made its bed, showered, brushed its teeth and had its first coffee of the day. Why can’t some sort of spooky-action-at-a-distance-stuff kick in, so her DNA can in some tiny, yet wonderfully significant way, behave like mine? 
How complex can this parenting-thing be? After all, there is only one infinitesimal piece of information that must be shared between us. There is only one tiny, little, minute qubit that she must hear, compute and comprehend: it- is- time- to- get up.   
“Are you going to get up?” I muster courage to ask. What is the probability of a positive outcome? In accordance with the first-Born Rule, the chances of my daughter ditching her phone, understanding the request and raising herself up from her lazy bed are inversely proportional to the lateness of the hour she staggered home last night, and directly proportional to the amount of Pink Gins she consumed at the nightclub. 
She ignores me. Her body is here but her mind is in hyperspace entangled with atoms racing around as texts, Instagram, SMSs, tweets and twitters. It is no wonder I sigh. What type of mother, influence, operator am I? Not a very good one, I fear. I cannot transform this unruly mismatch of messiness into a girl to board a bus to go to school. 
I try a different tactic: “Listen, young madam, who do you think you are? This is my house, you must obey my rules. There are only two possibilities: yes or no. Either yes, you get up from that bed this instant and get dressed, or ….” I hesitate. I am wrong. There are not two possibilities, there is only one. I walk forward to rip the blasted phone from her fingers.
“Mum,” she says. 
I pause.
“Mum, are you familiar with the work of Einstein?”
Teenaged-show-off. Huh, do neutrinos have mass, are protons unstable, are there more than four dimensions?” I want to quip back, but sensibly, I bite back the questions and let her continue.
“Well,” the alien continues, “Einstein, said that education is what happens after you leave school.” 
“Einstein was wrong,” I retort wittingly. Beat that, smart-ass. 
She is not to be deterred: “Einstein also said that you have to learn to ask the right question.” 
“Oh really, did he? And, Miss Know-it-all, tell me, if you please, what question should I be asking?”
“Well, you could start with- what day is it?”
 Bitch-queen is right. It is Saturday. I slam her door and go back to bed. It is easier to deal with the worms.  
Share this fiction

Quantum Theories: A to Z

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!

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 ...
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 ...

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.

R is for ...

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

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.

U is for ...

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

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

C is for ...

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

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.

R is for ...

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.

G is for ...

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

S is for ...

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.

K is for ...

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

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”.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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 ...

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

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.

Copyright © 2018 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.