Many Worlds

Your rating: None
0
No votes yet

It had been eight grueling months by now. Cessie leaned gently into the windowsill, directing her gaze towards the expanse of rolling green hills ahead, but her eyes were unfocused and too tired to see anything. Her cat, astutely named Cat, rubbed against her leg and purred.

“Hello, Cat,” she mouthed. Frowning briefly, she slowly pulled herself out of her window seat, starting down the hall in the direction of the kitchen. Had she fed Cat today? The days had begun to weave together into a miasma of slow mornings, even slower afternoons, and sleepless, wide-eyed nights. 

She hated being alone. She had Cat, but Cat was Cat, and as much as she loved watching him laze about the house or chase his toy mouse, or better yet, curling up with a book, a cup of tea, and Cat in her lap, she still missed Benjie’s warm, easy presence–his playful morning banter, the feeling of his arm draped casually around her waist, his breath on her neck as he breathed into her hair. The last time she saw him he’d shot her his classic, lopsided grin, winked at her with his right eye and disappeared into his isolation chamber.

Benjie had been toiling inside of the thing for years. On the outside, it resembled an imposing steel cube: there were a few rivets and structural braces here and there, a small door cut into the front, but otherwise no windows, and no other entry or exit points. Typically, when Benjie worked inside, the door was locked, and she knew better than to disturb him then. She doubted he would even hear her anyway–the chamber was an expressionless blank face, deflecting any external light or sound, resistant to all of her angry glares. He told her he locked it for her protection.

The day he disappeared, she had been pacing around frantically in the atrium surrounding it, wringing her hands and throwing nervous glances at the clock. It was well past midnight, and supper had been growing cold for hours. Finally, she reached into a nearby box labeled “In Case of Emergency,” wrestled out the key, and with trembling hands, inserted it into the handle of the door. Fingers shaking, she held her breath and turned.

Inside, the chamber was completely empty. Cessie squinted into the darkness, taking in the outlines of the room as a few beams of light from the atrium bounced dimly off the metal walls. There was nothing, and no one there. A soft, warm outline brushed past her lower left calf, and Cessie nearly crawled out of her own skin. “Cat!” she exclaimed, “what are you doing here?!” She sat down, flung her arms around Cat, and started bawling. The room was empty. She slept there on the floor overnight, crawled back into the bed that she and Benjie shared in the morning, and stayed there for the next three days. On the third morning, she pulled herself out of bed and ventured back into the chamber.

Cessie switched on a flashlight and aimed it inside. On the floor, there was a note. “Come back tomorrow at 4pm.” So she did. The next day, at 4pm, she found the same note. And the next day, and the next. Each day, she removed the scrap of paper she found, and each day, it was replaced with the same message at the designated hour. She slept in the chamber again, waited inside patiently until 4pm the next day, and nothing happened. No Benjie, no note. She cried in disbelief and hurled the flashlight against the wall. 

“What are you doing in there?” she’d asked him, after he first built the chamber. “I’m segmenting worlds,” he’d told her. She shrugged. “Cessie, every time we make some definitive measurement, we are creating one observable reality, one world that is split off from another. I think, I suspect, I hope, that if I solve a certain set of dependencies, that we’ll be able to traverse worlds.” Cessie stared at him, nodded quietly, and remained silent.

Benjie had dropped out of graduate school. Brilliant, harrowed, and discounted by his peers, Benjie had whisked Cessie away from one department over, convinced her to elope with him and secreted both of them away into the hills. Cat found them one day, wandering over to the house with casual nonchalance, eventually settling in and becoming a permanent fixture, like the settees that were there when they moved in. Benjie tinkered with the laws of physics, and Cessie tinkered with words.

The notes started changing over time. Cessie tried leaving notes in the chamber, but her questions were never answered, her messages never returned. Each note that was left designated a different time for her to return. If she remained in the chamber, no note appeared.

There were a lot of excuses to friends and relatives at first, and after a while, Cessie told them that Benjie was working on something major and needed some space. They knew Benjie well enough to stop asking.

Today was day 244. Cessie went into the kitchen, pulled out a can of cat food, and scooped it into Cat’s bowl. Cat purred and rubbed against her leg appreciatively. Cessie looked at the clock. 6pm. She walked over to the chamber and opened the door. Inside, on the floor, was a metal box with a single red button. Cessie’s mind started racing. What is this? Where is Benjie?? What did he mean by “traversing worlds?” Should she reach out to his insufferable advisor? His alienated colleagues? Should she file a missing person report? What would happen if, if….

Cat stared at her. “It’s a lot to think about,” he purred, as the tip of his tail lashed lazily behind him. Cecilia took a deep breath, stepped into the chamber, closed her eyes, and pushed the button.

 
About the Author: 
Pearl Wu is an immersive artist and writer based out of Berkeley, California.
Share this fiction

Quantum Theories: A to Z

I is for ...
Information

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

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. This column from Quanta Magazine ​delves into the fundamental physics behind quantum computing.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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!

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

T is for ...
Time

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.

S is for ...
Superposition

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

E is for ...
Ethics

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. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qc7gpabEhQ&t=2s 

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.

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.

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!

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.

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’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.

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.

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.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...
Interferometer

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

Copyright © 2022 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.