The Photon Cabin

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It looks like a typical morning, but it’s New Years aka 2088. This is my first time writing in a journal, and perhaps my last... I’m sick, old, and living off the grid means hospitals are out of the question. In the decades out here my main accomplishment was building a sanctuary. The heart being this cabin made of my own special transparent solar panels. They make my walls look like huge windows, and from outside it looks like I live in a shining glass rubix cube. The panels store energy better than old photovoltaic technology, and provide spectacular panoramic views. I see my private gardens, livestock, aqueducts, and I know somebody will find this eventually. This journal entry is for you, or for anyone curious about me and this place.  Why did an engineer leave society for this? Why did I leave as the world transformed? I’ll tell you. 

It started 33 years ago when I was a professor teaching applied solar engineering. I’d just put finishing touches on my secretive side project (my cabin), and was headed home. The drive took forever, but I remember feeling great. Until I reached the first gas station, and saw people huddled around the television... Details were sparse, but someone in the American government had leaked a massive trove of confidential documents. The cashier said it might be another Snowden scale leak, but it was bigger. Eventually, everyone learned that a few nations had been in a covert R&D race that many called the quantum cold war. It was clear that the goal of the race was to build powerful quantum computers, and related technologies. More leaks came like dominoes, and caught even the foremost academics off guard. 

Things used to be so simple, but it turned out the scope, depth, and especially funding of quantum technologies had been one of the worlds best kept secrets (even the POTUS was unaware). China and the U.S. in particular had funding that dwarfed the Manhattan project. Instantly conspiracy theories arose regarding the motives, rationale, and relationship between these nations. The official story was that clandestine entities had agreed to cooperate, restrict use, and eventually control the roll-out of quantum computers. If that was true a catalyst leak changed everything by proving quantum computers had already existed for years. The leaker (he/she/they) then went further by publishing every single U.S schematic for quantum technologies. Paradigms were broken, and that decision changed history. 

Quantum computers were soon made by most countries, rogue nations, and eventually small groups. Mayhem ensued involving things like public key encryption, digital signatures, and key exchanges. As expected common algorithms such as ECDSA, ECDH, DSA, and RSA were rendered insecure. Even algorithms once looked at with optimism such as SHA-2, SHA-3, and AES had quick ends. I could say after this was the post-apocalypse, but that wouldn’t be fair or accurate. Recovery started during peak pandemonium, and due to superordinate goals (mostly mutually assured destruction) many groups cooperated. From technological and financial ruin came brilliance like quantum resistant networks, crypto-currencies tied to previous wealth, new medicines etc, but these are outliers compared to the destruction. 

New politicians, personalities, and entertainers emerged with Machiavellian dispositions. Using charisma, rhetoric, disinformation, and manipulation they pinned the blame on scientists worldwide. They started a witch hunt so vicious it led to thousands of vigilante murders. As someone with lifelong colleagues in quantum research I saw through every lie. The truth was that most had done their best, and groups preparing for quantum computers (PQCrypto, NIST etc.) were kept in the dark like everyone else. I couldn't prove this...so all I did was frantically research, and speak to any physicist, or computer scientist that I could. Until thankfully one colleague got me to give it all up.

She told me about a prestigious quantum-computing conference she attended just before the leaks. In it top minds debated how quantum computers may break 2000-bit RSA, devastate ecosystems, compete with classical computers, and then they predicted potential timelines... She contrasted their timelines with the leaks, and made it clear. Their plans and predictions at best were 80 YEARS too late! After that I stopped resisting, and started assessing the damage. I began seeing the real tragedy, and it wasn't the secret asymmetry of knowledge, technology crumbling, or witch hunts. It was the fact that global psychology was poisoned, and without an antidote...everyday got worse.

First we lost autonomy, and privacy regarding our everyday multiplicity of selves. People used to be able to choose how, when, and where they would share aspects about themselves. There was freedom, but when encryption fell this got twisted by dark marketplaces. These markets took all previously private aspects of the self like DNA data, browsing history, geo-location, videos etc, and used them for trade, research, attack, or public sale. Careers ruined, relationships changed, public personas shattered, privacy ideals abandoned, and people coped in horrible ways. Some invented conspiracies or withdrew from public spheres, others went on a chronic defense, and worst were those committed to viciously attacking others. Cognitive dissonance evolved into an everyday tool used to retain cohesion, and people were so different in public it was almost alien. 

 Data supported my concerns, and experts estimated over half the population had a DSM-8 diagnosable psychopathology. Studies showed the unprecedented loss of privacy resulted in extreme stress and anxiety. The constant public attacks created conformity and group-think that transcended borders. Interpersonal relationships should’ve been a crutch, but people started only tentatively knowing each other. The nail in the coffin was when I noticed no one outside had laughed in over a month. There was a chilling effect on global happiness, and why be a part of it? Guess hindsight isn’t 20/20 in the post-quantum world because I see nothing that could’ve been done. That's my reasoning and my journey in a nutshell! Enjoy the cabin, and if you’re the first to reach this place - dig eight yards under the cabin deck. 

 

Sincerely,

M.M.M.

About the Author: 
Recent UC graduate with six associates and two bachelors degrees. In school my studies focused on psychological brain sciences, ethics, public policy, and philosophy of physics. I'm also passionate about humanitarian efforts, and martial arts. My favorite thing to do is hang out with friends and family!
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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!

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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 ...
Gluon

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

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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!

U is for ...
Universe

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

I is for ...
Interferometer

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

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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!

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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