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"Listen. Can you hear that?" The Quantopia associate uttered the words I suspected had sealed many a deal. "That's the sound of another man seducing your soulmate."
I recoiled and banged into one of the empathic sculptures lining her posh office. The emosculpt analyzed my mood and projected spikes of angst black as a bottomless well.
The associate, Lena, continued her pitch. But I wasn't listening. I was preoccupied with my heart, which was threatening to explode. It had been ravaged by endocarditis, eminently treatable for those with insurance, which I had lost when I'd been sacked.
Yet my ailing heart still beat with the thrill of love. Not for my wife, who had transferred our assets to the e-vangelist she'd run away with, but for my soulmate. Quantopia had found her during my thirty-day trial. My perfect match. A woman who loved only me. Or she would, If I joined Quantopia.
Currently, she didn't know I existed. Nor would she. I was penniless and prospectless, yet Quantopia was offering me the winning lottery ticket of life. There had to be a catch. One that would slice into my dreams and eviscerate them in bloody chunks. The emosculpts morphed into overwrought hearts and threw themselves to the floor.
"Otto, a little factoid. Everyone settles. For the high-school sweetheart. The college girl. The girl next door. They all think they've found <em>the one</em>, and they're all wrong. The probability their soulmate lives within geographic proximity is miniscule. Only Quantopia can manipulate reality and find your true love. We analyze all quantum superpositional possibilities, then collapse the wave function of only those that culminate in an entirely real, optimized life where you'll have fame, fortune"--she brought up a holofilm of my soulmate--"and Minu."
The emosculpts sighed as Minu's crooked smile tugged at my soul. 
Lena waved the holofilm away, jerking me, and the emosculpts, from my stupor. "Otto, even if soulmates do happen to meet, chances are at least one of them is taken. Like Minu. Because <em>this</em> man"--Lena projected a holofilm of a behemoth, a veritable escarpment of muscle and testosterone--"is seducing <em>your</em> soulmate." The behemoth enveloped Minu and kissed her.
Blood pounded against my eardrums, a percussion of jealousy that threatened to erupt through my damaged heart. The emosculpts turned scarlet and geysered.
"So, Otto. Can I sign you up?"
I couldn't answer. My molars refused to unclench. 
"Collapse the wave function, Otto. There are only two possibilities: yes or no."
"The catch?"
Lena waved her hand dismissively. "One tiny scratch in the paint of paradise. There's a risk you'll be caught in an infinite life-loop. We need beta testers like you to help us debug."
I backed away. The emosculpts collapsed.
"Otto, life has beaten you down. You'll <em>never</em> reach your potential without Quantopia."
I turned on my heel.
"Even if you do enter the loop," she called after me, "you'll have no idea you're repeating the same life segment. You won't know you're in Quantopia."
I wrenched open the door. The emosculpts flattened themselves like angry cats.
"Otto, <em>you will never be with Minu.</em>"
The emosculpts shattered, much like my resolve.
The next day I reiterated my parameters to the Quantopia technicians so there could be no mistake: My memory of this appalling life would be expunged. I would have my health. I would have fame and fortune. And I would have Minu.
I could finally end this pathetic existence.
My gallery stretched the length of a holoball field. Emosculpts were the star of tonight's show and my favourite medium; they reflected my mood in their gentle prisms of light. I smiled as the last of my patrons fawned out into the night. Another successful exhibit, another bloated account, another round of critical acclaim.
I yawned.
Minu and I repaired to our beach house and made perfect love. Afterwards I lay awake, musing on the strange circumstance of our meeting. My private jet had ditched halfway around the globe, and I'd parachuted onto Minu's doorstep on the most remote island in the Atlantic. It was as though reality itself conspired to bring us together. 
Minu. She was my soulmate. I gazed at her perfect features as she slept; she'd had her crooked smile straightened. My bedside emosculpt darkened.
All my dreams had been realized. I was the luckiest man alive. My flawless life stretched before me, an endless oasis of prosperity and ease. I rose, strolled along the beach, and screamed. But the oceanfront emosculpts merely rippled before resuming their amorphous calm.
In the morning, I pulled up outside my high-rise in my classic car. It was a perfect, priceless antique, and I keyed the length of it.
I summoned my staff to my penthouse office and explained the revelation I'd had during the night. How bravery existed only alongside fear, success meant overcoming adversity, and hard-won love was the sweetest. I gazed at the emosculpts flanking the walls, their surfaces unmarred, shallow as puddles. My acclaim was a constant source of bemusement to me. Because art--<em>passionate</em> art--came to those who struggled. And struggle was what I lacked.
I conceived of the most extraordinary idea.
Three years later my brainchild, Quantopia, was born. My slice of reality was fed into the quantum optimizer, despite the slight risk of an infinite life-loop. It was a flaw. A scratch in the paint of paradise. I thrilled at the prospect, but the laboratory emosculpts merely flickered. I would give anything to make them erupt, shatter, <em>feel</em>.
I reiterated my parameters to the technicians so there could be no mistake: My memory of this passionless life would be expunged. I would be penniless, prospectless, loveless. I would be brave. I would overcome. I would <em>win</em> Minu's love.
I could finally end this pathetic existence.
"Listen. Can you hear that?" The Quantopia associate uttered the words I suspected had sealed many a deal. "That's the sound of another man seducing your soulmate."
About the Author: 
Judy Helfrich was born on the Canadian prairie where long stretches of nothing persisted in at least four dimensions. Her fiction has appeared in Nature and was shortlisted in the 2015 Quantum Shorts contest. More at: www.helfrich.ca.
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

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 ...
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.

C is for ...

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

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ...

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

K is for ...

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

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

U is for ...

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

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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

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.

I is for ...

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.

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.

G is for ...

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

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