Shinichi's Tricycle

Your rating: None
0
No votes yet

** QUANTUM SHORTS 2019/2020: PEOPLE'S CHOICE

 
 
 

August 6th, 1945. Shinichi pedals fast on his tricycle. He is four years old but wants to be older. Maybe if I go fast enough, I will speed up time. He rockets down the road, fast, faster, fastest! 

And then the sun eats the sky. He has gone so fast the world has broken. His body is weightless, absorbed into the everywhere-light. His skin starts to scream and burn. He cannot see anything. 

That night, Shinichi’s father buries him in the yard with his tricycle. 

His mother will not stop crying until she too is dead. She walks away from her child’s grave, skin hanging from her burns like shredded paper, slow enough to stop time. 

 

July 16th, 1945. J. Robert Oppenheimer is still damp from the night’s relentless thunderstorms, his suit hanging wetly from his rail-thin frame. He is chain-smoking in the base camp hut, cluttered with scientific instruments and anxious physicists. Five minutes to detonation. It’s going to work, he tells himself. Two billion dollars, 130,000 jobs. The culmination of 300 years of physics. The thing that will make me immortal.  

One minute to detonation. Oppie’s body feels electric, his mind is a balloon. He hasn’t eaten or slept in more than a day. He snubs out his cigarette, stops breathing. Five. Four. Three. Two

The sky is ripped apart and the pre-dawn becomes noon, every inch of the desert valley illuminated in violent, magnificent light. Oppie’s mind swims with his mother’s paintings, the sound of his father’s laugh. Jean, the love of his life, dead in her bathtub. The book of Donne poems she’d given him, wet in his pocket. His baby daughter, whose name for half a second he cannot remember, his secret desire to give her away to someone who can love her.

Now comes the sound. A horrible roar, the scream of unholy birth, reality itself being shredded. The shockwave knocks several of the other men flat. The light begins to dim. 

Later Oppie will claim that a line from the Bhagavad-Gita ran through his head: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” But really, all he thinks is this: Things used to be so simple

 

July 12th, 1939. Two eccentric Hungarians drive a rickety Dodge past the World’s Fair in Queens. There is no time to stop at the World of Tomorrow or see the mustached cat named Hitler. They are going to Long Island, but make several wrong turns and end up frustrated and lost.

The one with glasses says, “Let’s just give it up. Perhaps we are making a mistake by bringing the matter to public attention. These wrong turns could be fate, you know?” 

“Don’t be silly. Someone must know where to find him.” He calls out to a boy playing by the side of the road. “Young man! Do you know where the scientist with the funny hair lives?” 

Einstein serves them iced tea and frowns as they tell him the atom has been split. 

“It will cause great destruction,” one of the Hungarians warns. “Don’t you see what Germany could do?”

Einstein agrees to write a letter to the President, warning of this discovery’s terrible potential. The President assembles a committee, then another committee, then an office of development, and so on. Two years later, the mountains of New Mexico swarm with the nation’s best physicists. Their singular purpose: to build an atomic bomb. 

 

There is a cat in a box. Near the cat is a lump of slightly radioactive metal. If the metal emits radiation, a geiger counter will drop a hammer onto a vial of cyanide, and the cat will die. If the metal does not emit radiation, the vial will remain sealed, and the cat will live. None of the quantum particles in the box have a specific position, but rather a set of possible positions, which collapse into one reality -- cat alive/cat dead -- when an observer opens the box. So Schrödinger says. 

But what if the observer is simply an additional set of possibilities? Who, by the very act of observing, becomes entangled with the cat and the geiger counter and the cyanide to create a new set of possibilities, which interact with other possibilities, which interact with others, until the whole universe is connected, entangled, changed? 

In this case there is no collapse, only divergence. The cat is alive and the cat is dead, but in different realities, different arrangements of possibility. Reality divides along the fault lines of every action, every decision, every thought. Every quantum event launches limitless parallel worlds.

 

July 12th, 1939. Two eccentric Hungarians take several wrong turns and end up frustrated and lost. “Let’s just give it up,” the one with glasses says. “Perhaps we are making a mistake. These wrong turns could be fate, you know?” 

“Maybe you’re right,” the other sighs. The corn on his foot is bothering him. “Perhaps best to let history unfold as it will.” 

On the way home, they stop at the World of Tomorrow and see the Hitler cat with its little black mustache. 

 

July 16th, 1945. J. Robert Oppenheimer sits at home in Berkeley, sipping a martini and preparing next fall’s lecture notes. Jean slips into his lap and he cradles the roundness of her belly, eager to meet the new life they will soon bring into the world. He will not be remembered in the history books, will never be a great physicist. But he will be a father. And that is enough. 

 

August 6th, 1945. Shinichi pedals fast on his tricycle until he falls and scrapes his knee and cries, and mother comes to kiss him and take him inside. For dinner they have sticky rice and fruit and meat, and father tells a story that makes the whole family laugh. After dinner Shinichi is sleepy, but fusses when mother tries to put him to bed. He wants to stay awake. He wants to experience everything in the whole wide world. 

 

About the Author: 
Ariadne Blayde is a playwright and fiction writer. Her play “The Other Room” won the VSA Playwright Discovery Award and has been produced 300+ times around the world. Ariadne writes speculative fiction, historical fiction, and work focusing on social justice. Ariadne lives in New Orleans.
Share this fiction

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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 ...
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.

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 ...
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.

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 ...
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.

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 ...
Universe

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

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”.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
Interferometer

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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 ...
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 ...
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.

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.

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.

Copyright © 2020 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.