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It was just after dawn and I can’t have had more than two hours sleep. The familiar ding woke me up. Some app wanted my attention. I peered through one eye at the screen. A notification from SplitVerse. I’d never had one before.  
Break up with Emma.
That was all it said. Four words I was not equipped to deal with this in this state. My vision was blurry and it felt like a woodpecker was foraging the inside of my skull.
What happened last night? Why break up with Emma? Was it something she said, or did? I wanted to talk to her, but I couldn’t. The decision had been made. The verses have been split.
What had I done?
I stumbled to the kitchen sink, poured myself a large glass of water and took several Ibuprofen tablets to clear my head. Across the street was an unfamiliar car. A guy stood by the driver door smoking a cigarette with one hand and pressing his temple with the other. Probably as hungover as me. He wore dark sunglasses but I was sure he was watching me. I casually gave him the finger as I wiped my bleary eyes.
Another ding sounded. The same notification.
Break up with Emma.
I opened the fridge. There was a six-pack of cider on the shelf. That helped jog my memory. I don’t normally have cider in the fridge. Jordie had come round for a drink to celebrate his promotion. We ended up at the pub. I cracked one open and took a big swig. Not good form, but when you make decisions in a shattered frame of mind, sometimes it helps to rekindle that state.
Jordie and I had been having a deep and meaningful that lasted hours.
I could conjure up flashes of our conversation. I remember talking about Emma. Jordie was pulling some hidden feelings out of me. He was a prick like that. But just because we have heightened emotions, relaxed inhibitions and loose tongues when we’re drunk, doesn’t mean we truly believe what we are saying. Does it? I mean there must be some merit to the rationality of sobriety.
My phone dinged again. Same notice.
I called Jordie to see if he could shed any light on the situation.
 After six dial tones he picked up. ‘Hey man, what are you doing up?’
‘Did we talk about breaking it off with Emma last night?’
 ‘Yeah man,’ he coughed. He was clearly as hungover as me. ‘You told me it was weighing on your mind.’
‘What did you say?’
‘I said it was out of my league. Let the universe decide.’
I did better than that. I let the damn Multiverse decide.
‘I don’t want to break up with her.’
‘Then don’t.’
‘I have to.’
‘Mate, its eight thirty in the morning. I’m not sure what you’re talking about?’
I didn’t want to say it out loud as it would become more of a certain reality.
I went to the sink and filled another glass of water. That guy was still stood by his car, smoking a cigarette and rubbing his temple. It felt like Déjà vu. I tried to penetrate his sunglasses with my gaze and mouthed the words ‘Get Lost.’
I turned around and leant back against the counter.
‘I used SplitVerse.’
There was a long silence. I thought Jordie might have fallen asleep, but he spoke up, ‘Damn man. That’s heavy.’
‘What can I do?’
‘Break up with Emma, mate.’ I didn’t respond. I just swallowed anxious gulps and tried to keep my racing heart from leaping out of my chest. ‘You have to, man. You can’t mess around. Maintenance will make sure there is Multiversal balance.’
Tears were streaming down my cheek making it difficult to speak.
‘How do we know that Maintenance isn’t a myth?’
A dumb and insensitive question.
‘Come on, man. You know I’ve seen them.’
I did know. Jordie’s brother, Amos, had sent him footage of people keeping an eye on him. Amos had been in a dark place and had entered a bleak decision into SplitVerse. The app decided that this was the universe where he’d commit suicide. He had second thoughts, but Maintenance made sure it was a reality. It’s unclear if they applied actual pressure or just created a sense of paranoia that forced his hand.
When the app first came out, things used to be so simple. It was a dream come true for indecisive pricks like me. Couldn’t pick a meal from a menu? Use SplitVerse. The Terms and Agreements stated that quantum integrity decreed you accept the decision. You’d have one meal. A parallel you would have the other. There was a degree of comfort in that.
That comfort can be undone with a hangover and a notification on your phone.
It doesn’t seem fair. I have to break up with Emma, while another me gets to have dinner with her tonight and cuddle up on the couch.
‘If I don’t do it, what will they do? Give her some doctored footage of me with another girl - forcing her to break up with me?’
‘Doesn’t work like that. The app says you’ve got to break it off. That’s how it’s got to play out, or the multiverse will be out of whack. There’s probably people watching you right now.’
I looked out the window. The guy with the shades gave me a nod.
Another ding rang out from my phone.
Break Up With Emma.
‘Sorry, man,’ said Jordie, ‘good luck.’ He hung up. 
Talking to her would be too hard. I’d have to be that jerk that breaks up with a text. Something clichéd like, ‘Hey babe, we need to talk.’
There was another ding.
I took a deep breath and took out my phone.
This notification was from my messenger app.
It was Emma.
‘Hey babe, we need to talk.’

About the Author: 
I am a high school Science and Maths teacher with a passion for Science Fiction. Douglas Adams, Iain M Banks and Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror) are my biggest inspirations. I love exploring the infinite possibilities of parallel universes.
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Quantum Theories: A to Z

M is for ...

Quantum physics is the study of nature at the very small. Mathematics is one language used to formalise or describe quantum phenomena.

C is for ...

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.

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.

K is for ...

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

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!

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.

U is for ...

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

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.

R is for ...

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

C is for ...

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

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.

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.

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 ...
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!

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.

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!

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...

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

S is for ...

Researchers are harnessing the intricacies of quantum mechanics to develop powerful quantum sensors. These sensors could open up a wide range of applications.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

G is for ...

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

T is for ...

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.

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 ...

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

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.

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