Sunrise

Your rating: None
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

QUANTUM SHORTS 2017: SHORTLISTED, YOUTH CATEGORY

 
I was in a sterile white room. Men in white lab coats surrounded me. My heart pounded with fear. This, I thought, is where it all began. 
 
One man moved towards me with a long, glistening needle in his hand. 
 
“Hold still,” he grunted gruffly. The needle plunged into my skin.
 
Pain seared through me. Hot, unbearable pain. But right before I blacked out, I saw something in the tiny square window above me. Something bright and warm, something that made my heart ache with longing. The sun. 
 
I woke up in my bed, sweating and panting. Calm down, I told myself. It was just a dream. Deciding I needed some fresh air, I pulled on a wool sweater and headed outside. 
 
The dark sky loomed above me, sinister and unwelcoming. The sky was always dark on Alpha 202, the tiny planet where I lived. No matter if it was night or day, the sky remained black and foreboding.
 
I hadn’t seen the sun in six full years. I was sent from Earth to Alpha under orders from NASA when I was just seven years old, along with about one hundred other people. They wanted to test out a miracle substance they had invented, which enabled you to live without the sun. This would be helpful in the next few billion years (it was currently the year 2146), when the sun would swell up to a red giant and swallow the Earth. And since Alpha gained no light from the sun or any other star, it was the perfect experiment grounds. 
 
An experiment. I was being used as an experiment. A bitter pang stabbed my heart. Have you ever wanted something so bad you’d do anything to get it? That was exactly how I felt. And what I really wanted was to see was the sun. Life was unbearably desolated here on Alpha, as no plants blossomed and the temperature was deadly cold.
The streetlight beside me lit up, signaling that it was daytime. Here on this sunless planet, night tended to melt into day and day into night. The streetlights were the only thing preventing time from becoming complete turmoil.
 
The door of the house abruptly swung open, and Mother stepped out. “Luna!” she called sharply. “Have you been wandering outside again? Come back in and have breakfast at once! And you better not be late for work again!”
 
After a breakfast of lumpy canned oatmeal, I headed off for work detail. Everyone was assigned a job once they were eleven years old, and my job was to clean the General Tower, which was a tall, glass building that provided food, light, and heat for the citizens of Alpha. 
As I was sweeping away the cobwebs in the basement, a large, pudgy rat scuttled up to me, sniffing my worn-out shoes. 
 
“Shoo!” I brandished my broom at it. The rat quickly scampered under the crack of a hidden door. 
 
I pushed aside a stack of crates and gasped. There, coated in a thick layer of dust, was a small metal door. I wiped away some of the dust with my hand, revealing a sign. 
 
Transporter Room, it read, in bold red letters. 
 
What could that mean? Bursting with curiosity, I dropped my broom and (with some effort) pulled the door open. 
 
I was in a bare white room eerily similar to the one I had stood in six years ago. A chill ran down my spine. I suddenly noticed a metal plate attached to the ceiling in the middle of the room. On the floor below it was a small red button. Written on the button in neat letters was the word “Earth”. 
 
Excitement coursed through me. That must be a transporter, I thought. It can get me back to Earth! There are only two possibilities: yes or no. If it failed, where will I go? …But, the sun… I’d be able to see the sun on Earth. Filled with hope, I stepped under the metal plate. But just then, the door swung open, hitting the wall with a loud bang. Governor Holmes stood in the doorway, looking breathless. His eyes widened when he saw me. 
 
“Don’t-” he started to warn me.
 
Too late. I hit the red button. 
 
I was spinning in darkness. Vile, petrifying darkness. 
 
I landed with a loud thump. Wincing, I sat up and looked around. It was nighttime, which meant the sun wasn’t up yet. I let out a sigh of disappointment. 
 
Squinting through the darkness, I realized I was in someone’s backyard. Better get out of here, I thought, scrambling to my feet.
 
“Hey, what are you doing?”
 
I froze. Slowly turning around, I saw a petite, blonde-haired girl standing behind me. She seemed about my age, and her big blue eyes and fair skin gave her a striking resemblance to a porcelain doll. 
 
“Well?” The girl crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at me.  
 
I hesitated, then told her the whole story. After I finished talking, I peered at the girl curiously, waiting to see her reaction. She stared at me in disbelief. Then she threw back her head and laughed. 
 
Oh, yeah? I rummaged through my tattered pockets, finally pulling out my NASA identity badge. 
 
A look of shock crossed the girl’s face. 
 
“The sun’s rising!”
 
I spun around and my breath caught in my throat. A pale rosy colour was spreading across the sky, tinged with gold. Slowly, ever so slowly, the sun crept upwards, a radiant ball of fire alighting the deep indigo sky. Tendrils of warmth wrapped around me; warmth I hadn’t felt in six years. I sucked in a deep breath. 
 
The sun was fully in the sky now. Bright yellow light seeped onto the dewy grass. I don’t know how long I stood there, staring up at the sky. But one thing I was sure of was that I was never, ever, going to forget the sunrise. 
 
About the Author: 
Joey, chess woman candidate master, winner of short story writing contest.
Share this fiction

Quantum Theories: A to Z

R is for ...
Radioactivity

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

U is for ...
Universe

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

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.

I is for ...
Interferometer

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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.

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.

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 ...
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 ...
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 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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

Copyright © 2018 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.