W.A.R

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QUANTUM SHORTS 2015: SHORTLISTED, YOUTH CATEGORY
 
"Experiment 33-C failed, sir."
 
Dr. Bryne tightened his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose. 
 
"Set the Tau variable to one point three and Epsilon value to thirty four. Commence Experiment 34-A," Dr. Bryne motioned the Assistant Researcher back to her workstation, and then left the room.
 
He walked past the other laboratories in the Weapons and Advanced Research wing. On the doors were the titles of other projects. "Atomic Sidearm". "Localized Miniature Singularity Generator". The top secret military facility in CERN explored frontiers that even science fiction feared to imagine. 
 
Dr. Bryne then stopped and knocked the door of an office.
 
"Come in, Bryne."
 
He gently opened the door, and took a seat in front of his superior.
 
"Give me an update."
 
"I'm afraid, sir, that I need to request for another extension. Two weeks. The safety checks ar-"
 
"Two WEEKS? Bryne, this is the FIFTH time!"
 
"I WOULDN'T HAVE TO REQUEST FOR THEM IF MY DEADLINE WASN'T CUT!"
 
The Higgs Field Manipulator project was commissioned in 2009 when Dr. Bryne proposed the idea. He was assigned the role of Project Head and was given the order to build it by 2019.  When they discovered the Higgs Boson in 2012, the Administration decided that the project could be sped up and ordered for its completion by 2016. They granted him an additional $3 billion dollar budget to compensate, of course.
 
The Site Director sighed, "Request denied, Bryne. I will need you to expedite. You're almost done. What's left?"

"Final experiments are still ongoing, Director White. But we have to proceed with the safety checks. There's a risk of leaking Cherenk-"

 
"It's settled. Shave redundant safety checks and close this by next week. Maintenance can handle the rest."
 
"But-"
 
"EXPEDITE, you hear me? FUCKING EXPEDITE!"
 
There was a brief moment of silence before he continued.
 
"I don't care, Bryne, but I need this closed. If you can't finish it, I'll find someone who can."
Another moment of silence followed. Glaring at Director White, Dr. Bryne stood up, thanked him, and left the room.
 
The safety checks were more than just procedure to Dr. Bryne. He had insisted that all safety protocols be conducted under his direct supervision ever since a hohlraum exploded while he was out of office. True, it was possible to complete the project in a week if he skipped the non-essential inspections and left it to the post-project maintenance team… But it felt wrong. The structural integrity failure of a class A object would be catastrophic. His mind was brimming with thoughts as he trudged back to his laboratory.
 
"Experiment 34-A is a success, sir! We did it!" reported the Assistant Researcher with a beaming smile. It faded when she noticed that Dr. Bryne was not as enthused. 
 
"Thanks, Jade. We need to proceed with finalized testing and prepare for project closure. Site Director's finally rejected my proposals, so we're skipping the triple redundancy chamber and hermetic detector inspections."

"Understood, sir. Testing will commence in one hour," announced Jade to the rest of the team. Then she smiled and whispered, "Don't take it too hard, Dr. Bryne. We'll get through."

 
--
 
The next week passed uneventfully. The Higgs Field Manipulator was tested and confirmed to be fully functional. Dr. Bryne had only ordered for the most rudimentary of safety inspections, and he was immensely relieved that all systems were in perfect working order. The final step was to demonstrate the product to Director White.

"I knew you could do it! Always had faith in you, Bryne. So, run me through what you've got!" grinned Director White.

Both men stood next to the one-and-a-half meter long cylindrical device with four dials, mounted on a pedestal. Testing Chamber 2-B was prepared with thirteen wooden dummies; one was placed 150 meters directly at its front, and a column of six spaced 5 meters apart on each side of the chamber.  Dr. Bryne picked up the seven kilogram device and mounted it over his shoulder.
 
"The Higgs Field Manipulator is an artillery-type weapon that launches these-" he held out what appears to be a small glass ball in his left hand, "as ammunition"
He loaded the ball into the device through an underarm hatch, then continued, "These dials specify the distance or time that the payload will travel before activation of its main effect" pointing at the first two dials on the barrel.
 
"After a specified distance or time, this projectile will catch and drag a Higgs' field relative to its acceleration, which will be observed as an increase in mass. This, in turn, increases its relative gravity; pulling all matter towards it and its direction of motion. Of course, there will be a point where its mass would stop its own acceleration, and this speed limit can be controlled by this dial. That last dial controls the intensity of the Higgs' field."
 
"However, its momentum doesn't change despite the increase in mass. So, anything struck by it would experience a mere impact as if an ordinary ball had collided with them, and not a singularity,” he aimed at the single wooden dummy 150 meters away and pulled the lever. The twelve other dummies were sequentially uprooted and violently flung towards the far ends of the testing chamber. The ball lodged itself firmly in the final dummy's chest, but it stood firm.
 
"Well done," the Site Director congratulated with a slow clap, "I'm proud of you, Bryne." He walked to Dr. Bryne and gave him a pat on the shoulder.
 
"I'll pass this to Administration. Enjoy your night."
 
Both men left the room, savouring the success of another high-value project.
 
--
 
Dr. Bryne could finally relax. He pumped his fist in the air, having never felt more accomplished in decades. He zipped his pants and washed his hands. 
 
A warm blue glow in his peripheral vision caught his attention. A quick glance at the mirror immediately broke his hustle. A sense of dread washed over him - his worst fears were realised.  
About the Author: 
Lee Yang Peng
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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.

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 ...
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.

U is for ...
Universe

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

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.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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”.

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.

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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