The feature of a quantum system whereby it exists in several separate quantum states at the same time.
Wender wondered what Professor Hendry was doing in this museum, and why Hendry wanted his presence. Why had Hendry placed that grey acrylic box containing graphite into that mysterious piece of equipment? What did Hendry think he was measuring? Hendry then passed the sample of diamonds in front of Wender’s face and gave a scornful glance towards his post-doc. “Aren’t they beautiful?”
“I guess so,” Wender mumbled unenthusiastically.
“So, what’s beautiful?” Hendry closed the lid on the diamond’s box and put them in the machine.
“The diamonds, surely?” What else could be?
“So uninspired.” Hendry shook his head in despair.
Wender scowled. “Everybody knows diamonds and graphite are different forms of carbon. Nothing here to think about.”
“It’s a lot to think about,” Hendry countered, “provided you’re not so useless, and provided you know some advanced physics, which you don’t.
“You’re a fraud. Recall your floundering tutorial explanation about the potential inside a charged sphere? You’ve forgotten all about Green’s theorem. My belief is you even paid someone to sit your finals for you.”
The blood drained from Wender’s face.
“Ha! I was right.”
He was wrong, although Wender had long forgotten so much of what he had memorized. Wender shook as he watched Hendry retrieve the box containing the diamonds, put the box into the display, lock it, and set the alarms. The box containing the graphite was placed on a table. Where was this going?
“Not only that, your recent experiments were incredibly incompetently performed. You can’t even get an effect.”
Wender felt that Hendry’s project would never give the effect Hendry wanted. Nature was simply not interested in Hendry’s theory, but now was not the time to argue.
“So, prove you’re not a total waste of time. You know what this equipment is?”
Lab junk, Wender thought.
“Not even a guess?” came the scathing reply. “You’re no physicist. Well, you recall each sample is in a quantum state represented by a state vector?” Following Wender’s puzzled expression, he added, “Dirac’s mathematics show you can superimpose state vectors, and physics must comply with mathematics. You understand the mathematics?”
When Wender did not reply, Hendry continued, “Of course you don’t. Useless! Anyway, this equipment’s a quantum entangler. It recorded the state vectors then combined the samples into one quantum state.”
When Wender gave no expression, Hendry added, “You’ve no future in physics but I’m going to give you a chance to get out of this with something. Your entrance was not recorded so your position is uncertain.” He laughed as he added, “Your project has exactly zero momentum, so from Heisenberg we don’t know where you are!
“So, your choices. First, return with me and we’ll go through the firing process. Leave by yourself and you’ll be held for not filling out the entry form and not leaving on time, and I’ll still fire you. But if you can hide, and later tonight steal the box of graphite, which is not protected by alarms, and get out undetected, who will care? When far enough away, open your box. When you make an observation, the superimposed state vector will collapse and you have a fifty per cent chance of getting the diamonds. If your observation is sufficiently weak you get another chance. If they are diamonds, touch them and break the entanglement. Then escape.” And if you believe that you deserve what’s coming to you, he thought.
When Hendry was alone at the front door he was happy. The first choice was a bluff. Firing was not that easy. Now it would be.
* * *
The following morning Hendry approached his office whistling. The morning news had said there had been a break-in at the museum. He would be free of that idiot Wender, and free of criticism for that project, which he was beginning to accept was a dud. He strode into his office, then froze. Before him were two uniformed police and what was presumably a detective. An opened acrylic box lay in the corner.
“Open that safe, please.”
Hendry was about to protest, but why not? He opened the safe, then fell back in horror. There were the diamonds. His hands were pulled behind his back, then cuffed, then he was unceremoniously marched from his office. The few students were horrified, but Wender gave a knowing smirk.
For Wender, revenge was sweet. He had one thing in common with Feynman: he could pick locks. It was true he did not understand quantum mechanics, but who did? Not Hendry! As for quantum entanglement, Wender at least knew Schrödinger was scathing about the status of a certain cat, and Schrödinger knew a thing or two about quantum mechanics. Schrödinger at least obtained that equation, which rumour had it was more than Hendry could even do in his lectures.
Wender had hidden until it was dark, then used his lock-picking skill to disable the alarms and open the display. He took the box of diamonds, escaped out a fire escape, then made his way to his car parked down a side road. He was lucky: no parking ticket. He drove to Hendry’s house, broke in, and noticed Hendry had left all his keys and cards on a table. Wender took Hendry’s large coat and distinctive hat, drove Hendry’s car to the lab, ensuring the car would be seen by campus cameras, used Hendry’s card to get in, then once in Hendry’s office he opened both box and safe. After leaving the diamonds in the safe, he returned everything to their previous state.
Revenge was sweet, even though he needed another position. On the bright side, while he would be one reference light, no reference was better than anything from Hendry.