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Flash Fiction

Plovember 23: Quantum Argument

Helge frowned and reached for the wave generator. ‘Wait!’ Max yelled. ‘You must not activate the generator or they’ll see! And if they see, it’s over.’

‘They won’t see anything.’ Helge’s voice was edged in exasperation. ‘And anyway, my plan is to shoot the wave at her and the other ship, creating two targets.’

Max gripped the sides of his head in despair. ‘You are a monster, Helge — you are willing to risk the entire quantum universe so easily? You are willing to put them both in danger just to prove a point?’

Helge let her hand rest on the knob. ‘Or to disprove a point, my dear Max. Our scientists have allegedly found this … universe of giants … where we are nothing but conjecture. Protons, they call us.’ She grabbed his arm and squeezed roughly. ‘Does that feel like nothing, Max? I say the scientists are insane. Hitting both ships with the wave generator, the one Jordan is flying and the remote ship with the cat, will prove I’m right. Because nothing will happen!’

‘But what if you are wrong and the scientists are right, Helge?’ Max pried her hand off his forearm and stepped back. ‘The scientists say we are safe from the giants because they can’t see us until we do something that causes our actions to become measurable. Shooting waves at Jordan or the cat will make at least one of them visible, Helge! If one is visible, the giants will know we are here!’

Helge turned the knob and the room filled with a whining noise as the generator powered up. ‘My bet is on the cat. I never liked Jordan much anyway.’

For those who are uninitiated in the ways of quantum physics, the names in this little tale relate to some of the folks in the field:  Helge Kragh (actually a man who wrote a Physics World article in 2000 about a certain German physicist), Max Planck (the aforementioned German physicist who discovered that colors can be quantized) and Pascual Jordan (who partnered with Werner Heisenberg and Max Born, and also with Erwin Schrödinger, who dug into the whole wave-particle duality thing). I had to include a nod to Schrödinger’s Cat, because it’s such an interesting principle:

Put a cat in a steel box along with a Geiger counter, a vial of poison, a hammer, and something radioactive. When the radioactive item decays, the Geiger detects it and causes the hammer to release the poison, which then kills the cat. The decay of the radioactive stuff is random, so there is no way to predict when it will happen. This is called a ‘superposition—both decayed and not decayed’ at once. What happens to the cat is unknown until the box is opened because the life or death of the animal is connected to whether the radioactive atom has decayed. It is because of this unknown that the cat is thought to be alive and dead at the same time until someone looks.

 

This is the first story that resulted from a Facebook post I made a few days ago. The deal was made that I would write a story based on a word or topic just for the person who guessed what was in my glass:

The answer is Coca Cola and Tillamore Dew.

Three people were close.

Glade — you were closest with your guess of Coke and Glenmorangie, so this one’s for you! I hope my trip into the quantum universe met your expectations 🙂

 

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2 Comments

  1. Lyn November 23, 2016 1:37 pm

    Aaah so that’s what Schrodinger’s cat is all about. It comes up in trivia quizzes all the time in multiple choice questions. LOL I always got it right despite not knowing the actual principle behind it. You need to do science (I’m not going to say SF) stories more often my dear 😉

    • AR Neal November 24, 2016 7:09 am

      🙂 Glad to help! I only wrote this one because of the little ‘contest’ but if inspired, I would do more science!

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