COORDINATED UNCERTAINTY

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I stare at the text Gina just sent me. It confirms the raw emotion I felt a moment before. The text is written in the special gibberish language we have used with each other for 25 years. We probably used it in the womb too. When we were little, other people did not understand our connection and they don’t understand it now. I instinctively feel what is going on with Gina without our exchanging a word. It has always been this way.

At three, Gina was on a play date with her friend Trisha and I was at home baking sugar cookies with mom. A sudden, elated tickle spread out from the back of my neck. I laughed with delight, startling mom. Later Gina returned bubbling over with the story of being licked up and down, holding Trisha’s new Labrador puppy.

During middle school, Gina’s boyfriend Steven plunged her into teenage despair. The creep had dumped her right before the big dance, and I felt the tsunami of sadness for a week. When Gina got 100% on our senior calculus final, I was thrilled and proud even before I looked down at my own 100% mark.

Always in sync, Gina and I chose to study physics at Stanford. The summer after our freshman year, we both went to Illinois. Our quantum mechanics professor hired us to help research particles using the Tevatron collider. That August, Gina was in the lab and I was eating a burger offsite. I felt a sharp pain in my foot that would have sent me to the doctor. Instead I learned Gina had slipped on an inconveniently placed attenuator and fractured her foot. We joke that we were born “entangled” and this was “spooky action at a distance”.

Then the unthinkable happened – we separated. I stayed at Stanford for my doctoral thesis studying quantum computing. Gina chose to study in Geneva, trying to detect dark matter using the large Hadron Collider. Since then I can’t shake the sensation that something important is out of place. But, spooky action at a distance continues despite the 6,000 miles between us.

So, last Sunday it was no surprise when we called each other worriedly to say we had both felt lumps in our right breasts while showering. Doctors examinations on Monday, mammography’s on Tuesday, results confirming lumps on Wednesday and biopsies scheduled for Friday – unbelievable synchronization. Gina sits in her doctor’s office. Within the same hour on the same Tuesday, I sit waiting for my doctor to also be told the results.

There are only two possibilities: yes or no. Yes, the tumor is malignant or no, it is not. Could it be both until the doctors read the result? A superposition? The uncertainty is unbearable.

But, Gina’s text tells me that the pathology report on her tumor showed it is not malignant, happy face! Of course, I had already felt her relief and euphoria, and am myself euphoric. Gina is safe and surely I am too. We have always been entangled. The measurement of her state has now determined mine?

I smile as my doctor comes into the room but then I am struck by a sudden thought. What if being similarly measured means that our states are coordinated but opposite. What if she is spin up and I am spin down. I know this is all a fanciful thought experiment Gina and I have been playing at all these years, but … this thought expands into a wave of foreboding. “Please doctor, tell me good news.”

About the Author: 
Long time science fiction lover. Isaac Asimov one of my favorites. Deeply intrigued by the philosophy of quantum theories and reality. I am an accountant turned caregiver.