Just one measurement

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Peira. 1. (noun, plural Peiras) A native or inhabitant of Peira cloud. 2. (adjective) of or relating to the Peiras or its possessions or original territory. 3. (adjective) of, relating to or characteristic of the Peira cloud, the Peira people, or the Peira language.
Extract from The Quantum Encyclopedia, IV.

We once thought that we had been blessed with an incredible diversity through all our wonderful different languages. Grammars and descriptions of our world varied surprisingly when you traveled across a continent East to West. On such a small island as Papua New Guinea we had counted more than eight hundred languages. But no one had ever envisioned that we would come upon such a radically different way of communicating ideas, thoughts, dreams.

The fact that they lived in some neighborhood of the Oort cloud that came to be pinpointed as the Peira cloud, was one of the very first things decrypted and translated from the Peira language. We still have no idea of their physical appearance. We don’t know for sure that they had what we would usually call a body. Their way of communicating suggests they might have been built differently from everything we know. The main prevailing opinion is that they could have been scattered on the icy rocks of the Oort cloud. The question of their biological structure was raised numerous times but has never been properly elucidated. Did Peiras have a very alien brain which can handle quantum information or did they also suffer to some extent from the measurement and projection of every single utterance ? Since they never really seemed to understand our difficulty of dealing with their quantum language, we assumed that they weren’t facing the same challenges as us.

The first translations of Peira poetry came quickly under the form of a complex, continually evolving quantum system that was measured and translated every time you looked at it. Subtle variations in the Peiras’ depictions of their cloud as well as radical changes of tone seemed to color their literature. Or so we thought. For we soon discovered that the word ‘literature’ was by far too narrow to accurately describe it. They didn’t have a well defined corpus that they would have preserved and transmitted along time. Their whole utterances were part of an enormous, infinite, convoluted poem contributed by any of them at any time whenever they decided to express themselves. Their entire language was geared towards this fantastic epic which seemed to have been lasting forever and instead of being religiously recorded, was always evolving, interfering, scattering, reflecting and entangling with each other’s dreams.

It was already well known at that time that the no-cloning theorem forbids anyone to duplicate a quantum state. We soon realized that each Peira speech was a complex quantum state that could be captured with a varying number of qubits but excluded any simple decomposition in the language bricks such as phonemes, words, or sentences that we had thought to be universal. The question quickly arose: how did they actually communicate other than one-to-one? It turns out they simply didn’t. This was the first time that we observed what came to be called exclusive speech. They crafted each of their utterances for a single receiver who took it and entangled it with its own thoughts’ flow. At a later time, whenever this receiver reached out to another Peira, he sent something which was entangled with everything he had ever been sent. Since they had to address each other in this slow, incremental way, it supposed a very extended awareness of each of them, or a very organized communication scheme in order to not forget anyone in the process.

Did we at some point enter their epic legend and become part of a galactic dispute, without even knowing it? Did they feel threatened by our rude measurements, which were undoubtedly projecting some entangled parts of their poem? Of course, at the time when it came out of the wormhole channel we knew very little about the Peiras. All of this, their forever growing poem, their strange exclusive speech, was completely unknown and only came to light recently with many valuable studies of all our archives. Indeed we might have been ignorant but we still recorded every single transaction with the Peiras in the hope that we would understand it better one day. But the day it started we were desperately naive and suspicious. One communication emerged whose disastrous measurement’s soon caught the attention of the entire world’s intelligence offices. Simply put it could be translated as ‘The [rocks] will fall from the [sky] and no one will be left on [Earth].’ It didn’t take long for people to call it an ultimatum. The Peira were obviously threatening to deflect meteors of their cloud towards us. And it took even less time before starting to talk of a preemptive strike. Humans become very boring and binary when they are scared. For some reason they are also unusually scared of meteors falling down on their planet. Do we believe in this translation? Do we assume this was the main meaning or did an extremely unlucky measurement take place? Do we want to survive? There are only two possibilities: yes or no. Just one measurement had unleashed our worst fears and enemies. Before we knew it, mankind had exterminated the Peiras.

We could have learned so much from them. It seems that every time mankind comes upon a treasure of the universe within reach, it cannot help but end up destroying it, like a small boy kicking a termite mound despite its impressive, tiny complex structure. The encounter with the Peira gave us entirely new ideas about our own essence as humans through language. We have started looking for biological ways to sustain such a quantum language. There is no doubt that this will fundamentally alter our way of thinking. Maybe it will allow us to become better at not destroying all the subtleties, nuances and everything we observe...

About the Author: 
I am a French physics PhD student at Stanford. I also happen to love languages and haven't yet given up the hope of learning most of them.