I Quant Explain

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“Hey Dad!” My 7-year-old son, Andrew called after opening the study room door by a crack. “Erm Dad… I’ve been wanting to ask you this for a while, but I didn’t know if you were free…”
“Of course, I’m free! Nothing in the universe is more important to me than you, Son.” I replied to my son who gradually grew more uncertain.

“Well, the thing is, my school is organizing a Career Day event and I was wondering if…”

I could see where this was heading. My son wanted me to explain my profession in front of a bunch of unruly 7-year-olds. A grown man’s worst fear. How could their young minds comprehend what quantum superposition was? Would this talk of mine confuse them rather than mould their minds to consider exciting new careers? Would they despise my overly complicated speech and bully my son while subconsciously forming prejudices against scientists? These and several other thoughts raced through my mind.

The prospect of giving a talk grew steadily worse. For a second, I considered telling my son, point-blank, that there was no way that I would come to his school to be misunderstood by a bunch of bratty kids. I wanted to tell him that he and his friends would simply not understand what even I fully didn’t. This was not like superposition. There were only two possibilities, yes or no…
Without thinking, I blurted, “Sure, Son! Anything for you!”

“Thanks, Dad! I knew you wouldn’t let me down! The talk in in 3 days…”

He turned on his heel and skipped merrily out the door. What in the infinite parallel universes had I gotten myself into?

I spent the next 10 hours outlining my speech topics as though I was going to give a speech to a crowd of a thousand distinguished scholars and Nobel laureates. I worked through the night to make my speech accurate. I included all the recent discoveries and my specializations. I still had no idea how I could explain the idea of quantum tunneling to a child roughly a sixth of my age. I then continued by working backwards and finding myself having to explain what an atom was. “That ought to be simple enough…” I said to myself.

The day of the talk was upon me. I readied all my props and drove my son to school. It was unnerving to see all the other parents talk about their relatively ‘cool’ professions. A dance choreographer, a motocross champion. Everybody. Everybody seemed more interesting than me.

“And now, let’s give a big hand to Andrew’s Dad. He’s a Quantum Physicist … I’m not too sure what that is but let him explain!” Andrew’s teacher began apprehensively.

I stepped up to the front of the classroom with Andrew.
“You can do it, Dad!” he whispered. My confidence soared as I smiled down at him.
I dug out an apple from the bag of props and began, “Imagine you had an apple and you cut it in half… what would you have?”
“Half an apple!” The class chorused in unison.
“Well then, what would I have if I continued this process of cutting the apple slices into halves? Let’s say… for a hundred years?”
“Apple juice and mush?” an especially cheeky looking boy piped up.
“Well assuming that the apples are mush-proof and have no juice in them, there would be a point where you can chop no further. You would have reached, the mighty atom!” I took out a Lego block and showed it to the class.
“For a long time, people thought these blocks were indivisible. They thought that they could cut no further but no! You can cut further. This opened up a whole new world. A world of Quantum Physics.”
“Wait a minute Sir,” a intrigued looking boy squeaked, “Does that mean that we’re made up of the same things apples are made up of?”
“Indeed.” I replied, “Quantum Physics is like magic. It can be two things at once. It can borrow energy from the future and teleport through barriers. It can change things miles away instantaneously. It can bend the fabric of the universe.”
“Well… How does this magic work?” a scornful looking kid asked in a condescending demeanor.
“Nobody knows yet. Neither Einstein nor Bohr or Hawking. That is for you to find out. My job is to try, with other like-minded people, and explain all of this magic.”
“So, you are like a cheap, fake magician who doesn’t even know what he is doing?!” the same boy snorted.
Before I could explain, my son, Andrew glared at him and retorted, “My Dad is a cheap magician to the naysayers who do not believe in Quantum Physics! To me, he is a wizard.”

About the Author: 
I am a year 1 student studying at NUS High School of Mathematics and Science. I am extremely passionate about Quantum Physics and have been reading about the field since I was 10 years old. I am extremely passionate about reading and I am love writing.