The Quantum Menace

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The Quantum Menace

‘Quantum Dimension Tours Seeks Volunteers,’ the sign from Angels-on-a-pin said, ‘Experience Something Truly Different!’ I spy, the secret agent—let’s call her ‘the tourist’—thought, an exciting vacation with my weary eye.

The travel agency provided the tourist with certain items during the pre-briefing. “Things will be very weird,” Mitzi, the tour operator, said, “and your environment can be extremely vague and blurry, as quantum objects often try to do everything at once. If this makes you too dizzy, put on the polarizing glasses of your travel kit: they will filter out most superpositions.” The tourist, though, had already taken some precautions herself.

“Then there is our lateral cream that helps you think out of the box,” she continued to explain, “and our Assurance Policy against the Uncertainty Principle. Exchange your currency into qubit credits and you’re set and ready to go. Enjoy!”

Angels-on-a-Pin took them down there with their Shrink&Wrap© technology, and they arrived in a very strange world, indeed. Diffuse probability clouds, collapsing waveforms, Lorentz invariances, spin foam, E8 bundles, causal sets and incomprehensible Calabi-Yau manifolds. Overarching, overpowering and overwhelming.

Then, just as the tourists were slowly getting to grips with the quantum weirdness, a harrying cry sounded: “Quarrrrr!”

Out of nowhere, Cap’n Boltzmann and his buccaneers, raiders of the quantum seas, appeared. “There are only two possibilities: yes or no,” Cap’n Boltzmann said as he winked behind his eyepatch, “Yes, you give us all your money and live, or no, you don’t and you die. We get your money either way.” His cackling laugh attacked the senses from all directions at once.

“You can’t rob me,” the well-prepared tourist said, “I’ve got my wallet secured by the Uncertainty Principle. Go ahead and try to take it.”

Stomping Stu Slash, one of the junior pirates, couldn’t resist the bait and went for the wallet. Easier said than done, as the wallet’s position was all over the place. But Slash concentrated on its momentum—which was pretty well defined—and snatched it up when it appeared on the place where his probabilistic app told him it would be.

“Got it,” Slash sneered, “that was easy.”

“Not too quick,” the tourist said, “Let’s see if finders are truly keepers.”

As Slash held on to the wallet, the wallet’s position became very well defined. In the meantime, though, its momentum began to vary wildly and extremely unpredictably. It was like holding on to a bag full of cats that have the strength of lions. No matter how hard he tried, Slash couldn’t hold on to it. Within a minute, the wallet was free from his grip.

“There you go,” the tourist said, “it’s pointless. You may as well give up.”

“Quarrrrr,” Cap’n Boltzmann sniggered, “Unleash the double slit interferometer.”

Even as its position and momentum were intricately linked, the tourist’s wallet was inexorably drawn to the pirates’ interferometer. It sped towards it, and—in the Planck of an eye—seemed to go through the two slits at once. Then its content, the qubit credits, appeared as an interference pattern on the far wall, and was quickly scooped up by Boltzmann’s buccaneers.

“Now entangle it with our pirate quantum encryption key and hide it so well that nobody can find it, not even us,” Cap’n Boltzmann smiled like a Cheshire cat, “because then we can access it, instantly, from any distance.”

“You chose the wrong person to rob, Cap’n Boltzmann,” the tourist said, “as I am a ninja in my native world. En garde!” Seemingly out of nowhere, a knife that was, in reality, a telescopic sword, appeared in the ninja’s hand. With a flick of the wrist, the telescopic parts shape-shifted and vibra-welded into a katana.

Unfortunately, the ninja had not fully adapted to the quantum realm. The way Cap’n Boltzmann swiveled on his superpositioned peg leg made it impossible for the ninja to decide if Boltzmann’s rapier was in front of him, behind, somewhere else or in all places at once. It felt like the ninja’s every thrust was countered with a thousand cuts from a thousand directions.

Even a master swordman couldn’t withstand such multiplicity, and before the Kunoichi knows it she was disarmed, the katana added to Cap’n Boltzmann’s booty.

“You give me no choice, Cap’n Boltzmann,” the ninja said as machine guns appeared in her hands, “Eat led, pirate.” And she opened fire.

“Behold my singular hook,” Cap’n Boltzmann lifted his left arm that ended in a shimmery hook, “that can create its own temporary singularity.”

Before the onrushing bullets an event horizon appeared. It was only made visible through the Hawking radiation emitting from it. The bullets crossed the event horizon and—in a Planck wink—seemed to stretch into spaghetti strands thinner than the hair of Angels dancing on a quantum pin. Then they winked out of existence.

“Where are my bullets?” The ninja was flabbergasted. “I’m the one who is supposed to make things disappear.”

“Nothing can escape from the event horizon of my singular hook,” Cap’n Boltzmann said, “not even bullets traveling at the speed of light.”

The ninja didn’t wait for Cap’n Boltzmann to finish his sentence, but surreptitiously planted a mini neutron bomb under his feet. Cap’n Boltzmann’s parrots Spukhaft and Fernwirkung noticed it, though, and quantum tunneled the doomsday device right back to the ninja. A fierce ball of light, a mini mushroom cloud and the ninja was never heard of again.

Recent additions to the Quantum Dimension Tours terms & conditions:

DISCLAIMER 1: visitors to the Quantum Dimension take valuable goods with them at their own risk. Visitors must sign a waiver clearing Angels-on-a-Pin of any losses incurred through quantum piracy.

DISCLAIMER 2: Ninjas need not apply.

About the Author: 
Peter Hagelslag is a retired sailor who works for an offshore company in the Black Sea. At day he maintains equipment, at night he tries to maintain his wild imagination. His stories are published in Rudy Rucker's Flurb and the anthologies Blurring the Line and Qualia Nous.