Mission Impossible – Agent Photon & The Quest for Quantum

The tale of an unlovable zombie at the Glasgow Science Festival

10th of June 2016, the Glasgow Science Festival had just started taking over the city, infecting adults and children with a contagious curiosity and interest in science. That day the Kelvin building at the University of Glasgow became the Heisenberg Quantum Academy. There, Professor Francis Heisenberg and his team of researchers welcomed students and other curious minds to give them a brief insight into their work.

The discovery that photons, the fundamental particles of light, can behave both like particles and waves, shook classical physics to its foundations. In other words, light is made of particles and therefore has a mass, but for some reason it sometimes acts like… an object without a mass, or a wave. Confused? You haven’t even heard Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle yet! According to it, it’s impossible to know both the position and the momentum of a particle. The inadequacy of classical physics to explain such phenomenons lead to the birth of quantum physics, that observes and explains the interaction of matter with energy on an atomic and subatomic scale.

As the Professor was giving his lecture, the lights went out and an emergency announcement came on. Just when people were obviously starting to panic, Agent Photon from the Max Planck Agency for Infectious Attacks entered the lecture theatre. Zombies had been sighted in the building, but fortunately enough, quantum physics could be used to overcome the crisis and get rid of the undead.

Guts dripped on my t-shirt as I gasped in horror. I heard my friends moaning behind me “we should have stayed in our graves today”. But was I to blame for wanting more from after-life than eating brains? As a zombie, I felt a profound connection with quantum physics. After all, the face people made when they saw me wasn’t too different from the expression on those students’ faces after hearing about the particle-wave duality. A mix of fear and disgust and inexplicable fascination.

At that point we tried to sneak out of the building as the agent, the professor, and the students made their way into the labs. Unfortunately, our very slow movements and our inability to open doors gave the group enough time to design and create special gadgets they could use against us and run back to the lecture theatre. There was only one thing left to do: try and talk to them and convince them that modern zombies do not eat scientists, as we understand their important role in society. As we tried to open the doors of the lecture theatre, Agent Photon’s voice resounded in the building’s empty corridors, “Like Schrödinger’s cat, we’ll never know if we’ll survive the zombie attack or if we’ll get killed until we open the doors”. So they did, and afterwards it all went black. Maybe this happened as a consequence of death after life after death. Or maybe because the lights went out again. Or maybe both, but not even quantum physics could clarify this mystery.

[Ludovica Credendino – @ludofaiga]

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