[Rainy day flashfic] The geography of quantum separation

superposition cat

Scientists want to put a microbe in two places at once. They understand the laws of quantum superposition as well as anyone can, they say, and they damn well intend to use them.

But it’s more than just switching position really fast — the microbe will inhabit an exciting and fundamentally unstable combination of here and there, a state of quantum uncertainty that could collapse at the slightest observation. Such a probabilistic collapse would prove one location true and the other false, though it is physically impossible to determine which is which ahead of time. We will discover that, in fact, the microbe is here, even if it wasn’t all along. So where was it? How did it get here from wherever it was? And what was it doing in the meantime, anyway?

These are questions we can’t reasonably ask.

I wonder about what the microbe’s view on things. Yes, of course it can’t think, it’s just a single cell; but let’s pretend it’s more than that — a miniature brain, buzzing with electricity charging through micro-capillaries to form a tiny, thinking neural network. Being trapped between two positions must be awfully confronting, not to mention distressing. You can’t even go to the bank nowadays without a fixed address! Inconvenient doesn’t cover it.

Can you imagine what the poor cell has to write on job applications? Twenty-hour-old microbe, fresh out of university with a microbial masters in osmosis management, seeks creative employment. Yes, I can work weekdays. No, I don’t have a criminal record. Sorry, I can’t come to you — I don’t know if I exist anywhere yet. Can you come to me? Please, just one look so we can sort this whole mess out. I — hello…? Is anybody there?

I bet nobody asked the microbe if this was what he envisioned for himself when writing down life goals at his therapy session last week.

And the whole while, the cat’s over there in his box, laughing his head off.


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