Sam Schroedinger, Quantum Detective

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I was sitting in my office late one night, staring at the faded walls. I hadn’t had much business lately, and I was wondering if I should replace Effie, my receptionist, with a computer. But she had much nicer gams than Siri or Cortana. I had already sent Effie home; overtime was more than I could handle.
I took another sip of the rotgut, all I could afford, when there was a knock at the door. I reached for my revolver, checked that it was loaded, and said “Come in. It’s open”
I needn’t have worried. It was Heisenberg, my boss from when I worked for the police. He’s why I left – he could never make up his mind. And he still had trouble.
“I’m not sure I should have come here….,” he stammered, and paused.
“Go on. You’re here.”
“Well, we have something we just can’t handle back at the station.”
I couldn’t wait longer. “Who got killed? Where?”
He stammered. “We don’t even know if there was a murder…” His voice trailed off. “Or a crime.”
“But we have the murderer.” He paused. “If there was one.”
I gulped down another drink. I was certain I needed one.
“Well, he stammered. A Mr. Orwin came to us and said he killed his wife’s lover. Or he might have killed him.”
I waved him to my spare chair. And I opened my drawer and pulled out a flask and a glass. “What?” I said as I poured him some booze and slid it over. He waved them away.
He went on. “Only – only he said, if we checked to see if he was dead, we’d be responsible. We’d be the murderers.”
Now I needed the drink.
“Did you ever hear of Schroedinger’s Cat?” he said.
“Sure, the cat that’s alive and dead at the same time.” I thought for a few seconds. “You mean…”
“Yes. He put his wife’s lover in a room with a poison gas can. If a radioactive sample outside decays, the can opens and the guy is dead. But if it doesn’t decay, he’s alive.”
“Go on.” I wanted time to think about this.
“So what he says, is if we do nothing, the guy is both alive and dead. But – I need a drink”
I poured him one.
“If we go investigate, the wave function will collapse. He’ll be either alive or dead. So he claims there is no murder unless we open the room – and then, we’re the killers. It seems he found a lawyer who was a physicist.”
I leaned back in my chair and thought a few minutes. “I think this one will be fun. By the way, is his wife a looker?”
“I don’t know.” He never did. “But I do know this – good thing you ain’t still on the force. So, how much is this gonna cost?”
I pulled up a spreadsheet on my ancient XP machine. “Let’s see. At $500 an hour, plus expenses – and I mean expenses. What I need isn’t cheap.”
“I’m going to have an itemized proposal. You know that. I’ll see what I can do.” I knew. Accountants didn’t believe in quantum mechanics. All their numbers had to be exact.
“I’ll write one up. I know your wife wants you home. I’ll have the proposal for you in the morning.”
Heisenberg got up. He looked around, thought about it, and had the drink.
“Hey, close the door on your way out!”
I had another drink to toast my great idea. Now if Heisenberg could just come through with the money.
The next morning I had a bad hangover when Heisenberg called me. “Sam, I have the money. But it is a grant from the NSF. You’ll have to write it up as a paper and you’ll get a PhD for it.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been thrown out of all the schools around here.”
“That’s OK. I worked it out with an online school.” I said nothing.
But he came through. I ordered all the equipment. Flashing lights. Computer screens. Looked like something on Quantum Trek. But it would do just fine.
And I had Heisenberg deliver the perp right into my quantum web, where, we hoped, he would find himself quite entangled.
“Mr. Orwin?”
“Yes. What is this all about?” His cat-like fact turned and looked at me like I was a mouse. I hated him already. But he was the fly in my entangled web.
“Why don’t you sit down?” I waved at all the equipment. “You’ve heard of quantum entanglement, I’m sure.”
He sneered like I was just a rodent. “Of course. Two particles can be entangled, and you can tell from the state of one what the state of the other is.”
“That’s it, yes.” I paused. “Did you know, we now can entangle particles later? For example, if a particle decayed, we can send other particles through where it was, and they can become entangled. We can find out the state of the original particle.”
His face started to turn pale. He knew what I was getting at.
“We know where you have your wife’s lover. And we can send particles through the system you set up.” Now his face turned a whiter shade of pale. He stumbled to the chair.
“And, Mr. Orwin, this system also has a gas bottle that will release gas if your wife’s lover is dead. Let me start it.” I walked to one of the racks and flipped some switches.
His mouth opened and flapped a few times.
I headed for the door. “In 30 seconds, we’ll know.”
“NO! Turn it off!” he yelled. I stayed calm. “Turn it off! He’s dead. Long dead. We’ll be dead too!”
I walked to the panel and flipped another switch. “Did you get that, Heisenberg?” He did.
And let’s say his wife was a looker, and we’ve been very happy in our entanglement.

About the Author: 
Steven B. Kovner is a software engineer who also teaches online at the University of Phoenix. He earned a Master's in Physics years ago, but has been working in software since then.