The Smallest Matryoshka Box(es)

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I killed Schrödinger’s cat.

Those four words reflected perfectly in my skull until they formed a standing wave, and I pushed my foot harder down on the car’s accelerator with the few minutes I had left. I felt the jolt of force throw me against the back of my seat and knew before it happened that I was about to be pulled over. I felt that infinitesimal movement in a neuron traveling through my brain- a single particle changing its spin in accordance to something within the officer’s mind as he read the number off his radar. I imagined for a second that maybe if I refused to observe him he wouldn’t exist, but when he asked for my identification, I handed over the card I had been given as “proof” I could operate such a vehicle. I don’t know why I even keep that thing around. How can you possibly have a true identity when the loudest part of your consciousness has always consisted of particles entangled with every complex system on the planet?

I feel a wavefunction collapse within me as every new discovery is made- by anyone, anywhere. The evolution is impossible to keep up with, and by now I’ve trained my mind to block out any that isn’t specific to my own physical entity. Otherwise, I would have gone mad before the realization of my quest for the hidden variables I thought might finally silence the constant buzzing and bring peace. Most people said there was no point in searching, but I couldn’t let myself believe that the universe meant for me to be this way. The probability of my existence is so statistically insignificant that Maxwell’s demon must have broken out of the seventh realm of hell to lay his curse on me. But I’m here, and the curse is real, and I wasn’t supposed to reverse it.

I killed Schrödinger’s cat.

The future was in a box and all of humanity stood outside it, watching one event escape at a time. Today I sat on the edge of the road and heard each moment crash down within that box like a falling star, together a blur of blinding light that touched ground and then exploded out into the sky like fireworks. Had one person remained past the grand finale to watch the smoke dissipate, they would have seen the box opened to the carcass that lay within. The universe wasn’t built for this; it was built for freedom.

I killed Schrödinger’s cat.

The idea came to me from a Danish physicist at Copenhagen- a mathematically sound postulate describing a way to achieve decoherence for myself and finally silence the noise. But I screwed something up. I thought I’d untangle myself from the systems, not collapse the wavefunctions of every particle entangled with them. The officer ought to arrest me; he has no idea that as he’s standing by the window writing me a ticket, his entire future is crumbling to ruins in my mind. All the chances he could have taken, all the decisions which were his to make, all the possibilities for his future- all of them were gone. A few calamitous seconds later, the present was equally nonexistent.

I’ve never understood why it’s supposed to be difficult to imagine a superposition of states- to imagine a thing both alive and dead at the same time, built up and torn down at the same time, forced to spin left and right at the same time, moving opposite directions at once. It’s how I’ve lived my entire life. It’s how most do. But oh, this is worse. The alternative is certainty, and certainty, like inertia, is a cruel joke- nothing in isolation should be made to continue in one direction indefinitely, especially not the future of humanity. The outcome of my hunt wasn’t failure. It was destruction.
The universe ended with a bang.

Schrödinger’s cat is alive and well.

When performing the measurement, I had collapsed with the system. In the same moment, I collapsed with every possibility of the universe, and then I continued on with every other possibility of it. This was how the branching of multiverses ended, setting a finite number of arrangements into motion. Many were destroyed soon after, while others lasted on for eons. Some were happy, some were painful, and some as improbable as I. Energy was conserved in each, and over time, nothing was ever lost.

About the Author: 
Marissa is an undergraduate student applying to graduate programs for high energy experimental physics. In her spare time, she is an avid writer and spends near as much time manipulating words to describe analogies between physics and the human condition as she does manipulating numbers to understand the background.