Why Is There Superposition?

Your rating: None
Average: 4.2 (6 votes)

Excerpt from Dr. Asif Menyaf’s autobiography:
It was a sunny afternoon in May of 2017 when I realized why the universe needs superposition. This epiphany, which was deemed “God’s compression algorithm” by the pseudo-physicists on Reddit, catapulted my dissertation from the small, erudite circle of my peers in quantum mechanics to the wide world.
As many know, my dissertation explored the extent to which a universe could be represented by the binary coding of a computer simulation. For several years I designed and coded an extensive virtual matter-energy system, a digital universe. The massive degree of information required to describe my universe posed a problem, despite the unparalleled computational powers afforded by the University’s supercomputer.
On that fateful spring afternoon I was shivering in the air-conditioned basement that housed the supercomputer, preparing to enter a new block of code that would simulate superposition. I knew I would likely exceed the capabilities of the myriad processors, but my universe needed that critically important aspect of quantum mechanics or else it was just a system of careening particles. Cold sweat trickled down my back as I activated the block of code.
Immediately, the processors in the next room began to audibly whir. I dashed in and a wave of heat struck me, drying my contact lenses. I killed the power before the hardware melted, and cursed myself. That’s when the epiphany struck me like a wave of defeat: my superposition coding increased the information that described each particle’s location, but in the universe, superposition decreased the degree of precisely held information! Later, I realized that my epiphany rendered my digital universe a failure, but at the time I was too elated to process the repercussions of my realization. Gasping for air, I left my belongings in the basement and sprinted into the sunlight.
My first thought was to run to my advisor, an ancient physicist who was safely entrenched in his tenure and had no desire to advise me. He claimed to be a polymath, but it was difficult to see his genius because he was so obstinate when faced with new information. Our meetings were dreadful affairs: typically, I would wait in a coffee shop across from his favorite haunt, an Ethiopian restaurant where he ate lunch, and surprise him as he came out. Otherwise, I would lurk outside his office, and run alongside him as he biked home, wheezing out my latest findings.
I feared my advisor’s disdain if he thought I was mistaken, or worse yet, if my epiphany was already accepted knowledge. I decided to visit Einstein. A few years before, a team of undergrads in the Simulation and AI course, for which I was a teaching assistant, had built a hologram of Einstein, equipped with his personality and intelligence.
I trotted across campus to the beautiful brick building that housed the hologram. It doubled as a library for rare books. Thick bands of sunlight spilled in from the towering windows, illuminating floating dust motes. There were a few dozen old wooden desks pushed into the corner, bearing the etchings of previous generations of University students.
I turned on the hologram, and a blue-tinged Einstein flickered into 3-dimensional form. The white-mustachioed German scientist glanced around the room, and seemed relieved that I was his only visitor. His surprisingly sensitive eyes fixed themselves into a glare as he took me in. His movements were disturbingly lifelike, and I was nervous, despite the fact that I had overseen his design and knew that he was only a simulation. “Only you? Where are the beer-swilling students here to debate me on hidden variables or force me to watch films of entangled particles?” he grumbled in a thick accent.
I introduced myself, then groveled and appeased him until he warmed up to me. Resentfully, Einstein explained that he was turned on every few days and forced to confront the nonsensical nature of quantum mechanics. I assured him I would do no such thing.
I began, “You famously said, God’s doesn’t shoot dice with the world.”
“Ah, you want me to explain. I meant—”
“I think I understand. You didn’t like the idea that causality had broken down, that particles might interact faster than light or exist in superpositions.”
Einstein bobbed his head, “Precisely, which led me to conclude that there are hidden variables—”
“Wait. I think dice is the wrong metaphor. At the most fundamental level, the universe is all information. I am doing my PhD on a computer simulation—”
Einstein interrupted me, and forced me to review the last seventy years of computer history, most of which he seemed to already know. I went on, “I made a computer simulation of a universe. However, our most advanced computers can’t process all of the information required to simulate subatomic particles’ mass, momentum, spin and the ways in which they interact. When I introduced superposition, I almost melted the hardware. Then I realized—allow me to borrow your God metaphor despite my atheism—superposition is God’s compression algorithm.”—In all honesty, I don’t think I used that phrase, but I said something similar. “Superposition allows a particle to exist in a probability of positions, only choosing a definite location when it decoheres due to observation or measurement. When a particle is in superposition, the universe effectively compresses the information that describes its location. When we try to represent the same phenomenon through binary, we fail, because we are using precise information to exhaustively describe something that is not precise.” I said my piece in one breath, and stood before the greatest thinker of the twentieth century, gasping and blushing.
Einstein gave me a strange smile; I wasn’t sure if I was to be dismissed or congratulated. “Let’s discuss it again when you have quantum computers.” He said. Einstein turned his back to me and sat down cross-legged. I shut him off, and walked into the perfumed dusk of spring.

About the Author: 
S.C. Anderson is a novelist and screenwriter based in NYC.