Sunday, April 10, 2011

Story 198: Limited Options

This is another that was first published at 365 Tomorrows.



"I can already tell you aren't interested in the admittedly confusing equations I've taken the time to write out, which is fine. So to give a quick and imprecise summary I will use the tired metaphor of Schrödinger's Cat, where a cat is placed in a box with something toxic that will be released with a fifty-percent likelihood, triggered by radioactive decay of something else in the box.

"In the Many Worlds interpretation the universe splits, and in one the cat lives while in the other it dies. Obviously we only get to see one of the two, but both happen somewhere. In the Copenhagen interpretation, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead until a measurement collapses the wavefunction to just one option at random. In the Stockholm interpretation, the cat falls in love with the scientist that locked it in the box.

"Nothing? Well, my wife thought it was funny. At any rate, while the Copenhagen interpretation is currently the most accepted there are problems with all of the theories and they are all devilishly hard to test. In large part this is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one, until we can get more data. Rather, until they can get more data. I already have it, and know the answer. I'm just not sharing it yet.

"Imagine, for a moment, that the Many Worlds interpretation is correct. That means that entire universes are unfolding constantly, an unimaginable number of them every moment. Some have speculated that we could find a way to travel between them, see the alternate versions of Earth that might have been. That's a pretty thought, and something that might come to pass someday, but what I've discovered while working towards it is far more productive – and profitable.

"The device you see before you provides limitless free energy. This one prototype could power every device in the world at once if you could find a way to plug everything in. Every instant our reality is remade along with an infinitely expanding fractal cloud of others, and this device just... nips one in the bud. All the energy of the big bang, for free. All for just one lost option, one that will never be missed.

"Destroy the universe? Not this one. No, it's quite safe. Technically speaking it destroys a universe every ten seconds or so, but they're more like proto-universes. It's not a big deal, really. It very nearly collapses them before they exist. Very nearly. Honestly, you don't need to look so horrified. We're talking about free energy here. This is the holy grail of science. It's... excuse me?

"No, I told you it's perfectly safe. It can't break in a way that would do any more harm than a transformer exploding – You would have to deliberately turn it into a bomb if you wanted it to do anything serious. Well, yes, in theory. I'm not sure that's a productive use of free energy, but I suppose with the right design you could release a minute fraction of the harvested energy as an explosion before the device obliterates itself. Call it one-one millionth of a percent, enough to level New York. No, no. The state.

"But we've gone off-topic. Back to the matter of free, clean energy for... Pardon me, but I'll thank you to put away those guns."