...a narrow cylinder half a meter long with a mass of about a kilogram. To the naked eye it was a dense, solid object, but its lattice of tiny nuclei immersed in an insubstantial fog of electrons was one part matter to two hundred trillion parts empty space. A short distance away was a second ingot, apparently identical to the first, but composed of antihydrogen.
Professor Clay R. Hunter, unrepentantly male in his linen pants, starched white shirt and gleaming lab coat, watched Dr Cherryweather do things only women do so well (besides cooking, that is). Things like laughing as she talked of establishing precisely the quantum properties of two separate physical processes, or singing softly to herself as she brushed out her hair, or looking at him, almost as if she were here for him, and not as a function of probabilistically additive behaviour.
A sequence of finely tuned gamma rays flooded into both cylinders. The protons that absorbed them in the first ingot spat out positrons and were transformed into neutrons, breaking their bonds to the electron cloud that glued them in place. In the second ingot, antiprotons became antineutrons.
Dr Hunter sighed, for there were very few things more attractive than a superposition of two quantum states. Indeed, it was he who had first alerted Dr Cherryweather to the potential of the phenomenon. At first, the buxom young scientist had pursed her lips and said "No." to his fervent appeals, but but in the end she had given in. They always did.
A further sequence of pulses herded the neutrons together and forged them into clusters; the antineutrons were similarly rearranged. Both kinds of cluster were unstable, but in order to fall apart they first had to pass through a quantum state that would have strongly absorbed a component of the gamma rays constantly raining down on them. This was maddening, and yet entirely consistent with established principles of nonzero particle fluctuation.
Dr Hunter had thought it would only be that one time, but during his days of wrangling positrons into infinitely more romantic neutrons, Cherryweather had started turning up at the lab more and more regularly. He hadn’t been able to stop himself from appreciating her alabaster skin, her wide sparkling eyes, her flawlessly laminated identification card entitling her to access to the 4th floor of the Tuguskas Institute until the end of June 2011.
They’d exchanged names and detailed progress reports in their few moments together, but nothing more. Left to themselves, the probability of them being in this state would have increased rapidly, but each time they, like the experiment, failed to provide an adequate environment for the electro-chemical transference field, and the probability fell back to zero. The quantum Zeno effect endlessly reset the clock, holding the decay in check...