PRIOR ART • by Ramon Rozas III

“Let me get this straight,” Carter said, behind the art nouveau desk of his corner office. “This phone will connect instantaneously with the phone network?”

Engle frowned. “Well, instantly with your home router; then to the phone switching system — ”

Carter waved away the scientist’s objection. “How the heck does it work?”

“Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen entanglement,” Engle said, smiling. “Instantaneous quantum transfer of information across arbitrary distances. I’ve solved the causality problem, and — ”

Carter waved the man to silence again and thought. He looked down at the patent application for the “EPR Communicator.”

Carter was not an electrical engineer, which made him a rarity as a Vice-President in this Consumer Electronics company. He was, however, a consummate fixer. The Boss depended on him to deal with issues that arose in the Company’s wildly popular electronic products. The Boss helped design them, the Boss debuted them on stage, and Carter dealt with any problems.

“I’ll pass it on to the Boss,” he finally said. He looked again at the patent, then scribbled on the document “Call it the ‘ePhone’.”


Carter put down his handset carefully. After a chewing out by the Boss, it was best not to let him think you had hung up.

The ePhone had been a huge hit — millions sold in the first few days; going like hotcakes.

Unfortunately, reports of interference glitches were showing up like hotcakes online, too. OhGadget, a tech blog, had devoted a whole column to it yesterday and the blogosphere was on fire. The Boss had told Carter to fix the problem, and fix it quickly.

Engle seemed confident. “We’ll find the problem, Mr. Carter, I assure you. It can’t be electromagnetic — that wouldn’t have any effect on the quantum entanglement connection. We’ll get it, I assure you.”

Carter chose his words carefully — while Engle was certifiably brilliant, and held numerous other patents, he could be dense to interpersonal communications. “And I assure you, Engle, that if you don’t find it you’ll be looking for a new job.”

Suitably chastened, Engle and his assistants left.

Carter’s next meeting was with the Company’s lawyers. They also had bad news.

“Our patent with Engle on the quantum entanglement chip is being challenged by some start-up in France.”

“What? How’s that possible?” Carter asked.

“The patent is two years old; they claim they did initial work with communicating by quantum channels three years ago and our patent is therefore invalid.”

“What do they want?”

The lawyers named a sum that made Carter’s head hurt. He rubbed his eyes some more and asked what they could do about it.

“Well, if we could prove there was ‘prior art’ on the field, or that Engel was doing this work even before that…”

Carter shook his head. “I don’t think he was — he was on the touchscreen phone before that. Crap! Okay, you sharks — find some other — cheaper! — way and get back to me.”

The lawyers left and Carter’s direct line to the Boss began to chirp again. He sighed, popped two antacids and picked up the phone.


Two weeks passed — two weeks of meetings, lousy press and regular abuse from the Boss. Then one morning Carter found himself in another meeting with Engle.

The scientist looked pleased with himself. “This is earth-shaking, Mr. Carter — no, universe-shaking. I think we’ll win a Nobel Prize for this!”

Carter idly wondered what a Nobel Prize was worth. “I take it you’ve found the source of the interference?”

Engle smiled. “Yes!” He paused, looking like he was going to burst.

Carter forced himself to remain calm. “And…?”

“How the EPR effect worked has always been a great mystery to quantum mechanics and general relativity, and this breakthrough could mean the Theory of Everything — ”

“Engle!” Carter barked, not too roughly he thought to himself.

“Uh, sorry sir. The interference… the interference is coming from other universes.”

“What? Other what?”

“Parallel universes, sir. Universes where they’ve also invented ePhones. See, it turns out the instantaneous effect occurs because of Feynman’s One Electron Hypothesis connecting electrons in parallel universes — ”

“Enough!” Carter said. He popped another anti-acid. “So, in another universe, you and I are having this same talk?”

Engle nodded happily. “Yep! I talked to my… other self this morning in our nearest ‘neighbor’ universe. Seems he developed their ePhone about five years ago and they’re wide-spread over there. That’s why the interference is so severe.”

Something Engle said tickled the back of Carter’s brain. “Wait. There’s an Engle over there?”


“And he works for the Company?”

“Yes,” Engle said, now puzzled.

“And he developed the ePhone five years ago?”

Engle nodded.

Carter hit the button for his assistant. “Verna, get the lawyers on the phone right now. I think I found their ‘prior art’!”

Ramon Rozas III creates written artifacts of unbearable beauty in West Virginia. He also writes SF and submits that instead. EDF, Aoife’s Kiss and Atomjack have all made the questionable decision to publish his pieces. His first novel, “A Judgment of Their Own”, will be issued in August 2011 by Blue Leaf Publications.

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