The Alan Turing
Want to come over to Manchester for a bit of live crypto stuff, the prize ceremony and an opportunity to meet the organisers?
Then sign up!
There was a sense of excitement in the air as the school bus arrived at the University of Manchester. "Now remember," said a teacher, "we're very lucky to have been invited to the opening of the National Graphene Institute. You are all representing our school and you must be on your very best behaviour. There's to be no hijinks and absolutely no adventures."
As the teacher continued to drone on, Mike and Ellie gave each other knowing looks, thinking back to their previous adventures at the University. Two identical freckled faces popped up from the seat in front of them. "I bet you two don't even know what graphene is!" said the first face. "We already know all about it!" said the second. "We're far smarter than you!" they added in unison.
"Darcie, Donna," said Ellie, a note of exasperation in her voice, "you really are the most annoying twins I've ever met! Come on, let's get off this bus and have a look around."
The National Graphene Institute was buzzing with people: scientists, dignitaries, industrialists, as well as a few lucky children and teachers from specially-selected schools. Scattered around were posters explaining that graphene is special form of carbon with remarkable properties. The posters went on to explain that graphene consists of a single sheet of hexagonally arranged carbon atoms and that it was first isolated at the University of Manchester in experiments that led to the award of Nobel prizes for the two physicists responsible.
"Look over there! Isn't that Barquith?" said Mike, peering through the crowds towards an elderly gentleman. "We haven't seen him since last year when we helped him recover the Lovell Legacy. I wonder if he's the reason our School got the invitation."
Barquith was deep in conversation with a strange-looking, nervous, man. As Barquith talked, Mike and Ellie could see the stranger's eyes dart around the room, his head surrounded by a remarkable frizz of grey hair that bobbed up and down seemingly at random.
"Mike, Ellie, good to see you again!" said Barquith as they approached. "This is Professor Gunther Niemand. He's one of the organisers of today's event."
"Yes," said Professor Niemand, "and I also agreed to do some guided tours of one of our laboratories. We've been making devices that use some of the unique properties of graphene. Lots of people would like to get their hands on these prototypes, so security is very tight. Gather your classmates together and I'll show you."
As Mike and Ellie took their leave, a tall man strode imperiously past. "Look!" whispered Mike to Ellie. "Isn't that Lord Porterfield?".
"Yes," said Ellie. "He's the chairman of MaliOpus Industries - one of the biggest technology companies in the world!"
Lord Porterfield gave a piercing glance towards Professor Niemand. "I trust all is ready for my address," the man barked, without breaking his stride.
A few minutes later, Mike, Ellie, the twins Darcie and Donna, followed by the rest of their class queued up near a impressively solid door. "No more than twelve of you in at a time!" said Professor Niemand, as he unlocked the door and let the first half of the class in.
Inside, Mike and Ellie looked around in wonder. Professor Niemand explained that graphene could revolutionise society, but the children were barely listening: they were all staring at the wonderful devices in gleaming display cases. "And over there," said Professor Niemand, coughing loudly, which caused a ripple to spread through his grey hair, "is our most precious device: a prototype quantum computer constructed with graphene.
"That's amazing!" said Mike. The twins sidled up beside him. "We don't need a quantum computer to be smarter than you", said Darcie. "Yeah, and we're better at cracking codes as well!" added Donna. Ellie gave the twins a hard stare and they scuttled off to the far corner of the room.
Once the children had seen everything, everyone vacated the room. Professor Niemand checked that everything was in its place, then closed and locked the door. It took the next group a minute or so to line up. "It's time for the next twelve to go in", he said as he unlocked and opened the door. As the children rushed to enter the room there was a sharp intake of breath from Niemand. "The quantum computer! It's gone! But how's that possible?" he exclaimed.
Mike and Ellie looked at each other. "This feels like the start of an adventure!" said Mike. "Yes," said Ellie, as she bent to pick up a piece of paper poking out from behind the door, "it's quite the Carbon Conundrum!".