Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, said there is no such thing as objective reality. All we can talk about, he said, is the results of measurements we make.
A Q&A with Michael Manomivibul, illustrator of the winning stories
When we approached you about illustrating the Quantum Shorts winners, you said it sounded like too much fun. What appealed to you about the project?
I love the thought of trying to take the almost abstract principles of quantum physics and communicating them clearly and concisely, it's a very specific kind of visual problem solving that does not come around that often, at least not for me. I grew up with great science communicators like Carl Sagan so it's fun to step into that roll.
What are the concepts for the artworks?
Ana is playing with the roundabout nature of the conversation in the story, while also showing the mirrored actions of a little girl. Each Ana checks under the bed again and again, the space underneath is constant, and maybe so is the monster.
Unrequited Signals also plays with the mirrored idea. The story is about body language, so I've mirrored the couple across both realities, each is getting ignored by their desired half, yet a moment of connection is happening at the instruments. Touching but not touching, so close yet so lonely. This was definitely the most challenging, trying to illustrate the infinite untouchable space between them but also communicating an intimate moment.
Don't Die Before You’re Dead, Sally Wu breaks the world up into the many shards of many earths, each piece reflects earth in a different state, with a few pieces preserving it's natural vibrant blue green, foreshadowing the small percentage of earths that will successfully deflect the approaching asteroid. Multiple straight vectors hint at the various success rates the different universes have with the asteroid.
For The Qubits of College Acceptance I wanted to get across the playful quality of the story, each and every envelope is Schrödinger's paradox, so I am depicting the ghost of Schrodinger's cat literally running through all the envelopes.
How did you make the images? What was the process like?
Sitting down and sketching the basic premise of the piece comes first, this is the hardest part. I'd read these stories and take days just mulling it over in my head and on paper, trying out different bits of visual shorthand to get across the point of the story. Often I would come upon the solution in unexpected places, like falling asleep on a plane or getting coffee in the morning.
Once the idea is set and approved I sit down and draw it for real. I make a detailed drawing them sketch lighting and shading over it so I have a pretty good idea of how it will all look in the end.
Then it's time to paint. I use ink and water it down to watercolor like consistency, this is called ink wash. I build up the image from light to dark until its done. I then scan the painting and color it digitally, experimenting with different color combinations and layers. Then the finish is sent off for approval and posting!
How do you feel about the results? (we love them!)
I'm quite pleased! I don't often get to say that about my own work, but in this case the pieces are so conceptual that I really had to push my visual problem solving and I think I did a good job communicating complex ideas that layer time and space atop each other. Each story really presented a puzzle to solve, and I think I pulled it off.
See more of Michael's work at his website: www.mikemanoart.com