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 Álvaro Buendía, Quantum Shorts People's Choice Prize winner
Is there anything you would like readers to know about you, beyond the bio in your story?
I’m a Spanish second year PhD student at Instituto de Estructura de la Materia (IEM-CSIC) in Madrid who writes poetry and fiction for fun. Briefly, the goal of my thesis is to model and simulate structures of nanoparticles that guide light unidirectionally and without losses so they could work like a light transistor. It’s a lot to think about...
How did you come up with the idea for your story?
I was inspired by the constraint phrase “It’s a lot to think about”. I thought it was fun to imagine a computer saying that. I work on programming and I was learning to use the cluster from my centre, so I made a connection with supercomputers, quantum computers and the idea of quantum advantage.
What was your writing process like?
A bit messy, honestly. I normally write the beginning and the end of a story and then connect the dots. This time I left it almost finished for two months because I was not very convinced and then I finished and (fortunately) sent it at the last minute.
What makes you interested in quantum physics and writing fiction?
I think both of them question the limits of what we normally call “reality”. I like to write stories which are not very speculative, so you can believe them, but then add a pinch of fantasy. Like a magic trick, you are watching the hands of the wizard and then something unexpected happens. Like the double-slit experiment.
Are you working on other projects now?
My thesis, of course. Apart from that, I just finished writing and correcting a short novel, unpublished for now. Now that I’m more confident on my writing, I’ll try my luck on other fiction contests in English and Spanish.
What is your favourite science-inspired book?
Despite being a scientist, I didn’t read sci-fi until recently. I loved Exhalation by Ted Chiang, especially the story “The Lifecycle of Software Objects”. I think I was inspired by it (and by Janet from The Good Place) when modelling my apparently conscious computers.
What does being a Quantum Shorts finalist mean to you?
Oh, I was so surprised when I saw that e-mail in the inbox! My story from two years ago didn’t make the shortlist, so I wasn’t expecting to win this time either. I’m so thrilled about it and I’m looking forward to reading the other stories which made the cut.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about you or your story?
Just saying thanks for choosing my story and for this interview, thanks for reading and good luck to all the finalists!