Ideas at the heart of quantum theory, to do with randomness and the character of the molecules that make up the physical matter of our brains, lead some researchers to suggest humans can’t have free will.
A Q&A with Sabrina Patsch, Quantum Shorts Runner Up
What is your background in science?
I am a PhD student in theoretical quantum physics at the Free University of Berlin. However, I am almost finished and currently waiting for a date to defend my thesis.
Your story has a high-stakes game. What was the inspiration for your story?
First, I had the idea for the trapping mechanism, which is inspired by my own research: in quantum physics, we are able to freeze or confine dynamics using the quantum Zeno effect. In reality, this does not work for macroscopic objects like humans (yet, you never know!), but I thought it was a great premise for a story. The idea for the game was then heavily inspired by The Hunger Games. Only it’s not your competitors who kill you if you’re out in the open, it’s quantum physics.
What makes you interested in quantum physics?
That started quite early. The first time I heard about quantum physics was in school and I was immediately captivated. I found out that there was a whole new world hidden deep down which behaves utterly differently from what we experience in everyday life. I was so curious about what else might lurk in the shadows that I decided to study physics and ultimately investigate the quantum world myself.
What was your writing process like?
To be honest, a little rushed. I had the idea for the story long before the deadline but I handed in my PhD thesis only shortly before, so I did not have much time for the actual writing process. Luckily, I found the story to pour onto the paper almost by itself. Often, I write a bit too much and have to cut my text down heavily in the revision process. This time I only had a snapshot in mind, a scene from a film, so to say, and it worked like a charm.
What is your favourite science-inspired book?
That would be Jurassic Park. I watched the movies as a kid, at least partly, but I discovered the book only recently. I was amazed by the scientific details. They put graphs into the book! The book inspired me to write another short story which was my first one to get published: it’s about a desperate researcher who tries to save her career using a genetically modified pet. With Jurassic Park being my inspiration, I’m sure you can guess whether this ends well or not.
This is your second time entering Quantum Shorts. What does being a Quantum Shorts finalist mean to you?
I am really happy I made it to the shortlist! I discovered the competition two years ago and that was actually the first time I wrote a short story in my adult life. I enjoyed it so much that I continued writing. Quantum Shorts stays my favourite, however, since I can go “full quantum” and write about topics or effects that would be difficult to include when writing for a broader, less science-minded audience.