Atoms searching for immateriality

Your rating: None
Average: 3.7 (22 votes)

SHORTLISTED | Quantum Shorts 2018

About the Film: 

“There is only one moral worth in this story, one essential fact: we are nothing but ridiculous sparks in the light of the universe. May we have the wisdom not to forget it.” Hubert Reeves

Anne-Marie Bouchard’s film shines a spotlight on photoluminescent nanoparticles, known as quantum dots. When they are observed under the microscope, they give the impression of looking into space through a telescope. These bright spots may form the surface of your next screen or relay information in a new generation of optical fibers.

To learn more about the science of quantum dots, you could start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_dot


Please tell us about yourself and the team that made the film

Hi! I'm an experimental filmmaker from Québec, Canada. I directed several experimental videos and installations. My work is about exploring the mysteries and wonders of the world and questioning the way we perceive and analyze it. To sense, to feel, to be immersed, and to question: to me, cinema is poetry.

My work has been shown in festivals including the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival, Manchester international Film Festival (Manchester, UK), Les Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois (Montréal, Canada), Les Instants Vidéo de Marseille (France), Cinema on the Bayou (Louisiana, USA), San Diego Underground Film Festival, International Film Festival Ireland, Traverse Video (Toulouse, France), amongst others.

As an experimental video artist, I work with video and film as visual and audio matter. I question the way we are constructed as individuals, the way we grasp and perceive the world through the constant narrative we tell ourselves. Reality has no narrative at first, it is just there - until we, humans, attempt to make sense out of it with language and linearity. I seek to think differently, to express the world through another process. I organize my work in a poetic structure, where I appeal first to the senses, then to the intellectual associations of a non-narrative editing form. I have worked twice with scientists to create experimental films: one oceanograher / geophysicist, and one physicist.

Like a scientist, I begin any project with a hypothesis. I collect data: images and sounds. Then I analyze and organize it through editing. I believe in pure research, in science as well as in the arts. The result might not be commercial or industrial, but it brings light and beauty in the world, and it helps make sense out of it.

How did you come up with the idea for your film?

I was trying to find ways to work with new materials on 16mm film. I got interested in nano-technologies and the new materials created in laboratories. Cinema is light, so I looked for luminescent material. I met professor Claudine Allen, a physicist from Laval University. She was kind enough to share her research with me. She lent me some quantum dots to paint a 16mm movie with and she gave me access to the laboratory, where I could film quantum dots through the microscope. I had a lot of images, enough to make two movies! I made one called Jeux de lumières / Light plays, which is 16mm with quantum dots applied on it and then transferred to digital. And I made this one, which is the film I shot through the microscope.

What is the quantum inspiration? What makes you interested in quantum physics?

I really discovered a fascinating world, talking with Dr Allen and reading more and more about quantum physics. As an artist, my scientific background is limited, but my curiosity is vast! Two aspects of quantum physics fascinate me. First, the way the infinitely small and microscopic becomes as vast as the universe, because when I look then I the skies, I see also particles and atoms.. Second, I like the way quantum physics proposes that possibilities are there, all co-existing together, until an observation is made, and so defines "the real".

Please share with us an interesting detail about you how made the movie.

I filmed in the lab, but live sounds were not so poetic. I kept my images for two years until I finally found a proper sound to work with. It is the sound of snow falling on a bridge in Winnipeg, Canada, with the distant sound of light traffic on the bridge and wind through steel structures. That sound was abstract enough to bring the quantum dots images further, into space.

What reaction do you hope for from viewers?

I hope the viewers will see the poetry of my images and sounds. I hope that the public will also feel the philosophical question I struggle with: how small and powerful we are as beings, how wonderful and magical the world can be, what are we, are we alone, what does being alive mean when we consider the stars or the atoms?

I made the film also for people to discover the wonders scientists create in laboratories, I tried to disseminate research that the general public isn't familiar with.

What is your favourite science-inspired or sci-fi movie?

I liked Contact a lot, with Jodie Foster, as a clever scientist. Also...

  • Arrival, by Denis Villeneuve, with its exploration of language, the way one species experiences time could impact its language.
  • Close Encounters of the third kind, with its "musical" language, the way the code is broken and searched.
  • Blade Runner, the one by Ridley Scott, philosophical questions about what it is, to be human.

What does being a Quantum Shorts finalist mean to you?

I'm really happy and excited! It might mean that my art touches scientific minds as much as science touches me!

When my film is selected in a festival, it means people get to see it, and that is the reason why I make films. I am proud also, because I worked on this film for two years, on and off. It is great that now it’s done, it reaches an audience that will appreciate it.

About the filmmaker(s): 

Anne-Marie Bouchard is an experimental filmmaker from Québec, Canada.

Share this film

Quantum Theories: A to Z

C is for ...

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now.

I is for ...

Some of the strangest characteristics of quantum theory can be demonstrated by firing a photon into an interferometer: the device’s output is a pattern that can only be explained by the photon passing simultaneously through two widely-separated slits.

C is for ...

People have been hiding information in messages for millennia, but the quantum world provides a whole new way to do it.

H is for ...
Hawking Radiation

In 1975, Stephen Hawking showed that the principles of quantum mechanics would mean that a black hole emits a slow stream of particles and would eventually evaporate.

X is for ...

In 1923 Arthur Compton shone X-rays onto a block of graphite and found that they bounced off with their energy reduced exactly as would be expected if they were composed of particles colliding with electrons in the graphite. This was the first indication of radiation’s particle-like nature.

P is for ...

Quantum mechanics is a probabilistic theory: it does not give definite answers, but only the probability that an experiment will come up with a particular answer. This was the source of Einstein’s objection that God “does not play dice” with the universe.

S is for ...

Quantum objects can exist in two or more states at once: an electron in superposition, for example, can simultaneously move clockwise and anticlockwise around a ring-shaped conductor.

F is for ...
Free Will

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.

Q is for ...
Quantum biology

A new and growing field that explores whether many biological processes depend on uniquely quantum processes to work. Under particular scrutiny at the moment are photosynthesis, smell and the navigation of migratory birds.

I is for ...

Many researchers working in quantum theory believe that information is the most fundamental building block of reality.

D is for ...

Albert Einstein decided quantum theory couldn’t be right because its reliance on probability means everything is a result of chance. “God doesn’t play dice with the world,” he said.

W is for ...

The mathematics of quantum theory associates each quantum object with a wavefunction that appears in the Schrödinger equation and gives the probability of finding it in any given state.

D is for ...

Unless it is carefully isolated, a quantum system will “leak” information into its surroundings. This can destroy delicate states such as superposition and entanglement.

S is for ...
Schrödinger’s Cat

A hypothetical experiment in which a cat kept in a closed box can be alive and dead at the same time – as long as nobody lifts the lid to take a look.

R is for ...

Unpredictability lies at the heart of quantum mechanics. It bothered Einstein, but it also bothers the Dalai Lama.

E is for ...

When two quantum objects interact, the information they contain becomes shared. This can result in a kind of link between them, where an action performed on one will affect the outcome of an action performed on the other. This “entanglement” applies even if the two particles are half a universe apart.

W is for ...
Wave-particle duality

It is possible to describe an atom, an electron, or a photon as either a wave or a particle. In reality, they are both: a wave and a particle.

B is for ...
Bell's Theorem

In 1964, John Bell came up with a way of testing whether quantum theory was a true reflection of reality. In 1982, the results came in – and the world has never been the same since!

K is for ...

These are particles that carry a quantum property called strangeness. Some fundamental particles have the property known as charm!

P is for ...
Planck's Constant

This is one of the universal constants of nature, and relates the energy of a single quantum of radiation to its frequency. It is central to quantum theory and appears in many important formulae, including the Schrödinger Equation.

J is for ...
Josephson Junction

This is a narrow constriction in a ring of superconductor. Current can only move around the ring because of quantum laws; the apparatus provides a neat way to investigate the properties of quantum mechanics and is a technology to build qubits for quantum computers.

Q is for ...

One quantum bit of information is known as a qubit (pronounced Q-bit). The ability of quantum particles to exist in many different states at once means a single quantum object can represent multiple qubits at once, opening up the possibility of extremely fast information processing.

G is for ...

Our best theory of gravity no longer belongs to Isaac Newton. It’s Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. There’s just one problem: it is incompatible with quantum theory. The effort to tie the two together provides the greatest challenge to physics in the 21st century.

G is for ...

These elementary particles hold together the quarks that lie at the heart of matter.

S is for ...
Schrödinger Equation

This is the central equation of quantum theory, and describes how any quantum system will behave, and how its observable qualities are likely to manifest in an experiment.

R is for ...

Since the predictions of quantum theory have been right in every experiment ever done, many researchers think it is the best guide we have to the nature of reality. Unfortunately, that still leaves room for plenty of ideas about what reality really is!

Y is for ...
Young's Double Slit Experiment

In 1801, Thomas Young proved light was a wave, and overthrew Newton’s idea that light was a “corpuscle”.

U is for ...
Uncertainty Principle

One of the most famous ideas in science, this declares that it is impossible to know all the physical attributes of a quantum particle or system simultaneously.

B is for ...
Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

At extremely low temperatures, quantum rules mean that atoms can come together and behave as if they are one giant super-atom.

L is for ...

We used to believe light was a wave, then we discovered it had the properties of a particle that we call a photon. Now we know it, like all elementary quantum objects, is both a wave and a particle!

O is for ...
Objective reality

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.

H is for ...
Hidden Variables

One school of thought says that the strangeness of quantum theory can be put down to a lack of information; if we could find the “hidden variables” the mysteries would all go away.

M is for ...

Our most successful theories of cosmology suggest that our universe is one of many universes that bubble off from one another. It’s not clear whether it will ever be possible to detect these other universes.

N is for ...

When two quantum particles are entangled, it can also be said they are “nonlocal”: their physical proximity does not affect the way their quantum states are linked.

U is for ...

To many researchers, the universe behaves like a gigantic quantum computer that is busy processing all the information it contains.

L is for ...
Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, this machine is smashing apart particles in order to discover their constituent parts and the quantum laws that govern their behaviour.

T is for ...

This happens when quantum objects “borrow” energy in order to bypass an obstacle such as a gap in an electrical circuit. It is possible thanks to the uncertainty principle, and enables quantum particles to do things other particles can’t.

A is for ...

This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.

T is for ...

Quantum tricks allow a particle to be transported from one location to another without passing through the intervening space – or that’s how it appears. The reality is that the process is more like faxing, where the information held by one particle is written onto a distant particle.

K is for ...

Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a way to create secure cryptographic keys, allowing for more secure communication.

A is for ...
Alice and Bob

In quantum experiments, these are the names traditionally given to the people transmitting and receiving information. In quantum cryptography, an eavesdropper called Eve tries to intercept the information.

A is for ...
Act of observation

Some people believe this changes everything in the quantum world, even bringing things into existence.

M is for ...
Many Worlds Theory

Some researchers think the best way to explain the strange characteristics of the quantum world is to allow that each quantum event creates a new universe.

V is for ...
Virtual particles

Quantum theory’s uncertainty principle says that since not even empty space can have zero energy, the universe is fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs that pop in and out of existence. These “virtual” particles are the source of Hawking radiation.

Z is for ...
Zero-point energy

Even at absolute zero, the lowest temperature possible, nothing has zero energy. In these conditions, particles and fields are in their lowest energy state, with an energy proportional to Planck’s constant.

R is for ...

The atoms of a radioactive substance break apart, emitting particles. It is impossible to predict when the next particle will be emitted as it happens at random. All we can do is give the probability that any particular atom will have decayed by a given time.

Copyright © 2019 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.