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!
SHORTLISTED | Quantum Shorts 2022
Filmmaker Betony Adams presents an atomistic take on the meaning of life while paying tribute to Louis de Broglie’s discovery of the wave nature of electrons.
Wave-particle duality is a fundamental fact of nature. Can this wave-like nature be observed? Here is an article on work done by researchers demonstrating wave-like properties in heavy molecules: https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/07/wave-particle-duality-in-action-big-molecules-surf-on-their-own-waves/
Please tell us about yourself and the team that made the film.
I am a PhD student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, doing research in quantum biology. I also work in science communication for The Guy Foundation. Most of the work on the film was done by Angela Illing, who is a graphic designer from South Africa with a knack for turning science concepts into compelling visuals.
How did you come up with the idea for your film?
I've always been interested in how meaning is a cumulative thing; it emerges out of repetition. When I first watched the famous double slit experiment (with electrons) what I found most striking was the fact that at first there does not appear to be any pattern but as the electrons accumulate, the pattern begins to emerge. The same might be said for the meaning of a life. Each event looks discrete, but these events interfere over the course of a life, giving rise to the pattern that we call our self. Since de Broglie's theory was central to this experiment, we thought it would be apt to look at this in the context of de Broglie's life.
What is the quantum inspiration?
In 1929, Louis de Broglie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the wave nature of electrons. The wave-particle duality of matter, which up until then had been thought of as discrete, is at the heart of quantum mechanics. De Broglie's hypothesis was later demonstrated in the double slit experiment.
Please share with us an interesting detail about how you made the film.
In terms of content, we both found it interesting that de Broglie studied history before he moved on to physics. From the point of view of the actual animation, Angela wanted the film to use accurate historical documents but to make them communicate the singularity of de Broglie's lived experience. Science is so often seen as rigidly rational as opposed to emotional, but she also wanted to communicate the admiration and awe, the existential shiver that great ideas give us.
What reaction do you hope for from viewers?
We hope viewers feel some of the sense of wonder that prompted us to make the film. And we hope it prompts people to watch (and wonder about) the double slit experiment itself.
You were Runner Up in our flash fiction competition in 2013 with your story “Dice”. What made you submit to Quantum Shorts again in a different genre and how does it feel to be shortlisted?
I couldn’t get this concept to work as flash fiction. Because the idea was based on watching the double slit experiment, a film seemed to make more sense. It’s so great to be shortlisted, and to have this opportunity to approach scientific ideas from different angles.
Betony Adams is a PhD student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, doing research in quantum biology.