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.
PEOPLE'S CHOICE PRIZE | Quantum Shorts 2020
Inviting a friend out for a movie night leads to spiralling scenarios in this short film riffing on the ideas of quantum superposition and Schrödinger’s cat. Made by Akash Meel and his team in India, Man In A Box uses the lens of everyday life to make us question our perceived reality.
Investigate more about quantum physics’ most famous cat in this short lesson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjaAxUO6-Uw
Please tell us about yourself and the team that made the film.
The actors and I are students studying physics and we are in the final year of our bachelor’s degree. The writer is our friend who is getting her bachelor’s in statistics. None of us has ever made a film before this so we had no hopes of getting shortlisted. We just thought the concept of the competition was pretty unique and fun so we just wanted to participate. The whole experience of making a film based on physics from different cities was a prize in itself. Being selected as a finalist is a cherry on the cake.
Where were each of you during the filmmaking?
I am in Vasco da Gama, Goa, a city in southern India. Vaibhav, who acted as Billu, is in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, a city in northern India. Abhinn, who was the roommate, is in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, a city in central India. Aditi, our writer, is Kolkata, West Bengal, a city in eastern India.
How did you come up with the idea for your film?
We had to keep in mind the fact that everyone is in different cities during this lockdown so the story should be something we could do from home. This feeling of being locked in our houses reminded me about the cat Schrödinger shut in a box. I thought it would be fitting to make something based on that and that is where we started creating the story.
What makes you interested in quantum physics?
Almost everything about the subject is interesting to me. We had the subject this semester and learning about all these new concepts was fascinating but also confusing at times. Plus, there is a whole lot of maths that comes along with it. Once you are over these obstacles it is a fun thing to study and I hope to do just that in my further education.
Please share an interesting detail about how you made the movie.
We made the movie without meeting one another physically – and this has its own challenges. Given that this was our first time making a movie, and we had to learn almost everything on our own, I think we had our fair share of obstacles. The most interesting part to me was while recording, we did the whole part of one actor in a single go. My friend had to act all alone without getting the reactions of his co-actor and I thought this process was weird and funny.
What reaction do you hope for from viewers?
I would be happy if people find it somewhat funny as the film progresses and at the same time be kind of puzzled. However, everything should make sense in the end and they should go ‘oh that is what it was about, nice’, and be able to connect it with the phenomenon we have tried to depict. Nevertheless, any other reaction is acceptable too because it would be great to get feedback and learn how to make a better film if I do make another one some other time.
What is your favourite sci-fi film?
I am always going to pick 2001: A Space Odyssey for this category. The film starts with early ape-like humans and ends with a man achieving some kind of ascended form. I just love how eerie and ambiguous the film is.
What does being a Quantum Shorts finalist mean to you?
It is a wonderful feeling and everyone in the team is super happy too. We never had expected to be shortlisted and just concentrated on having fun while making the film. This just adds another layer to all the fun we had.
Akash Meel is a final-year student studying physics.