Fictions

“It takes colossal imagination to wrap your head around quantum physics and dream up new technologies. Who better to explore these ideas than writers of fiction?” says Artur Ekert, Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore and a judge for Quantum Shorts since day one. These stories were our favourites of the many hundreds of responses to our calls for flash fiction inspired by quantum physics. Enjoy exploring. Imaginary worlds are waiting for you.

2017

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by Nick Maslov
November 26, 2017
Here at the end of things, time has lost its meaning
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by Lily Turaski
December 01, 2017
Online dating brings a girl and her granny together
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by Morgan Long
December 01, 2017
Terry's Commodore Quantum Supercomputer has arrived...
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by Andrew Neil Gray
November 24, 2017
Speculation abounds. From where comes the noise in the quantum machines?
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by Przemysław Zańko
December 01, 2017
The portals to those other worlds allowed people to run away from their problems. It's time for this to end...
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by Joey Qiao
October 20, 2017
Luna is done with living in the dark
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by D. Archer
November 29, 2017
There may be more to these strange blossoms than meets the eye...
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by Ummu Kulthum Binte Eliase
December 01, 2017
Rule number one for Elise and Esile: never tell anyone about the bond they share
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by Jenni Juvonen
November 30, 2017
When Andreus said “We need to talk”, Lizzie broke into a thousand pieces
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by Khadija Niazi
November 30, 2017
When a particle loves a wave, nothing should come between them
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by D. Archer
December 01, 2017
The first discovery at the HEV supercollider is entirely unexpected
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by Isabella Patricia Mulles Ocampo
December 01, 2017
Arya matters. She mustn't be allowed to disappear
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by Judy Helfrich
November 26, 2017
The perfect life is just a collapsed wavefunction away
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by Peter Childs
December 01, 2017
The neural lace is just part of marriage these days – if the bride and groom can survive the consequences
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by Laura Campbell
November 27, 2017
Sometimes reality is hard to face
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by Tan Jing Kai, Brian
December 01, 2017
He would risk it all to see her again...
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by J M Kinnear
November 30, 2017
There's a whiff of something new at the labs today
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by Ricky Nathvani
December 01, 2017
It's so cruel that all they can do is give me probabilities, fatal wagers on my son’s life

2015

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by Tara Abrishami
November 29, 2015
The time has finally arrived - we can look for an alternate reality
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by Lily Turaski
November 24, 2015
It is not the envelopes that decide Lily's fate; it is her choice to observe their contents
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by Liam Hogan
November 02, 2015
More than most children, Ana has good reason to worry about what's under her bed
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by Andrew Neil Gray
September 23, 2015
What message would you want to send through a wormhole?
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by Jack Ellert-Beck
November 26, 2015
Her phone beeps. Is this the message from the future Eloise has been waiting for?
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by Lee Yang Peng
November 29, 2015
The top secret military facility in CERN explores frontiers that even science fiction fears to imagine
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by Stewart C Baker
October 07, 2015
Welcome to the only user manual you'll ever need - in this part of the multiverse, at least
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by Zr
December 01, 2015
Fighting back a shiver, she flicked off the lights. In that instant, she could almost have sworn to seeing a pair of eyes, staring back at her in the darkness…
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by Ritika Anandwade
November 29, 2015
When he first laid eyes on her he knew they had an undeniable attraction...
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by J.E. Bates
November 11, 2015
Tamm might be critically ill, but he has a friend that can get him through
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by Emily Ramanna
November 30, 2015
"This, my dear, is how we govern. This is how we rule the world."
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by Judy Helfrich
December 01, 2015
The nanotherapy goes in. Neural connections come alive, snapping together like impatient fingers. I try to scream...
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by Daniel Swindlehurst
November 28, 2015
Once you're in the simulation, there's only one way to check whether it's the real world
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by Khadija Niazi
November 27, 2015
Vincent Reese is having a near death experience, and it isn't anything like they said it would be
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by Gunnar De Winter
November 29, 2015
A fugitive for as long as she can remember, Lisa finally has some luck
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by Przemysław Zańko
December 01, 2015
All things considered, The End wasn’t that bad
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by Daanish Sonawala
December 01, 2015
There's always a universe where things work out
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by Jesus Chua
November 30, 2015
Despite the possibility of losing Eyla, despite the stigma, despite the threat of war, their first child was going to survive...
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by Emma Carlson
October 13, 2015
Some people will do anything to be your friend. And that's ok.
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by Aaric Tan Xiang Yeow
November 29, 2015
What is a life but a clump of tangled knots, a journey with no definite beginning and no traceable end?

2013

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by Rebecca Baron
November 30, 2013
It wasn't that Juana wanted her experiment to fail. She just wanted to have a soul
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by Antonia Jade
December 01, 2013
Gran died on a Wednesday, but lucky for us she was back within a week
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by Aaron Rosario Jeyaraj
November 29, 2013
And so, I stepped into the machine, and it closed around me...
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by Claire Cheong U-Er
December 01, 2013
Linden has a different way of seeing things...
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by Betony Adams
November 12, 2013
The casino lights are as relentless as a headache, but God lingers anyway. These days, he can barely remember what it felt like to be lucky...
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by Mark Sadler
October 22, 2013
Rider Quinn has set up the ultimate physics stunt, and Q-Day is almost here
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by Jordan Yates
November 22, 2013
It happened every time Michael's birthday came around...
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by Rebecca Montange
December 01, 2013
Meow. I really need out now
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by Shadab Hafiz Choudhury
November 15, 2013
Sitting on a cliff edge, two figures are watching the world's end
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by Yuen Xiang Hao
November 30, 2013
Commuting is easy. Connecting? Much harder...
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by Loo Wei Juan
November 24, 2013
With every choice made comes a dozen others unmade...
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by Clifton Rumsey
December 02, 2013
Gravity Girl is up to her usual tricks - can Quantum Man and his trusty feline sidekick save the day?
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by Nguyen Hoang Minh Khang
November 27, 2013
With his wife in a seven-month coma, Tom has a difficult choice to make
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by Charles Dittell
September 06, 2013
A radioactive atom seeks answers to life's fundamental questions
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by Tim Usdam
December 02, 2013
Will he jump? Quanting requires a steady mind when the network, the viewers and the agents are all crying out for you to outdo yourself.
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by Daniel Eu
December 02, 2013
Over 6 million QubitCoins have gone missing from the Southeast Asian Online Bank. CEO John Wong faces the press
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by Andrew J. Manera
November 16, 2013
If you just wait a while and stare, the light will tell you what to do...
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by Joseph Miles
September 20, 2013
Raff thinks he will destroy the tattered volume in his hands. The book knows better...
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by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
December 01, 2013
If Anna and Henry can make it through their 720-hour entanglement, their relationship can withstand anything
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by Kenton K. Yee
November 30, 2013
When your father contracts wave particle duality, you know things are going to get messy...

Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

Q is for ...
Qubit

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.

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.

L is for ...
Light

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!

E is for ...
Entanglement

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.

D is for ...
Decoherence

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

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

A is for ...
Atom

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

R is for ...
Radioactivity

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.

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”.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

S is for ...
Superposition

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.

N is for ...
Nonlocality

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.

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.

X is for ...
X-ray

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.

I is for ...
Interferometer

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.

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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.

P is for ...
Probability

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.

T is for ...
Tunnelling

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.

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.

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.

M is for ...
Multiverse

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.

C is for ...
Cryptography

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

U is for ...
Universe

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

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

K is for ...
Kaon

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

T is for ...
Teleportation

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.

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!

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.

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

R is for ...
Reality

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!

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.

D is for ...
Dice

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.

G is for ...
Gravity

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.

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.

C is for ...
Computing

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

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.

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.

W is for ...
Wavefunction

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.

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