“Truly engaging” shortlist on family ties, Father Christmas and fallible creators

March 11, 2024

After we opened our last call for quantum-inspired flash fiction, writers around the world responded resoundingly. The 650 entries we received were the most in the competition’s history. Now, we are delighted to present the 10 finalists.

“It’s been an absolute thrill to read this year’s entries for Quantum Shorts,” said shortlisting judge Charles Woffinden at the University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS). “The quality has been extremely high, making the shortlisting process both terribly challenging and extremely enjoyable, but I suppose, ‘nobody said this was going to be easy!’”

“Nobody said this was going to be easy” is the phrase that we asked writers to incorporate in their entries for the competition. The phrase, originally from the last Quantum Shorts flash fiction winning entry “Helping Hands”, found its way into new worlds and plotlines in the hands of this year’s writers.

Author Michael Brooks noted the great diversity. “The stories were truly engaging: sometimes touching, sometimes funny, sometimes ingenious, sometimes just hilariously crazy!” he said. “I had great difficulty choosing my favourites, as all of them had something to offer a curious reader.” Meanwhile, Andrew Hanson, Outreach Manager at UK’s National Physical Laboratory, was impressed by the writers’ ability to “reframe the weird world of quantum particles within human scale and emotional levels”.

The shortlisted writers hail from Canada, Pakistan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. They have taken inspiration from quantum physics concepts, including the many-worlds interpretation and entanglement, to craft stories about family ties, Father Christmas, and fallible creators in not more than 1000 words.

The ten shortlisted stories in alphabetical order are:

  • A World in Threads – Acadia Reynolds tells a fantastical tale about red threads of probability, quantum realities and family ties.
  • Clare's Prism – Quantum messages come through from a daughter to her mother in this story by Dave Chua.
  • Degenerate Sanity – A quest to reverse an unprecedented consequence of interworld expeditions unfolds in Mahnoor Fatima’s story.
  • Entanglement – In this story by Kathryn Aldridge-Morris, quantum physics is a topic for connection as a mother deals with her daughter leaving home.
  • Quantum cake à la Solvay – Pippa Storey tells a tale in verse and rhyme, of quantum events and people through time.
  • Red Light, Blue Light – Written by Ioana Burtea, this is a story of entanglement, love and longing.
  • Root Consciousness – Tony Tsoi’s flash fiction of a biophysicist’s journey to reconnect with long-lost family.
  • Santa Claus and the Quantum Librarian – In this Christmas story by S.A. McNaughton, a child plans to observe Santa.
  • The Observer – Unobserved photons are leaking from a supposedly observed universe in Dan Goodman’s take on the observer effect.
  • Two Lives Stretched Out Before Them – In this story by Janel Comeau, the quantum computer decides if a couple’s relationship ends, or does it?


Congratulations to the shortlisted authors! They are already rewarded for their efforts. They have won a USD 100 shortlist award and a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American. They also win the chance for greater rewards as our judging panel decide the First Prize and Runner Up.

You can have your say in deciding the final prizes too. Voting for the People’s Choice prize is now open on the Quantum Shorts website and closes at 11:59 PM GMT on 29 March 2024.

Since we had so many excellent submissions this year, we would like to give an honorable mention to five more. These stories were favourites of some of the judges but did not quite make the shortlist. They are Qubit Superhighway by Liam Hogan, Play That Funky Music by Max Gallagher, The Experiment by Natasha Irving, Equestrian Physicist Needed ASAP by Lily Turaski, and Think of Your Left Foot by Cadence Mandybura.

“It is bittersweet to announce our final shortlist. Since the Centre for Quantum Technologies started Quantum Shorts in 2012, our scientific field has advanced tremendously, but science fiction is always a few steps, worlds or universes ahead. Thank you to all the writers and filmmakers who have shared their inventive takes with us,” said shortlisting judge Jenny Hogan, Associate Director, Outreach and Media, at the Centre for Quantum Technologies.


* Due to personal circumstances, David Hutchinson of the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies was not able to provide input on the shortlist.



Quantum Theories: A to Z

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G is for ...

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L is for ...

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K is for ...

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U is for ...

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A is for ...
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X is for ...

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I is for ...

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A is for ...

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Y is for ...
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M is for ...

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Z is for ...
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P is for ...

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K is for ...

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M is for ...

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G is for ...

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S is for ...
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T is for ...

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A is for ...
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S is for ...

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U is for ...
Uncertainty Principle

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N is for ...

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C is for ...

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R is for ...

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D is for ...

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I is for ...

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L is for ...
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E is for ...

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H is for ...
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Q is for ...
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B is for ...
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Q is for ...

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O is for ...
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S is for ...

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