One last call for quantum-inspired flash fiction

October 24, 2023

Writers, gear up for our last chapter! Quantum Shorts returns with a final open call for flash fiction. The contest is free to enter and is accepting submissions until 8 January 2024.  

The challenge for writers is this: craft a story no longer than 1000 words that takes inspiration from quantum physics. The story must also incorporate the phrase “nobody said this was going to be easy”. 

The phrase comes from a quantum researcher in "Helping Hands", the last story to claim first prize in Quantum Shorts. In that story by Cora Valderas, the researcher was grappling with the unexpected outcomes of an experiment. Writers may empathise as they plot about the trials and tribulations of building quantum devices or the complexities and uncertainties that govern the quantum world.

Those who put the hard work in stand a chance to win prizes. On standby are a First Prize of USD 1500, a Runner Up prize of USD 1000 and a People’s Choice prize of USD 500. Up to ten shortlisted entries will also win a USD 100 shortlist prize and a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American.

“Humans love stories. That’s why we have supported Quantum Shorts for more than a decade. We were thrilled and surprised by all the ways writers got inspired by quantum physics in previous editions. Now we’re opening our final call, we hope to be amazed and astonished again,” says judge José Ignacio Latorre, Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University of Singapore.

Other distinguished judges will join him on the panel. Writers this year also need to impress physicist and popular science author Chad Orzel, science writer George Musser, author and editor Ingrid Jendrzejewski, speculative fiction writer Ken Liu, Senior Editor Leonardo Benini from Nature Physics, and writer and visual artist Tania De Rozario. 

Quantum Shorts is organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. We are grateful for the support of our returning international partners. Scientific American, the longest continuously published magazine in the U.S., and Nature, the international weekly journal of science, are media partners for the competition. Leading scientific institutions the Dodd-Walls Centre, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS), the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM), QuTech, and the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme are scientific partners of the competition. 

Enter your submissions to Quantum Shorts here. There are resources on quantum physics on our website and be sure to check the rules, too. The deadline for entries is 23:59 GMT, 8 January 2024.

 

Quantum Theories: A to Z

S is for ...
Sensors

Researchers are harnessing the intricacies of quantum mechanics to develop powerful quantum sensors. These sensors could open up a wide range of applications.

C is for ...
Clocks

The most precise clocks we have are atomic clocks which are powered by quantum mechanics. Besides keeping time, they can also let your smartphone know where you are.

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. This column from Quanta Magazine ​delves into the fundamental physics behind quantum computing.

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.

Q is for ...
Quantum States

Quantum states, which represent the state of affairs of a quantum system, change by a different set of rules than classical states.

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.

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.

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.

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.

E is for ...
Ethics

As the world makes more advances in quantum science and technologies, it is time to think about how it will impact lives and how society should respond. This mini-documentary by the Quantum Daily is a good starting point to think about these ethical issues. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qc7gpabEhQ&t=2s 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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 ...
Maths

Quantum physics is the study of nature at the very small. Mathematics is one language used to formalise or describe quantum phenomena.

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.

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.

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.

I is for ...
Interferometer

Some of the strangest characteristics of quantum theory can be demonstrated by firing a photon into an interferometer

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

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.

T is for ...
Time

The arrow of time is “irreversible”—time goes forward. On microscopic quantum scales, this seems less certain. A recent experiment shows that the forward pointing of the arrow of time remains a fundamental rule for quantum measurements.

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!

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!

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.

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.

U is for ...
Universe

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

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 ...
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.

S is for ...
Superposition

The feature of a quantum system whereby it exists in several separate quantum states at the same time.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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.

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!

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”.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

T is for ...
Time travel

Is time travel really possible? This article looks at what relativity and quantum mechanics has to say.

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