Shortlist explores life and our universe

January 26, 2021

From films that made them “laugh out loud” to those that were “painfully touching”, from the “slightly absurd” to the “brilliantly unexpected”, judges for the Quantum Shorts film festival have picked ten finalists and commended the diversity of entries.

The ten shortlisted films were chosen from 224 films received from 52 different countries during the festival’s call for entries in 2020. The task for filmmakers was to tell a quantum story in no more than five minutes of film. Filmmakers tackled the challenge in many thought-provoking ways.

“There was such a variety of entries, each with their own unique twist on quantum, it was a joy to watch them all,” said shortlisting judge Ruth Hardy at the UK Quantum Communications Hub.

The finalists are made in styles including live action, puppeteering and animation, across a range of genres. You can watch a comedic take on quantum superposition, immerse yourself in a suspenseful game of hide-and-seek, and solve a crime with quantum clues.

Among these creative takes on quantum physics, many of the films tell a human story. Joshua Slater at QuTech said, “I loved watching the films that explored the human side; how people act in a world where the weirdness of quantum physics is manifest around us,” he said. “Whether it is children, or beguiling young adults, or a future society, I can feel the imagination of those films opening up my own.”

Want to open up your imagination, too? Now you can judge the films for yourselves. We invite you to watch the Quantum Shorts finalists and vote for your favourite. There is an online public vote to decide the People’s Choice Prize open until 28 February.

Meanwhile, our eminent judges will decide the festival’s First Prize and Runner Up to be announced in March. This chance at even greater honours comes on top of the prizes the finalists have already won. For making the shortlist, the ten finalists from Australia, the Czech Republic, Chile, India, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States have won a $250 prize and a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American.

Congratulations to the finalists! You can watch the trailer first, and then enjoy the films one by one. You can also read interviews with the films’ creators on the Quantum Shorts website for behind the scenes stories.

In alphabetical order, the shortlisted films are:

  • Buddy Interference – Working with plushies, filmmaker Trixie Villareal presents this sweet encouragement to keep alive our spirit of discovery.
  • Everett Syndrome – An emotive tale that turns the simple, familiar game of hide-and-seek on its head by Director Javier García.
  • Gods – Director Sitoh Ortega presents the last message of a civilisation which has deciphered the secrets of quantum physics but face an existential threat.
  • Leo’s Uncertainty – A dark cinematic take on quantum phenomena by Paulina Hevia and Gabriel Kauer.
  • Man In A Box – Made by Akash Meel, this short film uses the lens of everyday life to make us question our perceived reality.
  • Quantum SuperImposition – Quantum physics and sibling rivalry intersect in this alternate reality comedy by Paul, Felix, Petra and Alfie Ratner.
  • Quing Solomon – Through puppeteering, Director Réka Deák translates the story of Solomon’s judgement into the quantum world.
  • Schrödinger Holmes and the Quantum Crimewave – This animation by filmmaker Chris Willoughby adds the quantum behaviour of particles into the clues that Schrodinger Holmes examines.
  • Vacation – In this short by Director Jack Davies, a female inventor sends a man through space and time with unplanned results.
  • We are all on the same bus – Dancing on a bus makes a metaphor for the arrow of time in this film by filmmaker Nuno Serrão.

At shorts.quantumlah.org, you can also look out for news of upcoming events. We will be holding online panels and some live screenings. One live screening is happening at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, in February. Visit the events page on the Quantum Shorts website for more details and links to register.

Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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”.

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!

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

I is for ...
Interferometer

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

T is for ...
Time

The arrow of time is “irreversible”—time goes forward. This doesn’t seem to follow the laws of physics which work the same going forward or backward in time. Some physicists argue that there is a more fundamental quantum source for the arrow of time.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Copyright © 2021 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.