Exploding stars and a quantum love triangle

March 31, 2017
We hope you’ve watched and enjoyed our ten Quantum Shorts finalists. For the filmmakers, the wait is over: the judges have deliberated on how to award our top prizes and over 1,000 of you have voted to decide the People’s Choice prize.
 
“I was impressed by the wide range of approaches taken by the participants,” said judge Professor Brian Greene, author, physicist at Columbia University, New York, and co-founder of the World Science Festival.
 
Alex Winter, filmmaker and writer  – and another of the judges – said, “It was great to see so many varied approaches to quantum, in terms of narrative form, cinematic style and humor. All of the shorts had a lot to offer!”
 
After collating the inputs from the six final judges, we are proud to award the top prize to Novae. Its creator, Thomas Vanz, is a filmmaker based in Paris. 
 
Novae shows what happens when a giant star explodes, moving through the phase of “supernova” to the formation of a black hole. Understanding these processes is widely considered essential to creating a much-needed theory of “quantum gravity” that fills in the blanks left by relativity and quantum physics. In an interview for Quantum Shorts, Vanz said: “It is one of the most comprehensive events of the universe.” 
 
Remarkably, Vanz created the film using shots of ink in an aquarium set up in his garage. Judge Honor Harger, Executive Director at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, praised this film’s “ravishing visuals and stunning sound.” Novae, she said, “creates the feeling of moving inside a star and experiencing matter from within.”
 

FIRST PRIZE

Novae by Thomas Vanz

 
 
“To experience the feeling of winning a festival for the first time, it’s kind of breathtaking. I really didn't know when I made this movie in my garden's hut that it could go so far," said Vanz.
 
The second prize-winning film is The Guardian, by Dr Chetan V. Kotabage, Assistant Professor in Physics at the KLS Gogte Institute of Technology in Karnataka, India. This film is both the judges’ Runner Up and the People’s Choice prize-winner. 
 
The Guardian tells of a love triangle between young people - electron, wave and particle – and its dramatic consequences. The film’s narrative and staging bring to life some of the central concepts of quantum physics. “I love that it is looking at quantum physics through a cultural lens,” said Eliene Augenbraun, Multimedia Managing Editor for Nature Research Group, who chose this film as her favourite. 
 

PEOPLE'S CHOICE & RUNNER UP

The Guardian by Dr Chetan V. Kotabage

 
The diversity of the Quantum Shorts finalists and the wide perspective of our expert judges – coming from the fields of physics, film and art – meant that competition for the prizes was fierce. Other films that earn honourable mention for being first choice on at least one judge’s list are Approaching Reality, Together – Parallel Universe, and Bolero
 
The judges noted the high standard of entries overall. “I was really impressed by the quality of the filmmaking and the ideas,” says Charlotte Stoddart, Nature’s Chief Multimedia Editor. 
 
The Quantum Shorts festival is organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. "We run the Quantum Shorts film festival to share the creativity and big ideas of quantum physics through the creativity and vision of filmmakers,” says Artur Ekert, the Centre’s Director. “The filmmakers who participated, along with the festival's media partners, scientific partners and screening partners, have helped us inspire audiences around the world, and we’re hugely grateful for their efforts.” 
 
Quantum Shorts will return later this year. Continuing its alternation between short films and flash fiction, the call this year will be for short stories. Announcements will be available via the Quantum Shorts Twitter account and Facebook page.
 

Quantum Theories: A to Z

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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.

K is for ...
Key

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

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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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!

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 ...
Randomness

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

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.

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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