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.
What if checking for monsters under your bed doomed a parallel you to a grisly end? A story that explores this fear of a girl aged six and three quarter years has won the 2015 Quantum Shorts international competition for flash fiction inspired by quantum physics.
“Ana” by Liam Hogan was selected by a panel of international judges for first prize in the online contest’s Open Category. It is one of four stories to win awards from over 400 entries.
“The ability to convey a childlike approach to the multiverse made for a compelling read,” said judge Colin Sullivan, editor of the science fiction page of Nature. Ana was also a favourite of Artur Ekert, Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, who said it was “clever with a nice twist” and “thought provoking about moral responsibility across the multiverse”.
The winner receives a cash prize, a one year-digital subscription to Scientific American, a trophy, certificate and a print of the original artwork commissioned to illustrate the story.
Runner up in the Open Category is “Don’t Die Before You’re Dead, Sally Wu” by Andrew Neil Gray, a cosmic struggle for survival imagined through mailing list chatter. Judge Mariette Di Christina, Editor in Chief of Scientific American, “appreciated the wry humor”. Author Mark Alpert said “the end is strangely moving”.
The People’s Choice award, decided by public vote on the 20 stories shortlisted across the Open and Youth categories, goes to “The Qubits of College Acceptance” by Lily Turaski. This story of a student waiting to learn if they’ve been offered college places also impressed the Youth Category judges. “It's a nifty sketch of a scene, with a good character voice,” said physicist and author Chad Orzel.
Taking top prize in the Youth Category is “Unrequited Signals” by Tara Abrishami, in which two scientists open a new channel of communication. Author and judge Tania Hershman called it “a lovely story of love and possibilities, against the backdrop of technology and parallel universes, told with a light touch”.
Artist Michael Manomivibul created original illustrations for each of these stories - including the one shown above for Unrequited Signals.
The stories behind the stories...
Are you curious to know more about these prize-winning quantum shorts and who wrote them? Get the backstory from these interviews with the authors and the artist:
Liam Hogan, author of "Ana"
Andrew Neil Gray, author of "Don't Die Before You're Dead, Sally Wu"
Lily Turaski, author of "The Qubits of College Acceptance"
Tara Abrishami, author of "Unrequited Signals"
Michael Manomivibul, creator of the artwork
Finally, we end with a big thank you to everyone who entered and voted in the contest, to our judging panels and to our media partners and scientific partners for helping make Quantum Shorts 2015 a success.