We have 10 finalists

May 04, 2020

The Quantum Shorts 2019 flash fiction competition has its ten finalists! We are thrilled to announce the shortlisted entries from the hundreds of stories that came from writers all around the world.

The quantum short stories are no longer than 1000 words and contain the phrase “things used to be so simple”. The shortlist contains ten stories, chosen from 647 total submissions – an unprecedented number of entries. Our appreciation goes out to all the writers who participated so enthusiastically.

The shortlisting judges, drawn from the competition’s scientific partners, had high praise for the stories this year. John Donohue at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Canada, found them “occasionally terrifying, occasionally beautiful, and always evocative”, while Georgia Mortzou at the UK Quantum Communications Hub found “the standard very high, the concepts original”. Spiros Michalakis, a quantum physicist and outreach manager at the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech called the stories “fantastic” and “scientifically nuanced”.

The ten shortlisted stories are, in alphabetical order:

  • (Tunnels)x – In this intriguing tale by Gunnar De Winter, quantum tunnelling might help us escape our ultimate fate.
  • Collateral Damage – Simulations of war take a more terrifying turn in Lewis Freer’s story about unintended consequences of technology.
  • Connection Lost – Anjelica Grey explores the complexities of love and loss in her take on many-worlds and quantum entanglement.
  • Does a Particle Collider Have a Heart? – This is a tale of how that which we care for might come to care for us by Emma Marcos.
  • Entangled Servitude – Tom Middlebrook’s story is a witty take on quantum entanglement.
  • Entanglement – In this love story by Annie Tupek, matchmaking gets a quantum spin.
  • Fine Print – C R Long's short story about alternate dimensions magnifies the importance of reading the small print in your contract.
  • Shinichi’s Tricycle – Ariadne Blayde subtly pulls disparate characters together in a story of possibilities.
  • Special Exhibition – Step into history with an exhibition on a quantum-inspired interstellar pandemic, curated by Griffin Ayaz Tyree.
  • The Collapse – Meg Sipos has an edgy take on alternate realities and multiple selves.

Congratulations to the shortlisted writers! They have won a USD $100 shortlist award and a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American – as well as the chance to win even more awards as their stories head into the final judging.

Have a favourite story? You can help one of the shortlisted authors get more reward for their stories. We invite you to take part and pick your favourite short story for the People’s Choice Prize. Voting is open from now till 11:59 PM GMT on Monday, 18 May 2020.

You might find picking your favourite a difficult task. The shortlisting panel certainly did. Tara Roberson at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems said, “I was delighted with the entries for Quantum Shorts this year. It seems as though the calibre of stories is continuing to improve and it was a challenge to shortlist my favourite entries from the stories submitted.”

We would also like to give an honourable mention to five stories. These stories were among the favourites of some of the judges but did not make the shortlist. They are A Quantum Tale by Jerome Edward Malenfant; Entangled by Medardo M Manrique Jr; External Memo SPTI672 by Krati Shukla; It takes two to entangle by D. A. Quiñones and The Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics’ Charges by Lee Paul Melling.

We’ll give the final word about the stories this year to Andrew Hanson at the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL): “They were a very welcome escape from a world that has suddenly become very sci-fi. It was warming how the authors used abstract, odd, perhaps even obscure building blocks to make something beautiful, coherent, witty and relevant.”

We thank all authors for their participation and wish the shortlisted authors all the best as their stories head into the final judging.

 

 

* Due to the Covid-19 situation, the shortlist was compiled without the input of David Hutchinson of the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies. We seek your kind understanding.

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.

I is for ...
Information

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

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.

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.

U is for ...
Universe

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

K is for ...
Kaon

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

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.

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”.

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.

G is for ...
Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

A is for ...
Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ...
Randomness

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

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.

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 ...
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!

I is for ...
Interferometer

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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 ...
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 ...
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 ...
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.

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.

Copyright © 2020 Centre for Quantum Technologies. All rights reserved.