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Quantum Shorts: Winners of the 2012 Competition


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We’re currently at Science Online 2013, dancing Gangnam Style and bonding with our fellow science bloggers in between sessions, so there’s not much time for our usual uber-long blog posts. Instead, we offer the winners from a short film competition sponsored by the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University in Singapore in partnership with New Scientist. Filmmakers were asked to submit three-minute videos inspired by fundamental concepts in quantum physics. According to the official website:

We sought videos no longer than three minutes that were inspired by quantum physics. We made this challenge: Does the idea of a quantum multiverse fill your head with stories? Can you picture a quantum superposition? We don’t want you to explain quantum physics to us: instead, show us something of how it makes you think about the world.

The judges included physicist Lisa Randall, New Scientist editor-in-chief Jeremy Webb, and Ben Bowie, executive producer of the Discovery Channel’s Emmy-nominated Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.

We love this idea, particularly since there is less emphasis on explication of the concepts. We’re fans of explication here at the cocktail party, of course, but it is also creatively interesting to go beyond explication and start to really have fun with these Big ideas. The potential payoff for doing so is readily apparent in the winning video, “Quantum Daughter,” in which the daughter of Ernst Rutherford travels across the multiverse (via her Really Smart Phone’s Parallel Universe App) trying to pick up enough “ID points” to renew her Quantum Computer Phone Contract. It’s clever, witty, and the animation is really striking.

“In any universe you will always be my daughter.”

There was a tie for second place. Judges liked “Alice in Quantumland” for the subtlety with which it incorporated quantum concepts into the traditional “girl-meets-boy-missed-connection-girl-finds-boy” scenario of a romantic comedy.

“Certain physical properties cannot be observed precisely at the same time.”

Then there is “Heisenberg,” featuring Alice and Babbette, both afflicted with a certain ennui, bitching about Heisenberg’s personal peccadilloes via a series of cheeky quantum in-jokes.

“Don’t even get me started about the measurement problem.”

But my personal favorite was also the runner-up in the People’s Choice category: “The Cat,” in which a Quantum Killer is terrorizing Amsterdam by targeting people who really don’t get this whole superposition thing. It’s bad news (and good news) for a young woman named Cat and her hapless boyfriend, Erwin. In one universe, at least, she survives.

“Beware — your ignorance could turn you into a killer.”

Jennifer Ouellette About the Author: Jennifer Ouellette is a science writer who loves to indulge her inner geek by finding quirky connections between physics, popular culture, and the world at large. Follow on Twitter @JenLucPiquant.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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