If you want to understand quantum theory at a gut level, then look no further. For the past seven years the Quantum Shorts initiative from the Center for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore elicited submissions from artists and writers from around the world. The challenge: Create a five-minute film or short story that explores quantum mechanics (the contest alternates between film and writing each year).
I had the opportunity to judge the Quantum Shorts film competition this year, watching plenty of films that explored quantum concepts. Some were whimsical and others were deep, but all of them were thought-provoking. You can see the 2018 short-listed films on the Quantum Shorts web site.
For 2018 the contest focused on film and drew more than 170 entries, with 10 finalists selected. Now, in partnership with Scientific American and Nature (as well as with several scientific institutions), Quantum Shorts 2018 revealed this year’s first- and second-place winners as selected by a six-member panel of expert judges as well as a “People’s Choice” winner selected via public online polling.
Each winning team gets a cash award ($1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second, and $500 for People’s Choice) a trophy and a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American, which is awarded to all finalists.
I loved the winning film, Slide! Thomas Tay Li Guo’s thriller about a parallel universe–hopping psychopath is so good I’d like to see a longer film. I won’t spoil the ending, but it will make you wonder: How do you know the difference between This You and That You? How many versions of You could there be? It is possible that in a parallel universe, I actually will spoil the ending for you?
The runner up, If the World Spinned Backwards by Leonardo Martinelli and Arthur Valverde, imagines how different our lives would be if time were no longer a straight arrow always moving forward.
The People’s Choice award, decided by online public vote on the 10 shortlisted films, goes to Legio VIII Quantae, about “the quantum resurgence after the fall of Silicon Valley.” This faux documentary was filmed in the Spanish town of León by PhD student Andrea Rodríguez Blanco with friends and family. It imagines a new quantum based technological future.
LEGIO VIII QUANTAE. "The quantum resurgence after the fall of Silicon Valley" from Quantum Shorts on Vimeo.
The next call for Quantum Shorts entries will occur later this year. Continuing its annual alternation between film and flash fiction, 2019’s contest will be for short stories. Announcements will be available via the Quantum Shorts Twitter account and Facebook page.