Open International

This judging panel will select the winner and runner-up in the open international category.

Mark Alpert

Mark is the author of three novels: Final Theory, The Omega Theory, and Extinction. He is also a contributing editor at Scientific American. In his long journalism career, he has specialized in explaining scientific ideas to readers, simplifying esoteric concepts such as extra dimensions and parallel universes. And now, in his novels, Mark weaves cutting-edge science into high-energy thrillers that elucidate real theories and technologies.

Mariette DiChristina

Mariette oversees Scientific American,, Scientific American Mind and all newsstand special editions. She is the eighth person and first female to assume the top post in Scientific American's 168-year history. Under her leadership, the magazine received a 2011 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. A science journalist for more than 20 years, she first came to Scientific American in 2001 as its executive editor. She was named an AAAS Fellow in 2011. She was also the president (in 2009 and 2010) of the 2,500-member National Association of Science Writers. She is a visiting scholar in the graduate Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program at New York University.

Artur Ekert

Artur is the Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies and Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professor at the National University of Singapore. He is also a Professor of Quantum Physics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, UK. His main research interest is information processing in quantum systems. Artur is a co-inventor of quantum cryptography, which uses the fundamental laws of physics to guarantee perfectly secure communication. He has worked, communicated with and advised several companies and government agencies. He is a recipient of several awards, including the 1995 Maxwell Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics and the 2007 Royal Society Hughes Medal. In his non-academic life he is an avid scuba diver.

Paweł Frelik

Paweł teaches in the Department of American Literature and Culture at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland. His research interests include science fiction and its visualities, unpopular culture, and trans-media storytelling. He is also the editor of the European Journal of American Studies, an editorial consultant for Science Fiction Studies and Extrapolation, and a member of the editorial board of Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds. In 2013-2014 he serves as President of the Science Fiction Research Association, the largest and the oldest professional organization in the field of science fiction studies.

Tania Hershman

Tania is writer-in-residence in the Science Faculty at the UK's Bristol University. She is editor of The Short Review, the online journal spotlighting short story collections and their authors, and has written two collections of stories: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), a collection of 56 very short fictions, and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008), which was commended in the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers. Tania’s writing has featured in many outlets, including New Scientist, Wired and on BBC Radio. She  regularly gives workshops on short stories, flash fiction and science-inspired fiction.

Jason Erik Lundberg

Jason is the author of several books of the fantastic — including Strange Mammals (2013), The Alchemy of Happiness (2012), Red Dot Irreal (2011), and The Time Traveler's Son (2008) — in addition to the Bo Bo and Cha Cha children's picture book series and more than a hundred short stories, articles, and book reviews. He is also the founding editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, series editor for Best New Singaporean Short Stories, editor of Fish Eats Lion (2012), and co-editor of A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (2008) and Scattered, Covered, Smothered (2004). A graduate of the prestigious Clarion Writers Workshop, Lundberg holds a degree in creative writing from North Carolina State University and currently lives in Singapore.

Lisa Randall

Lisa is a world-renowned professor of theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University. Her studies have made her among the most cited and influential theoretical physicists, but she also has a strong public presence through lectures, TV appearances and her bestselling books Warped Passages and Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Lisa is well-known for making connections between art and science, including writing a libretto for a science-based opera that premiered in the Pompidou Center in Paris. Her latest book is Higgs Discovery. Photo: Christopher

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Patrick Nielsen Hayden is the manager of the SF and fantasy line at Tor Books. He has worked with dozens of the field's leading authors, ranging from Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, and Damon Knight, to Jo Walton, Cory Doctorow, and Hannu Rajaniemi. He has edited several anthologies of short fiction, including the World Fantasy Award-winning Starlight series. He has won two Hugo Awards for his editorial work.

John Scalzi

John Scalzi is the bestselling author of Old Man's War and its several sequels. His 2012 novel Redshirts was a New York Times bestseller and won the Locus Award for Best SF Novel. His latest novel The Human Division (May 2013) is a return to the world of Old Man's War. He lives in Ohio, where he maintains his popular blog The Whatever

Newsletter Signup

Submit your email address so we can send you occasional competition updates and tell you who wins!

Quantum Theories

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A is for ... Act of observation

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

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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 ... 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.

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.