Shortlisted Stories

The Quantum Shorts competition received over 500 entries! Picking a shortlist was always going to be tough, but our job was made even harder by there being so many brilliant stories to choose from.  We were variously moved, amused, enthralled, shocked, inspired and informed by the writing that came our way.  The stories took inspiration from quantum physics in some surprising ways.
 
We’ve got some great stories in our shortlists (we had to leave out some great ones too). You can find our ten picks from the international category and five picks for each of the student categories in the tabs below. Don’t forget that while our judges do their deliberating, you can also vote for your favourite from the international shortlist!
 
Please note that you must cast your vote through the poll at the bottom of this page for it to count towards deciding the People's Choice prize. The poll only allows you to pick one story. You are welcome to assign star ratings too, to as many stories as you like, but these ratings are not considered in the prize-awarding process
 

By Brian Crawford
October 22, 2013
4.61607
Rider Quinn has set up the ultimate physics stunt, and Q-Day is almost here
By Betony Adams
November 12, 2013
4.037035
The casino lights are as relentless as a headache, but God lingers anyway. These days, he can...
By Kenton K. Yee
November 30, 2013
4.29412
When your father contracts wave particle duality, you know things are going to get messy...
By Andrew J. Manera
November 16, 2013
3.833335
If you just wait a while and stare, the light will tell you what to do...
By Charles Dittell
September 6, 2013
3.72222
A radioactive atom seeks answers to life's fundamental questions
By Clifton Rumsey
December 2, 2013
4.22222
Gravity Girl is up to her usual tricks - can Quantum Man and his trusty feline sidekick save the...
By Yuen Xiang Hao
November 30, 2013
4.42742
Commuting is easy. Connecting? Much harder...
By Rebecca Montange
December 1, 2013
2.8
Meow. I really need out now
By Vina Jie-Min Prasad
December 1, 2013
3.9375
If Anna and Henry can make it through their 720-hour entanglement, their relationship can withstand...
By Tim Usdam
December 2, 2013
4.37931
Will he jump? Quanting requires a steady mind when the network, the viewers and the agents are all...
By Claire Cheong U-Er
December 1, 2013
4.210525
Linden has a different way of seeing things...
By Aaron Rosario Jeyaraj
November 29, 2013
4.375
And so, I stepped into the machine, and it closed around me...
By Daniel Eu
December 2, 2013
4.275
Over 6 million QubitCoins have gone missing from the Southeast Asian Online Bank. CEO John Wong...
By Nguyen Hoang Minh Khang
November 27, 2013
4.296295
With his wife in a seven-month coma, Tom has a difficult choice to make
By Loo Wei Juan
November 24, 2013
4.4
With every choice made comes a dozen others unmade...
By Antonia Jade
December 1, 2013
3.625
Gran died on a Wednesday, but lucky for us she was back within a week
By Rebecca Baron
November 30, 2013
3.8
It wasn't that Juana wanted her experiment to fail. She just wanted to have a soul
By Shadab Hafiz Choudhury
November 15, 2013
4.142855
Sitting on a cliff edge, two figures are watching the world's end
By Jordan Yates
November 22, 2013
4.4375
It happened every time Michael's birthday came around...
By Joseph Miles
September 20, 2013
3.75
Raff thinks he will destroy the tattered volume in his hands. The book knows better...

Cast your vote here!

Once you've read the shortlisted stories in our open international category, please vote for your favourite! The votes will determine which story wins the People's Choice prize. You are only allowed to vote for one story, once. You're welcome to give the stories star ratings as well, but note that these don't count towards the prize decision.

Meanwhile our judges are reading the stories too, and they'll be picking a winner and runner up. Wonder if they'll pick your favourite....? We'll be announcing the winners in late January. Sign up to our newsletter to be sure not to miss the results.

 

Thank you for participating. The poll is now closed.

Newsletter Signup

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

Quantum Theories

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!

A is for ... Act of observation

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

R is for ... Randomness

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

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.

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.

U is for ... Universe

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

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.

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.

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.

I is for ... Information

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

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.

G is for ... Gluon

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.