The finalists of the Quantum Shorts film festival are announced!
Quantum Shorts is an annual public engagement competition organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore and involving many scientific partners, including the UK’s own National Quantum Technologies Programme (via its outreach arm – Quantum City). The competition alternates each year between short films and flash fiction and this year, it’s all about the films!
After the Quantum Shorts film festival launched its call for entries in September 2022, filmmakers responded with 232 quantum-inspired films from 58 different countries – the most in the film festival’s history. The festival now presents its nine finalists.
The finalists hail from Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each film gives a different take on quantum physics in less than five minutes. Viewers will see dancers perform an interpretation of the observer effect, abstract audiovisual pieces probe space and time, and the many-worlds interpretation made into quantum comedy, among others.
"As a scientist, it was astonishing to see the range of interpretations of quantum physics: from entangled human feelings, over quantum as a form of destiny, to hypothetical future catastrophes,” says shortlisting judge Mariagrazia Iuliano at QuTech. “It is also impressive to experience how a rigid and strict physical model – which cannot be experienced in daily life – is brought to life in artistic movies.”
For making the shortlist, these entries win a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American and a USD 250 screening award. The finalists could be up for more honours. The First Prize and Runner Up of the festival will now be decided by Quantum Shorts’ eminent judges. You could have a say too. We invite you to cast your vote for the People’s Choice prize. Voting is now open on the Quantum Shorts website and closes at 11:59 PM GMT on 27 March 2023.
To enjoy the films, dive straight into them via the festival website at shorts.quantumlah.org, where you
can also find interviews with the filmmakers revealing behind-the-scenes stories.
In alphabetical order, the shortlisted films are:
- Boundary Of Time – Using old-school visual effects techniques, Director Kevin Lucero Less creates a metaphor for the arrow of time in this abstract short film
- Missed Call – A student grapples with his father’s health crisis at a distance in this short by Director Prasanna Sellathurai
- The Heart of the Matter – Filmmaker Betony Adams presents an atomistic take on the meaning of life while paying tribute to Louis de Broglie’s discovery of the wave nature of electrons
- The Human Game – Director Dani Alava portrays a dystopian future with quantum machines
- THE observer – An artistic take on the observer effect through screendance, a hybrid medium of cinematography and choreography, by Director Alma Llerena
- WHAT IS QUANTUM? – Using a combination of live action, green screen and stop-motion animation, Michael, Emmett and Maxwell Dorfman give their take on what quantum physics is.
- Clockwise – Inspired by Zeno’s Paradox and the recursive subdivision of space and time, Director Toni Mitjanit presents an experimental audiovisual piece of colour and tessellation
- Continuum – In this audiovisual film, the StoryBursts team, consisting of members from Australia and Singapore, give a creative response to research on gravitational waves by Dr Linqing Wen at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav)
- Many Excuses Interpretation – In this quantum comedy by Paul, Felix, Alfie, Petra and Ezra Ratner, two brothers argue over broken gadgets and the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics
Congratulations to the finalists!
Developing optical lattice clocks to test gravity theory
A new class of optical clocks are set to revolutionize timekeeping by offering a level of precision that significantly exceeds standard atomic clocks, say leading experts at the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, which is led by the University of Birmingham.
These new so-called optical lattice clocks can be used to test the limits of gravity to a high level of precision and also enable further study of the Earth’s geodesy, comment Dr Yeshpal Singh and Professor Kai Bongs in an article published in Nature.
In the article, Dr Singh and Professor Bongs discuss how Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which explains gravity as a “consequence of the curvature of space-time that is deformed by mass”, has been held as the “best theory of gravity we currently have” since it was published in 1915.
Dr Singh, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy and academic lead for quantum clocks at the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, said: “It has not yet been possible to unify the theory of relativity with quantum field theory, meaning that there is not yet a complete theory of nature”.
“For instance, dark energy and dark matter - subjects used to describe observations of an accelerating expansion of the Universe contradicting predictions from Einstein’s theory - remain unexplained.
“So how do we develop more precise tests of relativity? At the Quantum Technology Hub, my team and I are working closely with industry to develop portable, robust quantum clocks, which aim to give ultra-precise, ultra-accurate time to more than one billionth of a second.
“These clocks, along with the rest of the sensor technology in development at the Hub, are specifically being created to be robust and transportable, capable of performing in deployable conditions. Once developed, quantum clocks can be implemented in a number of sectors, such as in finance, navigation, and even space.”
Optical Lattice clocks were first proposed by Professor Hidetoshi Katori at the University of Tokyo in the early 2000s. They store atoms tight enough to remove unwanted Doppler frequency shifts, hence allowing long interrogation times, and not interfering with the frequency of the clock transition.
The clocks will also present an opportunity to test general relativity and geodesy. This will be done by placing clocks at differing heights to determine the geoid height via a frequency comparison between the clocks, providing competition with the best geophysical approaches.
One example is the recent breakthrough by Professor Katori and his team, when two portable, robust optical clocks were created, with precision surpassing many of the best clocks available in the world. A six-month long measurement campaign was undertaken to achieve results comparable with the “best space tests of general relativity, and open[ing] up fascinating new applications on Earth using such clocks”.
Professor Katori and his team’s impressive achievement, and the potential of optical lattice clock projects all over the world, paves the way for exciting industrial collaboration with researchers at the Quantum Technology Hub to revolutionise oil and mineral exploration, ultra-precise satellite navigation systems and performing time synchronization for quantum communication networks.
This article was originally posted on the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing website.
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Could quantum uncertainty provide the ultimate defence against cybercrime?
Data and communications security are absolutely essential today - for individuals, institutions, businesses, governments and nations. Current secure communications systems have vulnerabilities, some already exposed today and others that may become apparent in the future as computing power and hacking techniques improve. Secure communications based on quantum physics can eliminate some of these vulnerabilities, providing systems whose security is underpinned by the laws of nature. The basic features of quantum physics that enable secure communications are that information encoded in a quantum system cannot be copied; and that information encoded in a quantum system is irreversibly changed when somebody reads it, so that no hacking goes undetected.
Researchers in the UK Quantum Communications Hub are developing such quantum secure communications technologies (for example, quantum key distribution – QKD) for a range of applications and users: from government agencies and industry to commercial establishments and all of us at home. In particular, we are trying to miniaturise quantum systems to make them cheaper to produce and purchase, and easier to incorporate on mobile phones and home computers through quantum chips. We are working towards quantum secured banking apps and ATM facilities to counteract online fraud. And we are building a UK Quantum Network to help incorporate quantum security into the conventional telecommunications infrastructure.
Could quantum physics hold the (secret) key to defeating hackers?
Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a currently available technology for the secure distribution of secret keys, used for data encryption. Quantum physics dictates that at the scale of individual particles (for example, photons - particles of light), their quantum properties cannot be measured without being unavoidably and irrevocably disturbed from their original state. This means that no interceptor (or “hacker”) can eavesdrop on quantum secured transmissions, or attempt to copy them, without their presence becoming known to the communicating parties. This disturbance is due to a principle known as quantum uncertainty and it is a fundamental feature of quantum physics. It underpins all current work in the field of quantum communications.
The two communicating parties use transmitted information to distil random data (or “keys”) that only they know. QKD systems generate such shared secret keys, which can then be used for data encryption and other applications. The key generation, distribution and replenishment is underpinned by quantum uncertainty, thus offering to any two communicating parties security based on the laws of quantum physics.
Although proven to work, currently QKD systems are bulky, costly to manufacture and have some limitations. We are working towards overcoming these, enabling widespread use and adoption.