quantum shorts stills and logo

Stills from three quantum shorts (from top to bottom): “Under My Bed,” a horror-style take on quantum superposition; “LEGIO VIII QUANTAE: The quantum resurgence after the fall of Silicon Valley,” a sci-fi vision of quantum technology’s legacy; and “Knock Knock,” a comedic take on the threat of black holes. [Image: Quantum Shorts Film Festival]

On 15 June, the Glasgow Science Center, U.K., will present a screening of films from the annual Quantum Shorts Film Festival. The event will showcase 10 genre-spanning, quantum-physics-inspired movies—selected from 176 entries for their storyline, link to quantum physics, film quality and overall impression.

Hosting the screening, and moderating a subsequent Q&A with the audience, will be University of Glasgow professor of quantum technologies Daniele Faccio, who will field questions from the general public about the quantum concepts that inspired these films. Faccio talked with OPN about the adventurous project.

A “quantum film festival” sounds like an out-of-the-box idea. What inspired the project?

Quantum Shorts is an initiative of the Center for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University of Singapore, and has been running since 2012. The festival alternates annually between short films and flash fiction.

Quantum physics has long provided inspiration for science fiction, and when we at QuantIC—the U.K. Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging—heard that CQT was doing this, we got involved as a U.K. scientific partner. We got involved in 2016, and this year we’ve gotten a number of our partners in the U.K. National Quantum Technologies Program involved too.

What are the main goals this festival is trying to achieve?

In my opinion, it’s about finding different routes to engage with the public on a theme that can be difficult to approach or understand yet, but that at the same time is increasingly being featured in common language, movies and (we are being told) future consumer-market technology.

It’s an opportunity to properly engage in a discussion with the public, using the shorts as a starting point of an interactive Q&A session.

There seems to be a lot of diversity in the way the subject is treated in each short. How would you characterize the mix of styles?

Scatterings image

[Image: Courtesy of Daniele Faccio]

Quantum physics can inspire such an eclectic range of film styles, from animation to thrillers to more experimental films—this is what’s fascinating about Quantum Shorts. Some of them attempt a nearly documentary-style approach to the theme, but I personally prefer the more playful approach followed in some of the shorts.

For example, if you enjoy the horror genre, the short “Under My Bed” is a fun alternative to the monster-under-the-bed trope. We even had a superposition-inspired submission that was only 30 seconds long. (As part of the submission criteria, most of the films are 5 minutes or less.)

The diversity makes for interesting viewing and I’m looking forward to discussing with the audience whether they could spot the quantum inspiration of each film.

As host of this event, how do you balance the general public’s fascination with quantum with the struggle to understand it?

The most interesting aspect of this film festival is the opportunity to interact directly with the public—to answer their questions but to also ask them questions. Sometimes we get strange questions, but mostly it is about trying to understand what quantum superposition means: What is the whole problem with Schrodinger’s cat anyway? Can we teleport people? And so on.

But the point of the shorts themselves is that these are provoking questions about the contradictions that would occur if the quantum world had relevance in our everyday lives. This is the interesting aspect—seeing how the public reacts to the questions, doubts, and absurdities proposed by the shorts.