Mini Competitions

There were four mini-contests during Quantum Shorts 2015. They're all finished now, but you can still enjoy the entries...


Spooky action that isn't

For our final mini-competition, we asked: can you do better than Einstein? In the 1930s he described entanglement as “spooky action at a distance” but experiments since have proven entanglement involves no action. As we understand it now, entanglement is not spooky, but it is telling us something deep about the universe. 

When two particles are entangled their properties are defined only relative to each other. If you have two atoms with spins, for example, you could say their spins point in opposite directions but not know which way. This gets weird if you separate the atoms, then measure the direction of one. You instantly know where the other one is pointing too. Does the second atom feel some nonlocal ‘spooky action’?

In 2015, a trio of experiments have closed the loop-holes in experiments testing that entanglement is instant – there can be no propagating action from one particle to the other – and that there’s no way the particles’ properties were predetermined. So where does that leave us?

“Nonlocal phenomena leap out of space; they have no place in its confines. They hint at a level of reality deeper than space, where the concept of distance ceases to apply, where things that appear to lie far apart are actually nearby, or perhaps are the same thing manifested in more than one place,” writes author George Musser in his book Spooky Action at a Distance. Musser was the guest judge for this contest. Read more in this extract from his book republished by Gizmodo.

Since calling entanglement spooky action at a distance is not doing it justice, how can we describe it instead? We asked you to coin a better phrase. Thanks for all the great suggestions! Musser picked this one as his favourite:

Congratulations to Twitter user @kapiltelang who wins a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American and a copy of Spooky Action at a Distance. Find out what Musser liked about the phrase "mutual existence" here and find more entries he liked here.


Tweet back in time

Sir Isaac Newton died almost 300 years ago, meaning he’s missed out on a lot of physics discoveries since he wrote Principia Mathematica. Our most recent mini-contest from the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech asked you to compose a tweet telling him about quantum physics. We’ve picked out a winner:

Newton’s ideas about gravity were supposedly sparked by a falling apple. Hassan wins a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American for introducing the unfamiliar concept of quantum entanglement with the help of this familiar fruit. Congratulations Hassan, and thanks to everyone who entered! We enjoyed your ideas for what to tweet back in time. We’ve collected a few more of our favourites here.


Quantum haiku

For the second Quantum Shorts mini-contest of the season, our scientific partner EQuS, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, hosted a week-long competition for haiku that describe the wonder of quantum physics. The competition closed on 23 October. Their favourite from the more than 100 entries was this piece, by Igor Teper in the US:

I'm in two places at once.
You are in neither.

Congratulations to Igor, who wins a one-year digital subscription to Scientific American! EQuS also selected five other entries as highly commended. Read them here.


A Halloween-inspired mini-contest

Our first mini-competition was brought to you by contest partner the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo. They were feeling October's Halloween vibe and challenged you to tweet a quantum-themed thriller title with the hashtag #quantumshorts. Read on for the results...

Come back soon

We'll be running a few more minicompetitions while the main competition is happening. They will be quick and easy to enter. Check back here for details, or sign up to our newsletter.