Quantum Themes

Don’t know where to start? In case you are finding the quantum world dauntingly vast, we’ve suggested some themes you can consider for your story. You don’t have to use any of them, but we hope they may spark a few ideas.

Quantum spookiness

If you were a particle in the quantum realm, you would experience many strange things. Read up on entanglement, superposition and uncertainty in our A to Z. Could one of these effects play a role in your story, imagined at a human scale? Try reading the novel Einstein’s Dreams by physicist Alan Lightman for an example of physics translated beautifully into story. Lightman presents a collection of stories that explore different, exaggerated concepts of time and their effects. The stories are imagined to be dreams that Einstein had while he was working out his space-and-time bending theory of relativity.

Quantum interpretations

What can we make of these weird quantum effects? Even physicists can’t agree. Is there a multiverse? Do things not exist before we look at them?  Take inspiration from some of the different foundational interpretations of quantum physics for your story. The multiverse in particular has long been a popular theme in science fiction. We recommend Diaspora by Greg Egan, and Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series, for starters. We’ll sidestep discussion of whether these books are inspired by the idea of multiverses that arises from string theory or the ‘many worlds’ idea that emerges from quantum theory -- after all, some in the scientific community have speculated they are the same thing.

Quantum technology

Feature some of the amazing technologies quantum physics has enabled (or could produce) in your story. Remember quantum physics has let us build things like lasers, as well as promising exotic technologies for speedy quantum computation and secret communication using quantum cryptography. In the film that won last year’s Quantum Shorts competition, “Quantum Daughter” one of the star characters was a quantum computer phone that looked like a banana.

Quantum history

You might draw on ideas from the sometimes turbulent history of research in quantum physics to start your story. Author Louisa Gilder took a comprehensive approach to doing this when she wrote “The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn” as a dramatised account of the history of quantum research. The novel’s dialogue is based on quotes sourced from (and referenced to) a huge range of documents. There’s also the acclaimed play “Copenhagen” by Michael Frayn, which presents a debate between two of the fathers of quantum physics, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Here is an interesting essay about the physics in the drama: web.gc.cuny.edu/sciart/copenhagen/marburger.htm

If you try taking a historical approach, please include a note in the bio section of the entry form commenting on what in your story is fact and what is fiction.

Quantum lab-lit

Make one of your characters a quantum physicist or set the story in a quantum lab. As simple as that. Mind, you need to include a bit more science than just call your protagonist a physicist for your story to count as inspired by quantum physics. As research, you might want to read some interviews with CQT’s quantum scientists or take a virtual tour of the Centre’s labs. Some good examples of lab lit can be found at lablit.com/the_list. This site also offers a helpful definition of the genre: “Please note that 'lab lit' is not 'science fiction’; briefly, lab lit fiction depicts realistic scientists as central characters and portrays fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts, typically taking place in a realistic – as opposed to speculative or future – world.”