We're proud to report that our Quantum Shorts 2013 competition for quantum-inspired flash fiction, with media partners Scientific American, Tor and Tor.com, attracted more than 500 entries. The entrants took inspiration from quantum physics in many weird and wonderful ways, and we had a difficult task to whittle them down to three shortlists.
There are ten stories shortlisted for the Open International category and five in each of the student categories, Student International and Student Singapore. You can read all the shortlisted stories here: shorts.quantumlah.org/shortlisted-stories.
The competition has panels of distinguished judges to decide a winner and runner up in each category. We've also opened a poll for people to vote for their favourite from the Open International category, running until 10 January. This will decide the winner of the People's Choice award.
Here's our rundown of the shortlisted stories for the Open International prize, in alphabetical order.
Meow. I really need out now
An engaging piece of lab-lit where two graduate students try taking Schrödinger's famous thought experiment about quantum superposition to a new level. The project doesn't impress the cat's owner - who just happens to be their boss.
The casino lights are as relentless as a headache, but God lingers anyway. These days, he can barely remember what it felt like to be lucky…
This play on Einstein's famous notion about a deity playing dice with the universe is notable for its atmospheric style and wry humour.
If Anna and Henry can make it through their 720-hour entanglement, their relationship can withstand anything
Many of the entries used the quantum mechanical notion of entanglement - which describes a hidden "spooky" link that can arise between particles – as inspiration for stories about relationships. Not only is this tale extra special because it is beautifully written; it is also a thoughtful take on how we might use quantum technology.
A radioactive atom seeks answers to life's fundamental questions
Here's a story written from the point of view of a rather introspective radioactive isotope. It's a charming take on the properties of the subatomic world, with a surprisingly engaging and uplifting narration, packed with personality and not a little philosophy.
When your father contracts wave particle duality, you know things are going to get messy…
Here, the author imagines how things might be if we humans were subject to the same phenomena we see at work in the subatomic world. It's a strangely touching story, illustrating some of our fragilities.
Rider Quinn has set up the ultimate physics stunt, and Q-Day is almost here
An energetic and ultimately touching tale that buzzes with ideas about the multiverse and the disparate realities this interpretation of quantum theory creates.
If you wait a while and stare, the light will tell you what to do…
Quantum theory teaches us that the world is ultimately random, but in this thought-provoking story the author imagines what it would be like to be employed to control that apparent randomness, making uninformed decisions that could change the lives of people you'll never encounter.
Gravity Girl is up to her usual tricks – can Quantum Man and his trusty feline sidekick save the day?
Pushing the Schrödinger's Cat paradox to somewhere it's never been, the author pits his hero – whose superpowers are somewhat limited, it has to be said – against a powerful adversary. A hugely entertaining take on the superhero genre. Who says gravity is the weakest force?
Commuting is easy. Connecting? Much harder…
We had many stories about connections between people, but this one stood out. It's a moving tale – literally and metaphorically – as a commuter thinks about reaching out to someone who shares the same daily train journey.
Will he jump? Quanting requires a steady mind when the network, the viewers and the agents are all crying out for you to outdo yourself
Reality TV will never excite you again once you've encountered this idea. Contestants simply have to put themselves in life or death – or rather life and death - situations. Whether they live or die depends on how the audience's attention collapses the quantum mechanical superposition. It's clever, original and compelling.