Public Engagement

Cameras that can make the invisible visible, sensors that can detect changes in the Earth’s magnetic fields and ion traps that are the building blocks of a quantum computer are just some of the technologies that will be on display at Quantum City at the Cheltenham Science Festival from 5 – 10 June 2018.

Quantum City Display set up

QuantIC is collaborating with partners of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP) to bring Quantum City to UK science festivals. The joint public engagement initiative which brings together researchers from the UK Quantum Technology Hubs, Centres for Doctoral Training and National Physical Laboratory to raise awareness and enthusiasm for quantum physics by showcasing the diversity of quantum technologies being developed across the programme. It is in response to feedback that the public would better relate to it if it was explained through applications which would have an impact in everyday life.

Quantum City will be at The Sphere in Cheltenham Science Festival, 5-10 June 2018 before heading to Glasgow, London and Oxford.

Quantum City is delivered by the following partners:
• Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
• The UK Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology (University of Birmingham)
• QuantIC, the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging (University of Glasgow)
• NQIT, the Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub (University of Oxford)
• Quantum Communications Hub (University of York)
• National Physical Laboratory
• Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Engineering (University of Bristol)
• Centre for Doctoral Training in Controlled Quantum Dynamics (Imperial College London)
• Centre for Doctoral Training in Delivering Quantum Technologies (University College London)

If you’ve ever wished you could escape this world for another Universe, the winner of this year’s Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition offers a cautionary tale. In “Acceptable Loss” by Przemysław Zańko, a failed relationship puts the entire multiverse under threat. The story is one of five to claim prizes in the competition for fiction inspired by quantum physics. Each winner receives a cash award, certificate, and an engraved trophy.

Matt Edgar

QuantIC is the UK Scientific Partner in this annual competition for creative work inspired by quantum physics. It is organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore with media partners Scientific American and Nature and international scientific partners. It has alternated between calls for short films and flash fiction since 2012. The 2017 call for fiction ended with 18 stories shortlisted across open and youth categories. From these stories, the judging panels have selected a winner and runner up in each of the Open and Youth category. There is also a People’s Choice winner chosen by public poll on the shortlist. The entries had to include the phrase “There are only two possibilities: yes or no”.

Runner-up in the Open Category is “From the Ruins of Beijing”, in which writer Andrew Neil Gray extrapolates from today’s rapid progress in quantum computing into a fictional future where efforts are being derailed by unexplained noise in the machines.

In the Youth Category, for writers aged 13-18, three entries claim prizes. Nick Maslov takes first prize for “Two Words” for a well-told story of the end of the Universe. Runner-up is “End-User Agreement” by Morgan Long. The judges described it as funny, clever and original.

The People’s Choice prize – decided by voting across all the shortlisted stories – also goes to a Youth entry. The story “A Future with Fortran” by Lily Turaski took some 30% of the more than 1200 votes cast. It’s particularly fitting for this story to claim the People’s Choice award because the Lily wrote the sentence that all entries in 2017 had to include. The sentence was plucked from Lily’s winning 2015 story “The Qubits of College Acceptance”. She noted with her new submission that she “is thrilled to have her superposition sentence emulated in so many alternate realities in the entries of Quantum Shorts 2017.”

Congratulations to the winners! Read all the stories at

Quantum Shorts Winners 2018

As part of the remit for responsible research and innovation, QuantIC took part in an EPSRC commissioned research to understand the public’s perceptions and values in relation to the capabilities of quantum technologies currently under development in the UK, and to also understand any concerns, aspirations and priorities that they might have for the future  development and deployment of quantum technologies. The public dialogue workshops were organized in locations where the network of UK quantum technology hubs were based and QuantIC actively fielded its researchers to participate in the sessions held in Glasgow.

QT Public Dialogue Collage

An interim activity between the workshops was also organized for the respondents and this consisted of a personalised after hours tour of QuantIC’s “Making the invisible visible” exhibit at the Glasgow Science Centre. The Hub’s researchers also brought in demonstrators specially and this allowed the respondents to visualise how the research had evolved into a new technology and the potential applications and uses it offered. The respondents’ feedback on the interim activity indicated that the event had boosted their interest in quantum technologies with comments such as “It was very interesting to see things visually as well as in theory” and “Really enjoyed this evening. I have a better understanding of quantum”.

Judging by the reactions from the public dialogue workshops in Glasgow, it seemed that respondents were positive to the capabilities of quantum technologies being developed as part of the UK National Quantum Technology Programme and QuantIC is looking forward to the final report on the public dialogue which will be published by EPSRC.

The Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition had a record number of entries when it closed the call for entries on 1 Dec 2017.

Quantum Shorts 2017-Ver2

The shortlisting panel members of the Quantum Shorts flash fiction competition have read thousands and thousands of words across hundreds of stories to choose the shortlists and we are thrilled to announce ten finalists in the competition’s open category and eight in the youth category, coming from writers around the world. Each story takes inspiration from quantum physics, is no more than 1000 words long, and includes the phrase “There are only two possibilities: yes or no”.

All of these writers have already won prizes – with more awards to be decided by our distinguished judges. Now it’s time for you to help someone get even more reward for their writing. You can vote in the People’s Choice prize from now until 23:59 GMT on Thursday 15 February. The story that gets the most support will win a People’s Choice prize of $500.

Click on this link to read all the shortlisted entries and vote for your favourite!

Happy reading!!


“Novae” has won the top prize in this year’s Quantum Shorts film festival which is organised by the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. QuantIC is the UK Scientific Partner of the event.

The film, created using shots of ink in an aquarium set up in filmmaker Thomas Vanz’s garage shows what happens when a giant star explodes, moving through the phase of “supernova” to the formation of a black hole. Understanding these processes is widely considered essential to creating a much-needed theory of “quantum gravity” that fills in the blanks left by relativity and quantum physics.

The runner up film and also the People’s Choice winner, “The Guardian” by Dr Chetan V. Kotabage, tells of a love triangle between young people – electron, wave and particle – and its dramatic consequences. The film’s narrative and staging bring to life some of the central concepts of quantum physics.

Quantum Shorts Event Collage

Both films were screened at the UK Premiere of Quantum Shorts, which was held at the Glasgow Science Centre’s Planetarium, on 17 March.The event was organised as part of British Science Week 2017 and the Glasgow Short Film Festival. QuantIC’s Professor Miles Padgett hosted the evening and took the audience on a whistle stop tour of some of the quantum theories such as entanglement and wave particle duality, which inspired the top ten shortlisted films. Guests were also given the opportunity to view QuantIC demonstrators on display.

The Hub also hosted a pre-screening industry reception in partnership with Glasgow City of Science and Innovation and Technology Scotland. Entitled “The Art of Possible”, the event was an opportunity for over 30 guests from the creative, government, business and academic sectors to find out more about quantum technologies.
Feedback from both the screening of Quantum Shorts and The Art of Possible were very positive with survey responses indicating attendees had learnt something about quantum technologies and QuantIC. This audience member’s comment sums it up, “What a great evening! Thanks QuantIC!”.

Watch Novae here.

Watch The Guardian here.

Explorathon’16 returned to Glasgow on the last Friday of September at the Glasgow Science Centre and QuantIC’s researchers were on hand to showcase some of the developments on their work to the public where they were “making the invisible visible”. Proceedings kicked off with one of our researchers giving a talk on chirality at the Science Show Theatre which saw over 120 people attending to understand more about chiral rotational spectroscopy and how it could be useful in the analysis of molecules.

Explorathon Collage
QuantIC’s demonstrator on the single pixel camera showed how objects could be viewed at different wavelengths and there were some giggles from the public when they saw themselves on screen and also when some realised that materials of the clothes they were wearing became a bit see through in front of the camera! Our other demonstrator highlighted the work we were doing on sensors that could detect invisible gases such as Carbon Dioxide and how they could potentially help to detect the best time for harvesting ripe crops. Posters on “A brief early history of quantum physics” were also given away to anyone who came up to us and said, “I’m a Quantum Buddy!” and there were quite a few that evening.

The demonstrators at Explorathon also complemented QuantIC’s “Making the invisible visible” permanent exhibition at the Glasgow Science Centre which saw heavy footfall as our researchers directed them there to find out more about our work. All in all, it was a fun but exhaustive evening with our researchers engaging with more than 200 people at the event this year.

QuantIC is pleased to announce it is the UK Scientific Partner for Quantum Shorts 2016, a festival of short films that draw inspiration from quantum physics. The call for film submissions is now open and entries can be submitted until 11:59:59Pm GMT on December 1 2016 via

A shortlisting panel will select up to ten submissions to be shown by the festival’s screening partners, to including Singapore’s ArtScience
Museum at Marina Bay Sands, the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia and Glasgow Science Centre in the UK. The screenings will take place in 2017. The festival’s top prize of US $1500 and runner-up prize of US $1000 will be decided by a panel of eminent judges. An additional prize will be decided by public vote on the shortlist.


Professor Miles Padgett, QuantIC’s Principal Investigator, said, “The ever-expanding field of quantum physics is fertile ground not just for scientists to explore but for artists of all kinds to provide valuable new perspectives on this strange and exciting branch of science. We’re very much looking forward to seeing how Quantum Shorts will inspire filmmakers.”

Organized by the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore, the competition is supported by Scientific American and Nature and other scientific partners in the US, Canada and Australia.

Submissions to Quantum Shorts 2016 are limited to five minutes in length. Enter via the website at, which also features a full set of rules and guidelines and examples of previous winners.

Commercially available cameras have too many dark noise events to directly capture double-slit interference at the single photon level. However, in the research paper, “Video recording true single-photon double slit interference” (Aspden, R, Padgett, M and Spalding, G) published in the American Journal of Physics, QuantIC researchers use the detection of one photon in a time-correlated pair to herald the arrival of the partner photon at the camera. By activating the camera only when this partner photon is present, the camera noise levels can be significantly reduced. This system has enabled the improvement required for direct video imaging of Young’s double slit experiment with single photons.

Following a beamsplitter, two collection arms can detect the correlated photons emerging from the BBO crystal. The signal-to-noise ratio is improved by using the heralding detector to only trigger the time-gated intensified CCD (ICCD) camera when a time-correlated photon is due to arrive.
Following a beamsplitter, two collection arms can detect the correlated photons emerging from the BBO crystal. The signal-to-noise ratio is improved by using the heralding detector to only trigger the time-gated intensified CCD (ICCD) camera when a time-correlated photon is due to arrive.


Reuben Aspden, lead author on the research publication and part of QuantIC’s Quantum Buddies Teacher Support network, is excited about how it could be used as a teaching tool for secondary school teachers on one of quantum physics’ key experiments. He said, “It’s the first full-field image of the double slit experiment using single photons, so it is possible to see the interference pattern appearing photon by photon and extends the simple double slit experiment done in the classroom into the truly quantum world, highlighting the weirdness of single photon interference.

The full research paper and videos of the experiment can be downloaded here.

QuantIC was pleased to support the Quantum Photonics Summer School hosted by the Centre for Quantum Photonics (CQP) at the University of Bristol. Sixteen students aged between 16-22 years of age from around the UK attended the week long intensive summer school which ran from 25 – 29 July.

The Quantum Photonics Summer School celebrates light in all its form and was developed by Mr Javier Sabines, a PhD student at CQP who is also working on QuantIC research at the University of Bristol. The schedule covered a wide range of topics from Young’s Double Slit experiment and the Photoelectric effect to quantum information and quantum key distribution. Lectures were also interspersed with lab experiments and tours to find out about new research being carried out. Many of the topics have been covered in the syllabus for A Levels and the programme was designed to give students an insight about doing physics and engineering at university. In addition to this, the instructors of the summer school shared their personal experiences as scientists, providing useful tips for successful research and making the students aware of the potential career options available with a scientific degree.

Bristol Summer school collage

Feedback has been very positive from the students who attended and they would recommend attending the summer school to other students. Amy Clayton from Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School said, “The summer school has made me see how useful scientific research can be and it’s made me more inclined to pursue a career in academia. I also found it thoroughly interesting hearing about the latest discoveries and advances and I’m intrigued to read more about current scientific research.” Micha Lanez from Kingswood School in Bath added, “I learnt about many new applications of optics such as in quantum computing, communications and measurements. I never knew about most of these before the course.”

It was also encouraging to find that attendees were inspired about sharing what they learnt at the summer school. George Oxley from Churchill Academy and Sixth Form said, “There is a STEM club at school which is aimed at younger years and is run by sixth formers. Next year I will be hoping to play a bigger part in this.”

We’re looking to next year’s summer school already!