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Everyday science

Everyday science

Quantum rapper has a Bright Future, Dancing Quantum Magic, understanding quantum computers

11 Jun 2021 Hamish Johnston

On 14–18 June Physics World is celebrating Quantum Week, so today’s Red Folder is celebrating the growing influence that quantum science and technology is having on society.

The Canadian rapper and playwright Baba Brinkman is not a physicist, but that hasn’t stopped him from writing and recording this wonderfully clever rap about quantum computing. Called “Qubits”, the song is from his twelfth full-length album Bright Future, which also includes the tracks “Molten salt” and “Stirling engine”. Brinkman is so serious about science communication that his album’s liner notes provide references for further reading.

Indeed, “Qubits” – which was cowritten by J Simmonds, AKA Mr Simmonds – was produced with support from Google’s AI Quantum Lab and its founder Hartmut Neven acted as technical consultant. That’s not surprising given the high technical standard of the lyrics. But it’s also great fun and physicists will enjoy the quantum iconography that is used as a backdrop to Brinkman’s performance.

Interpreting science via the medium of dance has become a popular form of artistic expression thanks in part to the Dance Your PhD competition, which is run each year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the journal Science.

Now, physicists at the University of Leeds in the UK are asking you to help them express concepts of quantum mechanics in dance. Called Dancing Quantum Magic, the project aims to collect clips of the public do four quantum-related dance moves. One is called “Pattern and chaos” and looks to me like the sort of languid dance you might do towards the end of a heavy night out. The others are “Emergence”, “Melting and reforming” and “Entanglement (Parts 1&2)”.

Recording your own versions of these dances looks like fun. And if you submit them to the Leeds physicists, they will edit them together into a short film.

Tricky explanations

Getting people to dance quantum mechanics is sure to spark their interest in things like quantum computers. Sparking an interest is one thing, but how do you explain the tricky concepts of quantum computing to the public without oversimplifying or getting it wrong?

That is something that I really struggle with as a physics journalist, so I was very pleased to see that the quantum-computing expert Scott Aaronson has written about it. His article – appropriately published in Quanta – is called “What makes quantum computing so hard to explain?” and it’s a worthwhile read.

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