Announcing the finalists for the 2021 EQUS Quantum Art Competition

We're excited to announce the finalists for our 2021 Quantum Art Competition.  Thanks to everyone who entered, there were so many great entries!

The judging panel now has the tough job of picking a winner, but you can have your say too!

View the finalists below and then vote for your favourite for the People's Choice Prize: [voting has now closed].

Our finalists are (in alphabetical order):

Alice to Bob, by Anna Black

This pentaptych playfully portrays the essential elements of quantum communication: Alice and Bob connected by a channel, and the device which creates the communication medium - single photons.  The soft colours and contour markings are juxtaposed with the brutalist imagery of the experimental source to explore the intersection between art and science.  Screen print and pencil on paper.

Cryo Art, by Francisco Coronado

This is an abstract portrayal of a dilution fridge used to maintain a quantum computing chip below sub-kelvin temperatures.  The colors used in the drawing illustrate the gold used to sustain the conductivity while the blue is used to indicate extreme operating temperatures.  The black color is used to give a sense of the void in the isolation of single electrons.  Green is a typical color that is often employed in the PCB design of chips which is also relevant in single electron devices.

If Things from Quantum Physics were Fantasy Characters, by Toby Davis

In this art piece, I have tried to imagine concepts from quantum physics as if they were characters from a fantasy world or story.  I think that often quantum physics has some very complex ideas, which can be hard to visualise and wrap your head around (things like superposition and wave-particle duality come to mind!).  This is why I wanted to think about them in a very different way, one that sparks imagination, but also carries the key ideas behind these scientific concepts.  Here, I have designed four characters based on string theory, superposition, photons, and antiparticle pairs.

When translating these different quantum physics concepts into fantasy characters, I tried to encapsulate the key ideas behind them.  For instance, when designing the character for superposition, I wanted to convey the idea of being in two places at once.  This led me to settle on a sly and mysterious ninja-like character who can nimbly maneuver her way around the street, almost as if she was in two places at once.  I imagine her being a bit of an elusive street thief, who is both skilled and able to evade potential enemies.

The other characters are also based on aspects of their respective concepts.  The photon is a nomadic pathfinder, who is always on the move and forging paths through the wilderness.  Similar to how photons are always moving at the speed of light, and travel in straight paths across the universe.  String theory’s character is a sorcerer who, according to legend, controls all of space and time.  However, much like actual string theory, which is still unproven, the sorcerer remains a folktale.  Lastly, I imagined the antiparticle pair as a sibling rivalry between two skilled duelists.  Just like how antiparticle pairs (which are complete opposites) can, and often, annihilate each other.

I enjoyed designing and creating these characters, and I hope that they can help people view quantum science in a new light and from a different and unique perspective.

Love Story, by Joey Qiao

***A tunnel that can be created through time, through which one could travel to both the future and the past.

       What would the existence of this time tunnel mean? What would happen if we were to go through it?

 It’s one of those perfect days that only seem to exist in movies. The usual vague gray smog of downtown Seoul has peeled back to reveal balmy blue sky, and the tops of the skyscrapers glitter in the warm sunlight.

A small, green leaf drifts down to land beside your foot.

It would be an abnormality. A deformity. A time tunnel is not supposed to exist in this universe. In a way, the creation of it would in turn “rip time apart”.

Something nudges at the back of your mind. A strange sense that you’ve been here before, and there’s something you need to get done, overcomes you for a brief moment.

“Heejin!” a voice calls out.

You see a glimpse of fire-engine red hair, then a slender figure dressed in a green bomber jacket and faded jeans.

It’s your boyfriend, Park, who you haven’t seen in two months. Your heart fills at the sight of him. You raise your arm. You wave. You smile.

The streetlight blinks from green to red and the cars in the street slow to a stop.

Park steps forward.

There is only a band of gray road dividing the two of you. Soon, he will cross it, and he will be yours again. The hotpot dinners, the late nights curled up on the sofa with too much red wine, the early mornings with cups of too-sweet coffee; they will be yours again.

Neither of you knows it yet, but in the distance, there is a car. It’s a sleek, race car-looking model, painted the same color as the red stoplight it is not stopping for, the same color as Park’s dyed locks.

Park. Park.

Park, who is rushing towards you, his mouth stretched into a wide smile and his eyes alight with happiness, focused only on your figure standing on the other side of the street.

It doesn’t happen in slow motion as it does in the movies. Instead, it is a rapid instant, one you would’ve missed it if you’d blinked.

You don’t see Park’s expression change as he is hit by the car, as his body is flung like a wet towel up into the air, then drops like a stone down onto the cracked, gray pavement of the road. At some point, the smile must have dropped from his face, the happiness in his eyes replaced by terror, and pain. But you didn’t see that. In your mind, his face will remain frozen in a state of joy that was so temporary.

Everything is red. The red race car, the streetlight, Park’s dyed locks. The blood, seeping out of his broken, motionless body. Why? Why is everything red?

You realize that life is full of contradictions.

Who cares about the natural flow of time? Who cares about the natural flow of life? Would you have no hesitation in ripping them both apart if it meant keeping those hotpot dinners, those late nights with too much red wine, the early mornings with cups of too-sweet coffee? Would you go back in time and do something, anything, to prevent him from stepping onto that road? Of course, you would.

It’s one of those perfect days that only seem to exist in movies. The sky of downtown Seoul is a clear blue, devoid of its usual gray smog, and the tops of the skyscrapers gleam in the sunlight.

A single, faded green leaf flutters erratically down to land beside your shoe.

For some strange reason, a sense of deja vu nudges at your mind. Like you’ve been here before, and there’s an urgent task that needs attending to.

But then a familiar, loving voice is calling your name, and you just can’t quite remember what it is.

Quantum Identity: Unity in Diversity, by Sandy Benkimoun

I named this painting "Quantum Identity: Unity in diversity" and it was inspired by the quantum superposition of states, like Schrodinger's cat.

Here is a little poem about the painting:

"Quantum duplicity: who knows what?
Nothing is Black or White.
Quantum synchronicity: who knows why?
Everything is Black and White."

In case you were wondering about the drops of blood, I intended them as a metaphor for the underlying link between the two faces ('Unity in diversity'). They are very different aspect of a unique person sharing the same blood. As for the Schrodinger's cat, with his very different ending stories happening to the same singular cat.

Swimming, by Grace Chapple

This short story is a metaphorical exploration of the Uncertainty Principle.  This quantum principle suggests that the more we know about an object's momentum, the less we know about it's position in space.  The idea evoked in me images of young people, sprinting through life and never standing still long enough to know who they are.  What happens if the floor falls away beneath two twenty somethings, and they are forced to finally stop moving long enough to see where they stand?  In that stillness, what else becomes uncertain?


The stupid blue fish had stopped swimming.

“Shit,” I breathed, staring blankly at the floating corpse. My heart jumped for a second as I thought it might have quivered, but it was just the cheap fairy lights that hung in the corridor flashing on the little guy’s pearlescent underbelly.

“Shit,” I said, louder now, then remembering where I was, turned to shut the door. I could still here the sounds of a party winding down; hosts glad-wrapping dishes, rounds of farewells being made. A sort of party. I pulled the door closed, shutting out the glowing lights that had been strobing in time with my pounding head.

Darkness. The only light came from the little whirring filter in the fish tank. I didn’t know how Rach could sleep with that thing on. How she had slept.

Lights on. God. My headache was so bad my eyesight was a little blurry, although it was probably not helped by a day’s worth of alcohol that had yet to leave my system. Focus – the fish. Got to do something. I couldn’t let her parents find it tonight. It would just be one more thing, one more slap in the face from fate, one final losing ticket – “thank you for playing – better luck next time.” I stumbled back to the tank, cursing the rug, the stool, gravity. Gotta fix this. Got to… hide it. This idea appealed strongly to my slightly pickled brain. Drunk me was always burying today’s problems for future me to dig up. Hide it, so they don’t have to see… not today. I grabbed hold of the lid and lifted it up on one side. Glass, gentle, don’t break it, reach in, grab the body.
I don’t know what I was expecting to feel, but I was unprepared for the cold, slimy dead thing that suddenly pressed itself up against my consciousness.
“Ugh!” I jumped back, still clutching the little guy, letting the lid “THUNK” back down onto the tank, mercifully unbroken.

But I was still holding a dead fish.

“Bin,” I muttered, “bin, bin, bin…” No bin anywhere to be seen. Not under the desk, not by the bed, not hiding in the wardrobe. My head felt like it was ready to split open. How could there be no fucking bin in a fucking bedroom? I got down on my elbows, one hand full of fish, looking for I don’t know what – a mysterious horizontal waste solution that could fit under beds? In frustration I’d collapsed onto my belly, head on my arms, when the door opened. The sounds of the normal world washed over me, and I was suddenly lying on the floor holding a dead fish.

“What are you doing?” It was Peter. He spoke casually, like he’d found me making a sandwich. I looked up into his face, full of frank interest and kindness, and my headache reached its apex. I burst into tears.

“The fish died,” I choked. Somehow, through all the snot and alcohol and insanity, Peter understood what I wanted. He pried the mostly intact fish from my clutching fingers, walked out of the room, then came back fishless.
“What did you do?” I asked, as he helped me up to sit on the bed.
“I flushed it down the toilet.”
Peter always had this ability to make me feel like a complete fucking idiot. It wasn’t that he spoke down to me, or laughed at me, it was more that he just radiated sense, and made me painfully aware of my lack of it. He wiped his hands on his trousers and breathed a deep sigh.
“What will we do without her?”
“Don’t worry. The fish was an idiot,” I replied, trying to pull myself further from the spiral of agony that had threatened to overcome me on the floor.
“Not the fish,” said Peter. “Rach.”
“Oh. Yeah.” There it was. The spiral.

Me, Rach, and Peter. It had been the three of us since school. Best friends – somehow sticking it out through all the intervening years; the career changes, the interstate moves, the boyfriends and girlfriends. Somehow, while following three distinctive paths, we’d managed to maintain the cohesion of the whole.
I’d left first; off to Melbourne Uni, digging my teeth into degree after degree, qualified up to my eyeballs and with little space left over for the practicalities of life. Then Peter; travelling the world, always onto some new conservation project or animal research centre. But Rachael had stayed here, studying law, looking after her parents. Always the solid one, the anchor around which Peter and I floated. She was the base that we could always come back and visit, the one who organised our group skypes wherever in the world we were, the one who checked in. We never checked in on her.

“God. Do you have any Nurofen?” I said, fresh tears falling down my cheeks. Peter shook his head, then bent down to look in Rachael’s bed side table.
“Hey! You can’t look in there!” I cried, scandalised by some now-useless notions of privacy.
“I really don’t think she cares,” he replied, pulling out a blister pack from the back of the drawer. I grabbed the pills, pain trumping principle, and took three without water. They got stuck half-way down.

I gave another little half-sob, and he pulled me into an awkward hug. It was an uncomfortable angle, and I was painfully aware of the large patch of snot I was leaving on his top, but eventually I just gave into it. He was wearing one of his ridiculous thrifted jumpers, a cacophony of purple and brown and yellow wool loosely strung together. I’d seen it peeking out from under his jacket earlier at the church, completely out of place with the suit he’d obviously borrowed from his dad or brother. If it had been any other day, I would have laughed. I breathed in the jumper now. It smelled of many things (and I suspected many previous owners) but overwhelmingly, it smelled of Peter. My muscles relaxed. I almost forgot about the fish.

For a few minutes, we sat in perfect stillness.

I couldn’t remember the last time we’d just sat, in each other’s company, not on our way anywhere or while doing something else, at a function or on a holiday. My eyes were drawn to the whirring of the fish tank, the only thing in the room still in motion. I’d grown to hate that fish. I had tried to get Rach to go away with me so many times over the past year, and that had always been her first reason not to. “I have to feed the fish.” I’d hoped it would die so she would be free. Now that I knew it had just been an excuse, I felt sorry it was dead.

“When are you flying back?” Peter asked the top of my head. His voice was thick like mine. I stayed where I was, head on his shoulder – I didn’t want to see him cry.
“I’m not sure,” I replied, slowly. “I thought I might stay for a while.”
He pulled back to look at me, but I kept my eyes down. “Me too. Back in the same city, hey?”
“Yeah. Not bad.”
“Speak for yourself. I’ll be the one dragging your sorry ass home from clubs at 3am.”
I laughed, a little wet chuckle, and wiped my face. “Suppose we’d better go. Don’t fancy staying at a funeral till they call last drinks.”

When I sat up, I was surprised to find Peter’s hand in mine. I hadn’t been aware of either taking it or it being took, yet now it was there. The intimacy of the gesture was far beyond where we normally allowed our relationship to stray, always sticking to casual touches; fist bumps and back pats that shout “this is not sexual!!!” It had been the only way back after that night in second year uni, The Night of the Cruisers and Bad Choices, as Peter had jokingly named it the only time it had ever come up. But now he was holding my hand, and as I watched he squeezed it gently, as if to say “yes, this is real, this is deliberate.” I looked at him properly for the first time all night, maybe for the first time in years. How long had I been scared to look? I saw him now; all the pain, the agony of the hardest week of our lives, with a much older pain as well, a residual ache that had soaked into the skin of the man. We’d finally stopped moving – the fulcrum around which we turned was gone, dropping us back to earth. I could see him and everything I’d been trying so hard not to see and think and feel for six years.

Then he kissed me.

We had one perfect moment; still, insular, untouched, before time restarted. And then we were sitting on the bed of our dead best friend, smelling vaguely of fish.

I pulled away, and whispered “no.”

It didn’t really need saying. The chasm that Rachael had left behind her was widening between us - the knowledge of what we could have done, that we’d let her down. I could read it in his eyes the moment before he looked away, folding into himself, his hands cupping the back of his neck.
“Fuck. Sorry.” More tears. When would they ever stop?

I thought of all the years between that first night and this, of the time we could have had, of who we might have been if we’d never left home, both thwarted and unfulfilled, clinging to each other as we loosened our grip on everything else. Could it have ever worked? It was his energy that I loved, his momentum, the rhythm of his heart that matched my own. I didn’t know who he was without it. I didn’t want to find out.

Loosening my hand from his, I got up, the pain in my head dulled by the sudden nothingness that washed over me. I would keep moving, and it would get better.

“See you, Peter.”

The dumb fish flashed before my eyes again as I walked out the door under the pulsing fairy lights.

Just keep swimming.

The Heroic Qubit, by Paul Husky

The Heroic Qubit is a musical journey through the workings of a quantum computer. I'm trying hard to understand quantum computation, so I imagined how it would feel to be plunged in the cold heart of a quantum computer and to come dangerously close to losing whatever information about myself I had, and then to perhaps succeed in returning to my classical home.

Travels and Dreams on a Quantum Ship, by Sandy Benkimoun

Beyond the play on words with quantum chip, my intent was to refer to the dream of quantum time travel. This drawing was inspired by the approach of quantum mechanics of time travel. At least what I understand of it. It was based on a reading about an approach that differed a lot from what I am used to in Sci-Fi: self-consistency principle of Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov, in the 1980s. (and Wikipedia to explain it!)

The superposition of sails of the boat represent different travels through time and space, and how time may be able to adjust (close enough despite not being exactly the same): "The close of time curves does not necessarily imply a violation of causality, since the events along such a closed line may be all 'self-adjusted'—they all affect one another through the closed cycle and follow one another in a self-consistent way.", extract from Novikov's Evolution of the Universe (1983).

Whereas the unique hull of the vessel stands for the self-consistency principle, in which this Russian physicist theorised that only one timeline existed and only self-consistent travels backward in time, i.e. that would not change history and the present as we know it, would be possible (if it ever were) on this unique timeline.

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.