Behind the scenes: Alice in Quantumland

The film Alice in Quantumland imagines what would happen if people in the real world behaved like quantum objects. It was the audience favourite of the Quantum Shorts 2012 shortlist. Filmmaker Michael Niedermayr takes us behind the scenes.

Watch the movie first:

Who is behind the film?

We are two physicists (Andreas Stute and myself) who did their PhDs in the field of quantum information and quantum optics in the group of Prof. Rainer Blatt at the university of Innsbruck, Austria. Besides physics we are also really interested in making short movies. Therefore, we were really excited when we heard about the Quantum Shorts contest for the first time. By now we have both left the university. Andi works at a start-up and I founded a start-up (blue-sparrow.com).

What inspired you to make this film, and what is it about?

When you work in the field of quantum physics for several years, you start to see the world with different eyes. For example, when you stand in front of a locked door you think: It would be great if I could tunnel through it like an atom. Or when you have to do several tasks at once, you think: If I just could delocalize myself now.

So, we were thinking, it would be great to have these 'quantum super powers' and use them during the everyday life. This is basically the initial idea of our film. A physics student suddenly realizes that she got these 'quantum super powers' after she studied quantum physics for an exams. She uses them to meet again a cute student she ran into earlier that day.

There was a second motivation for this film as well. Quantum physics is really fascinating but also very difficult to understand. We often face the problem that non-physicist friends ask us what we are actually doing in our labs. So, we try to explain them our work which gets often very tedious and frustrating for them. When we made the film we wanted to visualize the asic quantum effects in a more vivid way. Nowadays, if someone asks us about our work, we can always refer to this film ;-)

What impact did winning the Quantum Shorts prize have for you?

This was a great honor for us and we got really great feedback from our friends and family. I have to say that there was way more feedback for the movie than for publishing a Nature paper like Andi did. Furthermore, it was a pleasure to write the story book and invent a visualization of the various quantum effects that could be understood by a broad audience. Sometimes it is these moments in which one begins to ask real new questions and maybe gathers a better understanding of the theory, too.