He might be one of the smallest Avengers, but Marvel’s Ant-Man has made huge strides in bringing quantum concepts to the pinnacle of pop culture and people’s imaginations. In real life, experts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and across the Midwest are researching quantum concepts that could revolutionize science, computing and information technology. It seemed only right to celebrate Marvel’s “Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania” by exploring the real science of the quantum realm.
The word “quantum” refers to the smallest possible amount of a thing. When researchers investigate things such as light, energy and matter at an extremely small scale, they find that particles don’t behave as we’d expect them to. They get weird. If researchers can understand and harness this weirdness, they can create powerful tools such as superfast computers and an unhackable internet. Quantum science sounds like the stuff of science fiction and makes for a fantastic romp through unfathomably small cinematic realms, but the real physics of the quantum realm can be just as strange as anything storytellers have dreamed up.
“Quantum science operates on rules that seem strange and counterintuitive, and yet we’re making great strides every day.” — David Awschalom
Throughout the spring, Argonne assembled a team of quantum researchers and Marvel enthusiasts to create a series of videos, social media posts and public events that highlighted the real science behind Marvel’s movie magic. If you blipped and missed it the first time or if you want to relive the fun like a time traveler powered by Pym particles, here’s a look at Argonne’s quest to peel back the curtain on Marvel’s movie magic.
To help viewers understand Giant-Man-sized concepts in Ant-Man-sized bits, Argonne created a series of four one-minute, Marvel-style videos that explained real quantum phenomena. The videos explore quantum states, quantum communication and the supercomputers we’re using to simulate quantum computers of the future. In the words of “Ant-Man” protagonist Scott Lang, “Do you guys just put the word ‘quantum’ in front of everything?” Yes! Yes, we do. Watch the quantum shorts.
Visitors got to engage with experts on quantum science during the lab’s public lecture series, “Argonne OutLoud: Into the Quantum Realm.” The evening took the form of a panel and game show on quantum research and Marvel science. Is “quomputing” a real thing? Did scientists actually create a crummy quantum wormhole? Can you send messages through space with entangled particles? Live and virtual guests played along to find out. Watch the event.
No journey into the science of comic book movies would be complete without a comicon visit. On April 2, experts from Argonne and Fermilab geeked out with fans of all ages at an interactive panel at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2).
Just as Ant-Man can shrink the space between atoms, Argonne’s researchers are experts at shrinking the distance between their work and the public’s understanding. On Feb. 21, researchers Tian-Xing Zheng from the University of Chicago and Nazar Delegan from Argonne participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything during which they shared their thoughts on key questions such as whether Ant-Man would create a black hole from his own mass when shrinking down to the quantum level and the ways quantum research is already changing our lives. Read the AMA.
Nothing is quite as exciting as seeing a new Marvel movie on the big screen with a crowd of science lovers. On Feb. 15, Argonne teamed up with Disney, the University of Chicago, the UChicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and the Chicago Quantum Exchange to host a prerelease screening of “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” in downtown Chicago. After the sneak peak, viewers heard about quantum concepts and got their questions answered by a panel of experts. During the panel, David Awschalom, Argonne senior scientist, UChicago Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering vice dean for research and infrastructure and the director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, noted, “One of the most entertaining aspects of tonight is that we’re all getting a chance to explore inner space. …Quantum science operates on rules that seem strange and counterintuitive, and yet we’re making great strides every day.” Read the recap.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.