The Daily Illini

Quantum Voyage delivers a new way for the public to discover quantum physics

By Yifan Gu, Staff Writer

Do you know the basic principles of the ‘Parallel Universe’? That Einstein’s ‘Spooky Action’ is actually occurring? Welcome to the world of quantum physics, as explored by the Quantum Voyage show.

To celebrate the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Anthony Leggett’s 80th birthday, the Quantum Voyage show made its public debut at a quantum physics conference held at the I-Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign on March 30.

The show is the brainchild of Smitha Vishveshwara, professor of condensed-matter physics, and Latrelle Bright, professor in theatre studies. By combining science with theatre, the production team aims to bring the public closer to quantum physics while communicating complex scientific ideas in a new manner that is fun, engaging and accessible. 

“To most of the public, the world of quantum physics is strange, mysterious and fascinating. It somehow begs to be depicted as a sort of epic journey,” Vishveshwara said. “This is what we do: we study these different worlds, different lands. And it’s all about stories. Somehow it seemed natural. It lends itself to a story that could come alive through a voyage.”

Utilizing traditional storytelling methods, the show invites its audience to delve into the world of quantum physics. This interdisciplinary show nods to classic tales like “The Nutcracker,” which are ideal vehicles for explaining quantum aspects of our world in a way that is neither formal nor difficult, but still represents the ideas in a scientifically accurate way.

Through the use of varied lighting and disordered movements of voyagers, physics and art blend seamlessly to form the quantum physics world. Adding to the performance’s accessibility is a post-show speech and explanation from the professor. 

“Actually, I didn’t know about these concepts before, and I’m not a student in the related majors. However, I’m able to understand the illustration of concepts they are performing. I like how they brought the quantum physics into the play and it speaks to the audience’s mind,” said audience member Kedar Gunlupet. “I’m fascinated by the fermion illustration. The show interestingly depicted how fermions could coexist with each other and the professor explains it later.” 

By incorporating physical theory in the show, the production team hopes to illustrate that science can be fun and beautiful as opposed to what you see in difficult physics courses. Everyone who sees the show will have their interest in science piqued and will most likely learn something new about the world we live in.

“The show enlightened me with a new way to see quantum physics,” said Penghao Zhu, first-year Ph.D. student in theoretical physics. “I’m attracted by the show’s explanation of certain manners of the cooper pair: the actors holding the light of the same color walking with others instead of crowding together. It quite accords the actual embodiment in the quantum physics world.” 

The success of the Quantum Voyage show is attributed to the professional and technical production team. However, professors Vishveshwara and Bright are the show’s main producers who not only scripted the piece but also brought ideas regarding acting and movement to the cast.

The actors had a prominent role in the planning and execution of many scenes and as a result, rehearsals were open and collaborative. This is particularly true of the show’s more technical aspects, such as lighting, projections, music production and costume, which were driven by volunteers and students from Vishveshwara’s course, “Where Art Meets Physics.” 

Praising everyone involved with the show, Vishveshwara said, “Quantum Voyages has been an incredible experience in collaborative work and everyone involved with it has contributed so much to the final product. The show would truly not be what it is without the deep commitment and engagement from the cast and crew.”

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