Imperial College London

CQD Quantum Show 2020


For the final time CQD students took to the stage to bring to life the quantum world for an audience of 300 school students and members of the public.

First held in 2010, the annual quantum show has acted to not only inform and entertain the public about the research conducted by the CQD group, but also trains and prepares the students for public speaking and presenting at conferences. Over its 11 year run, the show has hosted more than 3000 school students and members of the public and has always been extremely well received. Such has been the success of the show, it has led to numerous speaking opportunities at schools and events in the London area and a number of CQD students have started their own engagement activities due to the exposure given by the show.

As this was the final year in which the show will be conducted, we brought together some of the best speakers of the last few years to present their research and what fascinates them most about the Quantum world. Cameron looked at quantum simulations and the nature of reality and asked the question how can we be sure that we don’t live in a quantum simulation? Is there any way to find out? Josh spoke about his personal fascination with Quantum Biology and how pigeons use quantum effects to navigate, by visualising the Earth’s magnetic field. Most interesting of all, is that human beings also have the same genes that make this phenomenon possible in pigeons, so could we unlock our quantum potential? Jacopo looked at how trapped ions can be used to undertake logical operations and could lead the way to the holy grail of quantum computers. Paul showed the audience how the humble laser, a piece of technology we all now take for granted, was one of the original quantum technologies and the amazing ‘zombie’ science that is involved in making a laser beam. Alexandra let the audience take part in the ‘race for time’ and how quantum scientists are trying to develop ever more accurate optical quantum clocks and to redefine the second. Currently Caesium atomic clocks are so accurate they have an uncertainty of one second every 30 million years. But to improve upon this, research groups across the planet are racing against each other to find an even more accurate. The atomic clock the Imperial and NPL scientists are working on would be so accurate that its level of uncertainty (how often it gains of loses 1 second) would be longer than the age of the universe! Finally, Guanchen showed the audience how laser cooling works and how something which we all experience on a daily basis, the Doppler effect can be used to trap an atom for use in quantum technologies.

As with the previous 10 shows, the speakers were warmly received and each of the talks produced numerous questions and conversations that went on long in to the evening. And so, it was with great sadness, that for the time being, that the speakers from the CQD group exited stage left.

We’d like to thank all those who have been involved with the show over the past decade, the student speakers from Cohorts 1 to 10, Nick Harrigan and Terry Rudolph for inventing the concept and starting the show, Miranda Smith for helping with the organisation and administration, Myungshik Kim for working the sound and lights and the Friends of Imperial for hosting the event.


Simon Foster

Simon Foster
Department of Physics