Science Gallery Bengaluru - Open Call: Quantum

On behalf of the Austrian Embassy in India:

A cat, a poisonous gas, a radioactive material, a hammer, and a Geiger counter in a closed box. Is the cat dead or alive?

These tiniest of particles can exist in more than one state at the same time—red and blue, dead and alive, on and off. This is “superposition,” one of the fundamental properties in quantum mechanics. Ever since Max Planck suggested that electromagnetic energy from a black body could only be emitted in discrete clumps, which he called quanta, our journey to understand the fundamental nature of reality entered the new and confounding realm of the quantum. That's how atoms and other subatomic particles exist—when no one is looking at them.

Quantum physics explains the world we see around us, though few of us attempt to understand it. This is perhaps because of its inherent weirdness—it describes the behaviour of particles at the smallest scales through paradoxes, probabilities and uncertainties. Once we begin to view atoms less like balls and more like waves in a sea—some of these characteristics may seem less confounding. For instance, how two particles can be entangled, such that even when they are separated by the longest of distances, they can instantly affect each other's state when measured, or tunnelling, which allows tiny particles to pass through seemingly solid barriers.

Though these may seem ghostly or unimaginable in the world that we perceive—these properties are critical to daily life. Without tunnelling, for example, hydrogen atoms would be unable to fuse, forming the massive heat-giving star that is our sun! Quantum phenomena have been suggested behind biological phenomena such as photosynthesis and even in the migration of some birds. Even magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that appears to magically create high-resolution images of our internal organs, depends on the ability of the nuclei in hydrogen atoms in our body to attain quantum superposition. This effect is then used to generate the waves that are detected by the machine to create an image.

This translation of quantum properties into macroscopic effects, when measured or observed, is what has made this field one that defies conventional understanding. The very fact that a particle is present everywhere until it is measured and then is therefore forced to be somewhere, makes us question: what happens to all the other places it was at? This has led to theories such as the many worlds interpretation, popularly known as the multiverse theory, inspiring entire sagas in science fiction, fantasy literature, and popular culture.

However, beyond the speculation and mystery lies a very real hope that these weird properties of quantum physics will trigger a new revolution in technology. Can research unravel how quantum mechanics converges with technology in the macroscopic world as we know it? Can we engineer sufficient control over the quantum nature of particles to enable everything from high-speed computation to some form of teleportation? Can our journey into the quantum realm reveal solutions for some of the critical planetary challenges we face today?

For this exhibition-season, we seek applications that are artistic or scientific inquiries, or both. We are looking to work with individuals or groups—preferably from across career and disciplinary backgrounds—who are critically exploring quantum research in its diverse forms in both contemporary and historical contexts as well as those engaged with emerging frontiers of research.

Please Note: No cats were harmed in the making of this Open Call.

Deadline for submission: 27 February, 2024
Open Call Results: May, 2024

Learn more and apply here