My quantum physics haiku (yes, really) made the EQUS competition shortlist

I recently entered one of the mini-contests for the Quantum Shorts competition (where my story “How to Configure Your Quantum Disambiguator” is still in the flash fiction contest and eagerly awaiting your vote, if I haven’t said that five billion times already) with a haiku that was supposed to “describe the wonder of quantum physics in 17 syllables through haiku.”

Most people would probably look at that and say: Whaaaat?

For me, the reaction was closer to: YEEESSSSSSSS, ALL THE QUANTUM PHYSICS HAIKU

It’s like they sat down and tried to decide on a contest that would appeal as much to me as possible. Haiku? Check. Nerdy quantum physics references? Check.

So I gave it a go with the following three haiku (accompanied here by notes on the quantum stuff):

Haiku 1

tunneling effect—
dad finally understands
her situation

The quantum tunneling effect describes a “phenomenon where a particle tunnels through a barrier that it classically could not surmount.” (Quoth Wikipedia.)

This illustration by Jean-Christophe Benoist, which shows electrons “tunneling” through a solid barrier, serves as a good way of seeing what this actually means:
An electron wavepacket directed at a potential barrier.  By Jean-Christophe Benoist.

Haiku 2

superposition . . .
the cat chases/does not chase
the tangle of string

This one is a nod to the famous Shcroedinger’s Cat thought experiment, which deals with quantum superposition (put simply, the way multiple contradictory quantum states all theoretically exist until someone observes them). The word “tangle” is a pun on entanglement, the word used to describe this state of superposition.

Haiku 3

wave function collapse—
the last cherry blossom lands
as she says I do

Wave function collapse is what happens when something in superposition “appears to reduce to a single eigenstate” when observed. Basically, to return to Schroedinger’s Cat, it’s what happens when you open the box and see that the cat is either alive or dead.

Yesterday they announced the winner, and while it isn’t me, haiku #3 above (“wave function collapse”) did land me on the “highly commended” shortlist.

I’m especially happy that this was the haiku they chose for it, since it was my favourite of the bunch.