Visitors at the Quantum City stand, New Scientist Live

Quantum City proves to be a big draw at New Scientist Live 2018!

Earlier this year, Quantum City took part in the New Scientist Live science festival. Showcasing a rotating collection of hands-on demonstrations, which ranged from brain magnetometer prototypes to depictions of ion traps, and from a quantum bingo game involving random number generation to an augmented reality app showing light in flight, the stand was a huge success with the public. Well known visitors included Dr Patrick Valance, the government's chief scientific adviser, and British astronaut Tim Peake, who found time out of his busy schedule to visit the exhibit and interact with our researchers, wanting to find out more in particular about the potential for quantum communications experiments on-board the International Space Station.


British Astronaut Tim Peake engaging with researchers at the Quantum City stand
British Astronaut Tim Peake engaging with the Quantum City researchers


However, it was the scores of members of the public - families, school children, science teachers and genuinely interested delegates who enthused our researchers with their interest and intelligent questions. The QET Labs Team from the University of Bristol Centre for Doctoral Training, who took part with a demonstration highlighting how light travels, said: “The QET Labs team had a fantastic time at New Scientist Live! There was loads of engagement from people of all ages and backgrounds: children and adults both really loved our optical jigsaw, a wonderful tool for explaining classical light versus photon dynamics and how can we use those differences to build technologies. We talked to people from the EU parliament and people who were interested in building careers in quantum technologies, including many students. We really enjoyed their questions: What is Quantum City; What makes a technology quantum; How do we use quantum and why is it useful; and What kinds of careers relate to quantum technologies? The questions were both thoughtful and challenging; they reinforced our excitement about our work!”



Augmented reality app at New Scientist Live


Similarly, University of Glasgow researchers Matt Edgar and Ermes Toninelli from QuantIC, the UK Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging, also described their experience in positive terms: “Fancy being a quantum optics scientist for a few minutes? This is how we greeted science-enthusiasts that came to visit the Quantum City stall at New Scientist Live in London. Their incredulous expression gave away to curiosity and enjoyment as soon as they saw our augmented reality App: an iPad simulation of a single-photon time-of-flight experiment that people seemed to love! Kids and grown-ups had fun looking at the reflections of photons from a virtual light-source, scattering and reflecting off various props. The whole experience was fantastic and the perfect opportunity to test our new augmented reality exhibit for the first time. It has now proven to be an excellent tool for providing hand-on interaction suitable for all ages as well as catalysing an interest in learning how our technologies actually work, such as photon-counting LiDAR (TimeSight) and gas imaging (GasSight). The quality of our exhibit clearly left an impression on the public, with some adults needing convinced that our laser was only virtual, and others asking insightful questions about the applications of this technology, in particular a future with driverless cars.”


Quantum communications demo at Quantum City, New Scientist Live


Our team from the Quantum Communications Hub, Heriot Watt University researchers Robert Collins and David Canning summarised their experience as follows: “We had an extremely enjoyable and enriching time sharing the MacroPhoton quantum cryptography exhibit with hundreds of enthusiastic visitors at New Scientist Live. It was encouraging to witness the broad spectrum of visitors who interacted with all of the exhibits on the Quantum City stand. Every exhibit was continually surrounded by crowds of highly engaged visitors - there was never a quiet moment from opening time to well after the official closing time. It was always a joy to see the moment when visitors realised that they too could understand this strange quantum world that they had previously though was scary and beyond their comprehension. Several younger guests indicated that they wanted to follow careers in STEM in general or quantum physics in particular and asked how to structure their educational course choices to make such careers possible. We were glad to provide advice on possible routes to scientific careers, and guidance to potential background reading.”

The Quantum City stand was at the New Scientist Live festival in ExCeL London between September 20th and 23rd. Participating partners included the Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Heriot Watt, Nottingham, Oxford, Strathclyde, Sussex and Imperial College London.


Brain Games at Quantum City, New Scientist Live