Caltech is celebrating quantum science today with an all-day event called the Quantum Summit, capping off a two-day, quantum-themed conference. However, the real treat came last night during the One Entangled Evening event, when Caltech unveiled a film short featuring possibly the smartest man alive, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and possibly the cutest, Ant Man actor Paul Rudd.
In the short, the two duel over a game of quantum chess, wherein the rules of chess and quantum physics both apply. Picture moving your rook, but also not moving your rook. The possibilities for capture and escape are even more astronomical than those in standard chess, a game already notorious for its highly-strategic and difficult play. The conceit of the comedic video is that Rudd believes he is qualified to speak at the acclaimed university because he starred in the movie Ant Man, wherein his character shrunk to subatomic size and traveled through the quantum world. Hawking, however, begs to differ.
The short is clearly meant to both educate the masses on some basic pieces of quantum theory, like entanglement and superposition, but also provide some belly laughs for those who already "get" quantum theory. Although, to quote the great physicist Richard Feynman, for whom the event was named, "Nobody understands quantum mechanics." In another lecture, he began by stating, "You will not understand it. The students don't understand it, and that's because the professors do not understand it. And that's not a joke."
So, don't feel too badly if you watch the video and get most of your kicks from being blissfully confused and enjoy Paul Rudd being confused along with you — Hawking will become perplexed at one point, too.
The video was presented for the first time at the Caltech event, and released online today. It was directed by Alex Winter, is narrated by Keanu Reeves and even contains a quick cameo from "Bill" of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
The winner may surprise you.