The upcoming movie Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania proves to be a wild ride into the quantum universe. Featuring everything from particles that shrink you to atomic size and battles with starships in the quantum realm.

But what’s REAL and what’s Marvel?

We are scientists from Argonne and the University of Chicago conducting research in quantum metamaterials and quantum information science. If you’ve had a chance to see the movie, stop over to our Reddit AMA and ask us about the research we’re conducting and how close the movie comes to that reality.

Ask Us Anything!

Proof: Here's my proof!

Thanks for joining us! So many great questions. Signing off for now.

Comments: 412 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

scootermypooper418 karma

I’m a graduate student that’s been to a number of different beam times, including one at the APS! Any advice on career paths, how you ended up at ANL, pros/cons of National lab work?

ArgonneLab41 karma

This could be the subject of another AMA. If we get enough upvotes to your question, we can discuss putting together another one focused on career paths for graduate students.

DaedalusMinion320 karma

From your research, what is an example of something (like a product, technology or algorithm) that could actually filter down to every day people say within the next 10 years?

ArgonneLab454 karma

This is actually quite an interesting question.

Given the question’s phrasing, I think it is important to mention that quantum research has been already affecting us on the day-to-day, think of novel chip design, MRI machines, clock transitions for hyper-accurate time-keeping enabling GPS, etc.

However, to answer the question about the future, I would say I am the most excited about two things:

(i) quantum sensing and

(ii) quantum simulation.

On the sensing front, quantum sensors have been making their way into state-of-the art research, enabling things like novel navigation methodologies, detection of single proteins, and sensors incorporated in devices (think batteries) that allow you to optimize usage. Whereas on the quantum simulation side, the world is fundamentally quantum, as such, simulating quantum systems using quantum systems promises to speed up research into things such as drug discovery and neural networks.

Personally, I am looking forward to quantum computers tackling optimization problems, but I feel like that’s a bit further down the road.

svel538 karma

are you just putting "quantum" in front of everything?

cheebb19 karma

how many calories are in a "quantum" slice of "quantum" pizza?

ArgonneLab71 karma

quantum calories

mixi_e275 karma

In the movie, there’s a scene where they enlarge a kids pizza, I’m just curious, would this pizza be as filling as a naturally large pizza ? I fell like it wouldn’t because it wouldn’t be as dense

ArgonneLab117 karma

Physically more filling, yes, it is larger.

Chemically filling (amount of usage energy), probably the same if not completely zero. Assuming the mechanism behind enlargement and shrinking works purely on the inter-particle spacing.

The open question is how your digestive enzymes tackle their job in interacting with the pizza as the various protein, lipids, and carbs will be fundamentally larger. Think of trying to use LEGOs to fit into giant LEGO constructs.

wabbitsdo158 karma

Is... is Paul Rudd not real? Don't fucking do this to me.

ArgonneLab185 karma

We're pretty sure that he exists. We'll leave that one to philosophers to discuss.

Snuffy171758 karma

We tried to pull him out of a cave but he insisted on going back to entertain the other prisoners...

ArgonneLab51 karma


baggio1000000149 karma

Was there any science aspect of the movie impressed you?

ArgonneLab259 karma

Yes. I personally liked the idea that the movie brings everybody into the quantum world after the Ant-Man family shrinks down.

Scientifically, quantum mechanics describes things at a very small scale, like atom/electron scale. The movie also shows a few special properties which are unique in quantum physics, such as superposition (when Scott Lang saw a lot of versions of himself when he was in the quantum core).

ShadeofIcarus67 karma

What do you think is going to be the scariest thing to come out of quantum research?

ArgonneLab120 karma

Honestly, this question pops into my mind from time to time.

One typically tries to avoid to ‘become death, the destroyer of worlds' in their day job. Given that things like ChatGPT are in the zeitgeist right now, I personally am always concerned about the idea of true quantum computation enabled optimization becoming the keystone of reaching the singularity.

While this might not be a bad thing, it’s definitely, by definition, a point of great change. The other scary thought that I have been playing around with is the meaning of reality. Given the various interpretations of quantum mechanics, there might be a significant effect on our fundamental understanding of what the universe, and our place in it is.  

Rounder05748 karma

Adding the word “quantum” to another word has been the primary force of storytelling for the Ant man movies.

With that in mind, what other word would you add to “quantum” to make a story line that we could immediately sell to Netflix for a small profit?

ArgonneLab46 karma

High definition

baltinerdist32 karma

What effect does observation have on the multiverse theory? Assuming there are an infinite number of universes, do those universes only exist going forward? Aka would it be that every moment that any perceiving being perceives a reality, if that reality is now observed and fixed, every other potential reality is eliminated from contention so the flow of reality expands infinitely forward but flatly backwards?

ArgonneLab71 karma

Observation collapses wave function, as an experimentalist, I stop my interpretation of reality there; otherwise I would spend my day in a catatonic state of existential dread.

But seriously, various interpretations tackle this problem philosophically in slightly different ways. I, personally, am a boring Copenhagen interpreter.  

CoBullet29 karma

How does the application of quantum theory, specifically the principles of superposition and entanglement, challenge our traditional understanding of causality and determinism in the physical world, and what implications does this have for our understanding of the nature of reality and the limits of human knowledge? Do you think that the Marvel movies have a level of "actuality"?

ArgonneLab33 karma

This is interesting indeed.

On one hand, we have the epistemological arguments that quantum science brings forward about what is our universe (nature of reality and determinism). See the various interpretations of quantum mechanics. However, these, lie outside of our ‘testing’ (currently anyways) and as such remain by definition, philosophical questions.

The principles of superposition and entanglement are fundamentally part of our universe and as such, they do not challenge anything per se.

Human knowledge is not reduced by the lack of determinism, same way that your experience playing any game of chance is not ruined by the lack of determinism of the die throw.

Doug_Dimmadab27 karma

I remember hearing that scientists are trying to extend the distance that they’re able to have two particles still quantum entangled. What’s the general distance that we’re able to reach there, and do you know of the current methods for trying to extend that?

Super interesting topic btw, thanks for doing this AMA!

ArgonneLab26 karma

The challenge is to not lose the entanglement due to decoherence and loss of the particle in the transmission through what ever your medium is.

Currently, we have a 30+ freedom units (mile) long optical fiber where we are testing the limits of this precisely between Argonne and UChicago.

Fundamentally, if you are able to perfectly preserve entangled coherence and not lose any of your system due to interactions with other ‘stuff’, the distance can be infinite.

Practically speaking, we will need quantum repeaters or clever engineering to do anything past ~30 miles. Now, if you have a few satellites to spare and run these experiments in space, you can have some fun at a distance.

mog_knight25 karma

How does Ant Man breathe in the quantum realm if he's smaller than oxygen molecules?

ArgonneLab31 karma

That's a great question. We'll give that some thought.

fwr121423 karma

What does quantum mean? Is it only referring to size or properties as well?

ArgonneLab40 karma

It's a good question, In short: It's both.

Quantum is a new world. As it showed in the Quantumania movie, it's a world that's inside our world, but it's much smaller. The properties in there are quite different: They are described by quantum mechanics.

One example of a quantum property is superposition. Particles described by quantum mechanics can live in the superposition state, meaning they can stay in multiple 'states' simultaneously.

Like the movie shows, Scott Lang turns into that superposition state — the probability storm — once he goes into that quantum core ball.

1714alpha21 karma

What do you think will be the most likely macro-scale applications for quantum forces like the Casimir effect?

ArgonneLab21 karma

Honestly, I do not know.

Given how wide the breadth of research is, I am sometimes as much an outside observer to these things as anyone else is. I look forward to what research comes out of that.

I do remember seeing that something fundamental in that field was released recently, you just gave me a great idea of something to read up on during my flight later today*

ArgonneLab18 karma

That was great! Thank you to everyone who asked a question.

And thank you to Nazar and Tian-Xing for joining us and providing such thoughtful and funny answers.

This wraps it up for us now.

S0M3_118 karma

Do you get annoyed when Marvel movies use quantum for every science related stuff in their movie?

ArgonneLab49 karma

This is probably my biggest pet peeve, but not directly related to the movies or Marvel.

The way I see it, the movies are using quantum as a plot device to deliver an entertaining story with a healthy dollop of CGI. The issue I have is that the word quantum is used for everything from toothpaste to weird voodoo healing crystal stuff some weirdo on Youtube is trying to sell you.

The ubiquitous usage of the word dilutes the meaning and removes from the fundamental beauty of the science. On one hand, quantum science is probably one of the most thoroughly tested scientific frameworks we have, enabling state of the art technological innovation.

On the other hand, when you search quantum on google you can end up with someone trying to convince me that my itchy feet are caused by me spiritually communing with the universe via observation or something like that.

HeyMadalena12 karma

I'm not a scientist, just someone that likes to watch and try and learn on YouTube. It's my understanding that our knowledge of physics completely breaks as we go smaller and smaller. Is this being over-hyped? Or do you feel there is a "unified theory of everything" that's yet to be discovered?

ArgonneLab22 karma

If you look back to the history of science, when we go smaller and smaller, part of our previous knowledge breaks down, and people build new models to describe the new thing they found.

The new model needs to be consistent with the previous model. I personally don't think it's being over-hyped, this is how we make progress. And yes, there are people working on the 'unified theory of everything', trying to build up a theory that unify quantum field theory and general relativity.

There are a few mathematical models, the current limitation is that we don't have the conditions (ultra high energy and mess, and very small scale) to experimentally test those unified theory models for everything.

Sfx_ns10 karma

Coyld you explain Quantum science like im a 5yr old... I cant wrap my head about it, I read that quantum computing would revolutionize the world, but how exactly would it do that?

ArgonneLab25 karma

So, a few key concepts in bullet points:

• Quantum stems form the word quanta, means discrete (think 1, 2, 3, discrete numbers, not continuous things). The reason why this is important is that fundamentally, a particle’s properties (under specific conditions) are discretized. Think of a car that can be in either the left lane or the right lane of the highway, but FUNDAMENTALLY, never between the two.

• Add two fundamental properties that all quantum systems are subject to: entanglement and superposition. SUPERPOSITION allows the system to exist in multiple states at once. ENTANGLEMENT allows multiple systems to, for all intents and purposes, become one system, regardless of how far apart they are.

• Everything quantum scientists do, is try to create systems that allows us, classical beings, to play with those fundamentally quantum phenomenon. In other words, these quantum tools we want to be able to use in clever ways to do new things.

• If you take A LOT of quantum things, and do some neat STATISTICAL PHYSICS calculations, you end up with classical laws (and the world we are familiar with.

ridopenyo9 karma

Do you really put "quantum" preffix on everything ?

ArgonneLab20 karma

Are you saying that putting "quantum" in front of everything doesn't sound cool?

ArgonneLab11 karma

Yes, fair criticism given the context :grin:.

When we say ‘quantum’ something, we essentially mean the usage of discrete energy levels of some system (be it superconducting system, spin defect in the solid state) to achieve our goals i.e. a qubit is a two level system that can be entangled with other qubits and have multiple addressable superposition states.

ArgonneLab1 karma

Yes, fair criticism given the context :grin:.
When we say ‘quantum’ something, we essentially mean the usage of discrete energy levels of some system (be it superconducting system, spin defect in the solid state) to achieve our goals i.e. a qubit is a two level system that can be entangled with other qubits and have multiple addressable superposition states.

And, yes... Quantum cool

ThatOneRandomAccount9 karma

Could there be anything smaller than quantum particles?

ArgonneLab16 karma

There’s actually no “quantum particle" per se.

Everything — all particles — follow quantum principles. It's just hard for us to see the quantum properties in our daily world because the temperature is too high and mass is too large.

On the other hand, there are particles that smaller than the scale of an atom (or the scale of Quantumania shows), like quark, neutrino......They are all described by someting called the standard model.

People working on high energy physics are studying and testing this model. 

Ok-Feedback56045 karma

What would real Quantumania be like?(if ever come into existence)

ArgonneLab11 karma

A world as alien as one could imagine.

Ok-Feedback56044 karma

How can science make it into reality?

ArgonneLab13 karma

Science already made itself into reality before. Like thermal dynamics helped us build the steam engine which led to the 1st industrial revolution, solid state physics is on the fundamental of semiconductor which is at the core of our computers/smart phones.

Now, people are trying to use quantum physics and make it into reality in the near future. Potentially, quantum computing, which utilizes quantum entanglement, will bring us faster and more powerful computers. Quantum sensors are able to help us directly look into diseases at single molecule level and improve people's health. Quantum networks will let us communicate with absolute security.

dedpol214 karma

what’s your favorite science fiction movie?

ArgonneLab10 karma

Close Encounters of the Third Kind followed immediately by the movie Contact.

johnazoidberg-4 karma

Can you fill us in on all available research into any organisms which produce a drinkable translation goo with a low toxicity to humans?

ArgonneLab2 karma

Research. No. Analogies. multitudes.

tigersareyellow2 karma

Is there anything that you're researching that you think would be really cool to explore in future movies? Maybe an interesting concept or a yet-to-be-explained phenomenon?

ArgonneLab7 karma

Totally... Quantum materials, quantum computing and communication, and quantum sensing.

HighFivePuddy1 karma

How long until I can use a pym particle to increase the size of a pizza?

ArgonneLab5 karma

Sometime in the future. But don't be depressed if its not called a "pym" particle.

zthompson23501 karma

How realistic is it that Scott Lang could beat a guy, who could destroy entire universes including multiple Thanos's, in a fist fight?

ArgonneLab2 karma

Not sure how realistic it was, but it sure was fun.