Alice Challenge: What Did We Learn?

A week ago, we closed the doors to the quantum wonderland—Alice Challenge came to an end. Nearly a thousand of players from all around the world took part in our experiment, and once more we were blown away by what they achieved. One player, in particular, exceeded all our expectations—Sherlock (player's original username) from the United States managed to solve our quantum puzzle and reach the highest score!

First, let’s rewind a few months back to the beginning of the summer, when our experimental team was hard at work, trying to find the best way to cool a cloud of atoms to near-zero temperatures (read more about it here). The team was feeling quite confident about their method until our summer student Lærke came around and after only a little training made impressive improvements to the cooling method. Lærke became a living proof that with the user-friendly Alice interface everyone can make these new discoveries.

However, this was just the beginning! After Lærke, we asked some fellow physicists to find the best Alice sequences, which they promptly did, despite not being experts of that field of physics. We then opened the Alice Challenge to our dedicated players, who had no problems solving the Alice Challenge as well as Lærke, and sometimes even better!


The interface of Alice Challenge

Playing the Alice Challenge in online teams also made our players incredibly fast at finding some brilliant solutions. For instance, take the example of Sherlock. When we asked him how did he managed to reach such a high score, he answered: “The best strategy for me was to see what others were doing and try to improve on them.” According to Sherlock, competing and collaborating with other players was one of the things, which made this challenge really fun!

What is more, our wonderful players found completely new types of solutions that we are currently trying to understand better. With a collection of different solutions, we can choose which solution suits a situation best—a luxury problem for a physicist!


An ultracool cloud formed by one of our players.

Currently, we are in the process of digging deeper into the data and we can’t wait to show you more results from the Alice Challenge. Once more, you have shown the amazing power of approaching a complex physics problem with fresh eyes and a creative mind. But Alice Challenge was not only about collecting data, it was also about making science more accessible for everyone:

“I never worked in a physics lab. Instead, I was in the military, then in the investment business. But I have tried to stay abreast of what’s going on at the amateur level. I have lots of free time and would gladly volunteer in a physics lab. This is one way for me to do it.”—says Sherlock

Although the Alice experiment is temporarily closed to make room for new, exciting additions, we will go back to the drawing board to scheme new challenges for our eager citizen scientists!

Meanwhile, you can contribute to ScienceAtHome research by playing one of our other games.


Alice Challenge: What Did We Learn?