Seth and his school project
Let me introduce you to Seth, an 8-year-old boy whose incredible curiosity drove him to set up a really cool project from scratch… with a little help from his ScienceAtHome friends.
On a cold December day, our team got an email from Salt Lake City in the state of Utah. Despite the cold weather out there, the message brought some warmth to our office. Seth’s mom, Hanna, was letting us know that Seth had been enjoying playing our terrific spiders game, Quantum Shooter. (Seriously, have you heard the spiders’ noise?) Yet, Seth’s curiosity was tickled by an underlying question: “How does this game actually help scientists build a quantum computer in Denmark?”
At that time, our website didn’t clearly explain how we used the game’s data. Now, we’ve made it easier to understand how your gameplay helps our team. So, we gladly answered Seth’s scientific queries and an idea germinated in the mother-and-son team. Indeed, Seth’s school was calling on all their young scientists to organize a STEM fair (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
Quantum physics is a complicated branch of science but it was a challenge just big enough for Seth. Mother and son spent about three hours each week to work on the project. The goal of Seth’s experiment was to determine the best way to quickly move a full glass of water without sloshing too much. The glass of water serves as a human-scaled substitute for the atom, which can be very hard to keep hold of. And to reproduce the challenge moving an atom through an optical lattice (the grid in which atoms have to be shuffled inside of a quantum computer), Seth imagined a 22ft race (about 7m).
He first had people run the race as fast as they could without water. In their second attempt, people had to carry the water, leading to extreme spilling, of course. During the third race, participants had to be as slow as needed in order to minimize spilling. Then finally, they got a fourth attempt to try their best, optimizing for both water and speed.
With this precise experimental design, Seth managed to gather data for each trial. Speed and stability appeared to be key aspects. Indeed, the amount of water in the glass before and after the race had to remain as close as possible to achieve acceptable results. On the official day of the fair, Seth took his classmates on a fun quantum journey where they also experienced the race and discovered his final results.
Seth identified the optimal time for running the race as well as the best strategy to do it. 3.5 seconds is the best time you should try for as going faster during the experiment ended up with too much water spilled. Seth’s wise advice would be not to rush! Indeed, from his observations, the best strategy is to hold the glass with both hands while keeping the upper body steady and walking smoothly just like a cat would do.
The entire team here in Denmark would like to congratulate Seth for his very good work! His project proves that science can be fun and that the world of atoms, when explained in the right way, is accessible to the youngest of students. A really nice encouragement for ScienceAtHome… Thanks, Seth!