Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything
"As Deepak Chopra taught us, quantum physics means anything can happen at any time for no reason!"You'd like to give your character supernatural powers but you don't want it to seem too unrealistic? Are you searching a way to explain why the Big Bad can travel through time without ripping the continuum into shreds? Don't worry. Remember, guys, a well-known Narrative Device is that Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything. Time-travel? Check. God-mode superpowers? Check. Death rays? Check. Expect complex equations, a lot of Techno Babble and explanations of the Schrödinger's Cat experiment and the observer effect that make every conscious being a potential Reality Warper. It's a lot easier when you don't have to do any research. This trope applies when quantum physics is brought Up to Eleven to explain any kind of bizarre event or to introduce powers and/or improbable technologies which are indistinguishable from magic. Subtrope of Phlebotinum du Jour and a type of Hand Wave. Can be considered an updated modern version to early 20th century Lightning Can Do Anything and mid-century I Love Nuclear Power, as a source of implied Magic from Technology in an age where electricity and radioactivity gradually became demystified. For real info on quantum physics, go to the page of Quantum Physics. More accurate-to-real-quantum-mechanics forms of this are examples of Minovsky Physics rather than this trope.
— Professor Farnsworth, Futurama
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Anime & Manga
- GN Particles in Mobile Suit Gundam 00.
- The Time Machine in Steins;Gate employs the Large Hadron Collider to access the past. Explained by Makise Kurisu through a series of complicated quantum physical theories.
- Oh boy, Noein. Listing every bit of techno-magic they call "quantum" something-or-other would take too long. Even the story itself can largely be explained using Schrödinger's Cat as an allegory (which one of the characters actually does partway through). The characters from the "future"? They can time-travel/dimension hop because they are "quantum existences". They constantly talk about making sure their "existence is established", because an "uncertain existence" leads to possibly being erased from reality. The future and the past are also not on the same timeline (of which there are infinite), but can still influence each other, and... um... wibbly-wobbly quantumey-wantumey...
- While Murasakiiro No Qualia is actually accurate in its explanation of physics concepts, as a science fiction, it abuses physics, and in particular quantum mechanics, to quite some extent.
- This is the Hand Wave explanation for all psychic powers in To Aru Majutsu no Index.
- Cosmic strings play an important role in Space Dandy, as do a sentient gravaton and gravatino.
- Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen: a nuclear accident turned him into a Physical God. Doc's body basically suffered 100% matter-to-energy conversion... But because his rather obsessive father trained him as a child to be a watchmaker - thus imbuing him with patience, attention to minute detail, and mechanical understanding - because he somehow retained consciousness "the very first trick [he] figured out was to put [him]self back together." Then he realized he could do it with the rest of reality too.
- This trope is why Captain Atom is considered the Biggest Billy-Badass in The DCU, even more powerful than Superman and literally capable of doing... well... just about anything he wants.
- Dr. Manhattan was a Captain Expy for Captain Atom when DC refused to let Alan Moore kill off all the characters they'd just acquired when they bought out a rival. And then there's alternate universe Quantum Superman, who was basically what happened when Clark Kent was the astronaut instead of, um, whoever Captain Atom was before the accidentnote . During some big thing when all the multiverse's Supermen teamed up, Quantum Superman was about as badass as the rest put together.
- The 21st century reincarnation of The Authority's Jenny Sparks is Jenny Quantum, a Reality Warper who, so far, can teleport, time travel, cross dimensions, create dimensions, and manipulate "quantum energy", in addition to more mundane Stock Superpowers like flight, and these are just the abilities she's manifested in her first decade. As a century baby, she still has nine more decades to develop her powers further.
- One issue of The Incredible Hercules centering around Amadeus Cho involves a town where things only exist if you're looking at them and willpower can alter reality, all "justified" by Schrodinger's Cat.
- Steam Wars uses this to explain Quantum Dragoon powers specifically how they're able to "teleport" when really they're using Quantum Physics to project themselves in different places at once.
- Ghostbusters: Word for word, each one of them is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on their back. Looks like Quantum Mechanics can bust ghosts!
- "Quantum shifting", or something like that appears on a screen in Hollow Man as a method of turning things invisible. It's not dwelt on.
- In Source Code, apparently the quantum effects that power the simulator allow it, to change past events by seemingly creating an alternate timeline.
- Hyperdrives, lightsabers, even standard starfighters in Star Wars. The last is to justify why space is often considered an ocean.
- What the #$*! Do We Know!?, a movie based on the idea that we all create our own realities, and that this has somehow mysteriously to do with quantum mechanics. (It could belong to Real Life too because the main financier of this movie, a certain J.Z. Knight aka Ramtha, has built quite a following on those ideas and sells it as an actual belief/self-help system.) See also Documentary Of Lies.
- The Secret is less philosophical about it than What the #$*! Do We Know!?, but it dabbles in much the same field, using quantum entanglement to explain how the "Law of Attraction" works.
- In Dan Simmon's novels Illium and Olympos, Quantum-based technology allows for the simulation of godlike magical powers. "Quantum teleportation" can be used to travel through space, time and into other dimensions. Basically the word "quantum" is dropped into any explanation of how nearly anything works in the setting.
- "Because of quantum" is a standard Discworld Hand Wave. The interesting thing is that it's explicitly used in the same way as "magic" is used in Real Life, but on the Discworld, magic is definable, closely studied and quite well understood. (Until it blows up in your face, that is.) But anything that really doesn't make sense and can't be explained, that's probably quantum.note
- From Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds:
"We call it a quantum snapshot, but that doesn't mean we have clue one about what was involved in producing it. That's just a name we give it to hide our ignorance."
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's Final Draft, the superhuman abilities of the functionals are explained away using quantum mechanics. In one case, the protagonist has to take a test to enter a functional building, which involves drinking acid. He ends up realizing that, in some alternate reality, there is a version of him that drinks acid for breakfast (literally) and incorporates that into himself. The only ones besides the original functionals who understand this stuff are the people from a "faraway" parallel world who have used the same knowledge to seal their reality away from all others.
- Greg Bear's short story "Schrödinger's Plague" egregiously abuses this. A variation of the Schrödinger's Cat experiment is performed with five scientists substituted for the cat and, instead of cyanide, a Synthetic Plague with a long latency period. The physicist who planned the experiment explains that it's been "established experimentally" that conscious observation can collapse quantum states. The author's note in The Collected Stories of Greg Bear hints that the physics in the story is not legitimate, but he leaves the proof as an exercise to the reader.
Live Action TV
- In Andromeda slipstream navigation relies on "the ability of organic observers to collapse wave functions". Later, Harper and Technical Director Hohne develop a working teleporter that Harper explains via the use of "quantum entanglement", pointing out that it allows them to disregard the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The teleporter even allows Time Travel, although it can only function in the vicinity of a black hole.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Out of Mind, Out of Sight", Giles gave a simplified explanation of Quantum Mechanics (or what he called it anyway) as a theory of how Marcie Ross became invisible: Everyone in Sunnydale High ignored Marcie and made her feel invisible and with a little help from the Hellmouth, her perception of herself became reality.
- Doctor Who has the Weeping Angels, which turn to stone whenever anything is looking at them because they are "quantum locked." While this still falls under Artistic License – Physics or Artistic License – Biology, it's also an unusually deliberate allusion to the observer effect.
- Most everything in Fringe, such as the alternate dimensions and being able to walk through walls with a certain device that makes your atoms not interact with other atoms yadda-yadda. The show takes real science, mangles it beyond recognition, applies it improperly, takes it to the extreme and then passes it off to the audience as something feasible in the future. Which 99% of it is not, at least not in the way they try to portray it. As a drama, it's a great show. As Scifi, well, it's on the soft side. The really soft side.
- In Power Rangers Time Force, guess the source of the Quantum Ranger's power.
- Quantum Leap, of course. The show also established that leaping affected Sam's memory — and his own past. This allowed the writers to regularly Retcon his skills and personal history.
- Warp drive from Star Trek is not an example but the quantum slipstream drive introduced in Voyager is. Star Trek in general treats "quantum" as a one-size-fits-all buzzword to handwave things with. According to some non-canon novels, the transporter works using this trope, handwaving the questions about "creating a copy and killing the original".
- In Falling Skies, Karen tells Ben that the Overlords are able to predict future events, including what the rebels will do next, through their superior understanding of quantum mechanics. Ben points out that they currently have the Overlord held captive, and she admits that sometimes their calculations need adjustment.
- Possibly believable had she said statistical mechanics instead; basically, one of the principles of quantum mechanics says you can't predict what any individual particle will do, but statistical mechanics says that if you put enough particles together you can make a damn good guess.
- An episode of The Cape introduces Dice, a woman capable of predicting events with an eerie accuracy, which is explained by her being able to see everything down to the quantum level. The Big Bad Chess studies her ability and manages to turn it into a software product that can do things like predict stock market trends (let's ignore the obvious result of completely destroying the idea of a stock market by turning everyone into an insider trader). For some strange reason, the only person she can't predict or even account for is Vince (a possible explanation is that she doesn't know his true identity, who is supposed to be dead anyway, resulting in an anomaly).
Table Top Games
- Aberrants can employ the M-R nodes in their brain to subconsciously manipulate the four elemental forces of quantum physics, and through them channel a number of desired effects attuned to the yadda yadda yadda yadda people with super-powers are awesome.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: The advanced technology of the Mecha Phantom Beasts includes quantum-output machines. The decoys created by these machines are nearly indistinguishable from the original on radar and are said to be so efficient at drawing away fire, that as long as a single decoy has been deployed, the original machine cannot be shot down.
- Eclipse Phase uses quantum cryptography realistically, and attempts to insert some realism in a Subspace Ansible that uses quantum entanglement by having each byte break the connection between a pair of entangled particles. However it also speculates that psi creates quantum fields in the brain enabling quantum computation, though it does acknowlege that doesn't explain telepathy, just the lower-level mental augmentation slights like grok or pattern recognition.
- The Half-Life franchise Hand Waves all manner of teleportation with words like "dark energy", "entanglement" (both are also names of chapters in Half-Life 2), "resonance", and "string-based". Sci-fi weapons have names that evoke quantum mechanics, like the zero-point energy field manipulator, the gluon gun, the displacement cannon, and the tau cannon. Bellisario's Maxim definitely applies here, which the games wisely adhere to by not usually trying to actually explain how anything works. They more so refer to the processes by seamlessly tossing technobabble into an otherwise normal line of dialogue (which the characters deliver as if they were talking about what they had for lunchnote ), and then move on at the earliest opportunity.
- This is what Portal is centered around; you solve puzzles with multi-colored rips in space, generated with a gun powered by miniature black holes.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the armor piercing mod for the pistol involves quantum tunneling.
- The manual for Supreme Commander claims that interstellar teleportation works via quantum tunneling. That's all we get.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and its sequel Virtue's Last Reward mainly uses this, among other things, to explain the various abilities of the espers, especially the Mental Time Travel.
- In BioShock Infinite, it creates floating cities, advanced technology, elemental powers, stable time loops, and a number of other things.
- The floating city part, at least, is based on a real experiment. It is in fact possible to use quantum physics to make particles levitate at a fixed height. It's probably not something you could realistically scale up to the size of a city, though.
- Used liberally in Mass Effect, naturally. In the second game, The Illusive Man communicates with the Normandy II through a device that induces oscillations in a single quantum particle so that they may be observed in an entangled partner on the other end instantaneously, acting as a sort of "Quantum Telegraph". In the Leviathan DLC for the third game, this is also revealed to be how telepathy works. The title aliens somehow evolved the ability to deliberately induce quantum entanglement between electrons in their own nervous systems and those of other creatures, allowing them to communicate with or even Mind Control them across the vastness of space.
- SF Debris uses the line in one of his reviews, lampshading Star Trek: Voyager's overuse of Quantum for their Technobabble.
"The problem? A breakdown of Quantum cohesion. Heh, I told you Quantum would be to blame!"
And it's all thanks to, err, let's say Quantum again."
- And again when he reviewed WallE when it turns out the space-ship doesn't have a sophisticated recycling system and so they must make new stuff by "erm, quantum".
- From The Onion: Sci-Fi Writer Attributes Everything Mysterious to 'Quantum Flux.'
- Quantum Vibe, the very name is a shortened version of a fictional field of quantum physics called "quantum vibremonics", which can apparently lead to interdimensional travel.
- Quantum Rip uses quantum mechanics as a handwave for interdimensional travel and magic.
- Discussed by Worst Muse: "Yes. That is EXACTLY how quantum physics works. Well done."
- Futurama includes this in one of Professor Farnsworth's entirely scientific explanations:
- Played for Laughs in The Simpsons episode Don't Fear The Roofer when Stephen Hawking explains that Bart didn't see Ray the roofer because of a change in space-time continuum causing a mini black hole that absorbed the light from Ray. It Makes Sense in Context. No, it doesn't.
- Any number of dubious metaphysical or pseudoscientific theories splash a lot of Quantum about— so much so that there's a term for them— quantum mysticism. If someone offering you medical treatment uses the word "Quantum" in any explanation of how their treatment works note you would be well advised to back away swiftly.
- Skeptoid calls this the 'Appeal to quantum physics': "a scientific-sounding way of claiming that the way your magical product or service works is beyond the customer's understanding."
- There is highly speculative (to say the least) research on things like quantum computing and quantum consciousness which could potentially lead to overcoming Moore's law note and build much more sophisticated computers, or explain the neuroscience behind free will note , respectively. So we could theoretically build a super-smart AI with free will - sounds cool, right? Except all of these applications of quantum physics are at the moment, purely theoretical and little to no real quantitative research has been done to show they would actually work.