Last night, I saw actor Paul Rudd answer a call from a time-traveling Keanu Reeves and then challenge eminent physicist Stephen Hawking to a game of “quantum chess.” No really, I did. Weirder things happen all the time—like how particles entangle and decohere and superpose in quantum mechanics. And like how Stephen Hawking apparently spends his free time watching cat videos.
In a video (above) that premiered at Caltech’s “One Entangled Evening” event, hosted by the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM), Paul Rudd of Ant-Man fame (the hero’s powers are the result of quantum mechanics) is wondering why he wasn’t invited to give the keynote. He’s been to the quantum realm after all. The reason: Hawking. Rudd needs to best Hawking in order to attend, and save the future apparently, so the actor throws down with help from Keanu and tweets from the Pope.
Directed by Alex Winter, the video was a delightful addition to a night dedicated to celebrating the life and work of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who was famously able to bring even the mysteries of the quantum realm up to our level in lucid and accessible lectures. The event continues today with a symposium including some of the brightest minds tackling the universe’s smallest scales.
“Anyone Can Quantum” is a surprisingly funny short with voiceover from the “never-aging” Keanu Reeves, an always funny Dr. Hawking, and a Bill and Ted cameo that is pretty awesome (hint, hint). The game in the video, “quantum chess,” is more than just a gag too—quantum chess is a real game that was developed in collaboration with Chris Cantwell, a graduate student at USC, and will be available for download soon when the Kickstarter campaign launches in February.
And like you see in the video, the game will challenge you with new ways to think about chess. Superposition and entanglement, almost magical properties of quantum systems, will add whole new layers to the already difficult game. Can you imagine a queen in two places at once, or a rook that will only decide where it is on the board once a neighboring piece is attacked? With a little practice with the quantum, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it (but probably won’t beat Stephen Hawking).