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Gaily Tread the [Quantum] Measure

Dunamis Novem dance by Sam Mitchell.

Dunamis Novem by Sam Mitchell.

Since quantum theory has been known to borrow from the arts—Murray Gell-Mann famously named "quarks" after a line from James Joyce—it's only fitting that quantum physics, in return, has been inspiring artists and composers. Poetry, paintings, art installations, music and, yes, dance, have been inspired by the new physics and its weird, counterintuitive principles.

Now, Ray Simmonds, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where quantum theory drives much of the physics research, and Sam Mitchell, a graduate student in fine arts at the University of California, San Diego, have collaborated on a modern dance piece celebrating the central role of chance in the quantum world.

The individual movements of Mitchell's Dunamis Novem (Latin for the chance happening of nine things), are based on the quantized energy levels of a harmonic oscillator—like the microscopic drum in Simmonds' NIST lab that has been used to demonstrate quantum phenomena in a mechanical device.

Become entangled in Dunamis Novem, see the moves and more at the NIST science feature "What Is Quantum Physics? Dancers Explain."

Released July 28, 2015, Updated February 3, 2023