How does a university get the public at large interested in a dry-sounding, day-long seminar on quantum computing? Simple. Just recruit Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, and have him square off in the most epic virtual chess match of all time against physics superstar Dr. Stephen Hawking. And, if possible, get both Bill and Ted from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure involved. That’s exactly what Caltech recently did to kick off an event called One Entangled Evening. This symposium began with a funny and genuinely suspenseful 12-minute film called “Anyone Can Quantum,” directed by Alex “Bill S. Preston, Esq.” Winter (who cameos) and narrated by Keanu “Ted Logan” Reeves. In the film, the eternally ageless Reeves contacts Rudd from the distant future to present a daunting challenge: The very future of humanity depends upon Rudd vanquishing Hawking in an online quantum chess match. What is quantum chess? Reeves explains:
A variant of regular chess in which every piece is endowed with quantum powers. Take this queen, for example. Unlock her true powers, and this quantum queen can move twice in a single turn. The catch? There is an equal chance the queen never moved. The opponent may attack any of the queen’s positions, forcing her to reveal her true location. By pure chance, the queen is actually there. The bishop’s quantum move is overruled. The queen wins this battle.
Rudd does not understand any of that, so he spends a training montage reading up on subjects such as physics, chess, basic numbers, and Harry Potter. It all leads up to the climactic Rudd-Hawking showdown, with any number of famous onlookers offering their comments via social media. (Read: heckling Paul Rudd without mercy.) Hawking is breezily confident, while Rudd is sweaty and stressed out, but only the latter understands the true import of this so-called “game.”