Exhibit blog

Can you guess what it is?

Image from the UCL CABI lab.

Further reading

What connects state-of-the-art medical imaging and the quest to build the ultimate supercomputers? The answer: a quantum property called spin which is possessed by electrons and atomic nuclei.

This exhibit shows the intersection between our everyday experiences of magnetism and the fascinating 'weirdness' of quantum mechanics. The scientists behind the exhibit will provide intuitive explanations of how current technologies work as well insights into what the future holds for quantum technologies based on spin.

How it works

All electrons, and certain atoms, exhibit a property called spin which is the origin of magnetism. Spin is used in a host of important applications today, for example magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in hospitals.

By placing an object in a large magnetic field, the spins of certain atomic nuclei (such as hydrogen) can be made to absorb energy at particular frequencies through the phenomenon of resonance. Visitors to this exhibit can learn about how it works in a real MRI scanner.

Individual spins obey the weird and wonderful laws of quantum mechanics, leading to perplexing phenomena such as superposition and entanglement. These ideas may ultimately lead to a new wave of future technologies, such as quantum computers which could fundamentally outperform today's fastest supercomputers. It's even possible that nature is already harnessing some of these phenomena, for example in the method that allows certain migratory birds to 'see' magnetic fields.

Games and more information on this exhibit

iPhone and Android apps

European Robins have a compass ability that helps them navigate: scientists believe they have special molecules in their eyes that may allow them to actually 'see' the effect of magnetic fields. This app uses the camera feed and a magnetic field dependent overlay as a compass 'head up display' to simulate the effect. Android app on Google Play Android app on Google Play


Play the Bomb Search game, the Quantum Codebreaker Game and the Save the Qubit game in the Quantum of Spin web app.


The following videos show members of the exhibit team talking about what science they first did and why their research is so exciting, and weird.

This video describes the results of the paper "Entanglement in a solid state spin ensemble"

Lead image: This image is an artists impression of entanglement of two spins. Credit: S. Simmons