A Continuation of Quantum Physics In VFX


Hi everyone! Today we're going to talk a little bit more about quantum physics. (See my previous atomic physics(HERE) and quantum physics article (HERE)) In the previous posts, I've talked about the basic fundamental theories of atomic and quantum physics and where they overlap. As well as how quantum physics has been used in VFX so far. I recommend reading those articles before jumping into this one.

Brace yourself, because we are going to go full theoretical in this article. I think it's good to understand the theories of of quantum physics first, before understanding how to apply it, so prepared a good chuck of this article is about the theories. We are going to discuss more particles, quantum shapes, and much more.  Let's get started.


Theoretical Particles

These particles are particles we have predicted to follow the Standard Model of the Universe. However, most of these particles have not been observed, which is why they are considered theoretical. In Theoretical Particle Physics, scientists use the knowledge they have the current fundamental particles to generate new theories to explain the rest physics.


This particle if found, would break the laws of relativity. The reason being, it moves faster than the speed of light. Currently to our knowledge, no particle can do that. If it is found, it would also prove that one day in the future, light-speed travel is possible. The only reason being, these particles mirror the behavior of light. So instead of needing more energy to speed up, they need more energy to slow down. So if this particle was traveling at an infinite speed, it would require zero energy to accelerate. This would allow it to break free faster than the speed of light.


These are theoretical particles made up of an equal combination of strange quarks and up and down quarks. They are visualized as wispy strands, and are the founding base of Strange Matter. (More on this later on) Strangelets are thought to be created when  a massive neutron star builds so much pressure that the electrons and protons in its core fuse together. Strangelets can theoretically exist outside of these stars, and that's where they can be dangerous. It is thought that these particles can morph an atom’s nucleus into another strangelet by colliding with it. Which means, anything it touches becomes strange matter. Let's be happy there has been no current observation of this particle on record.


This particle is built off the idea of The Theory of Super-Symmetry. It states that every particle in the universe has an opposite twin particle. So for every atom in your coffee mug, there is another identical atom some where else in the universe. This "twin" particles are called sparticles. This concept may sound super easy to understand, but it feeds into a bigger picture. In particle physics, heavier particles decay faster than lighter particles. There is an idea that the reason we have never observed a sparticle, is because it is much heavier than it's original twin particle. Such as the one in our coffee mug. Therefore, the sparticle must have already broken down before we have observed it. These sparticles are also thought to help make up the Dark Matter that exists in our universe, as dark matter is something we cannot yet directly observe. (Stay tuned for that upcoming article :)) 


These were considered a theoretical particle up until 2010. Anti-particles contain the same mass as ordinary particles and matter. But they contain the opposing charge and opposite angular spin than regular particles. For example, if you have a particle with a positive charge and spin, it's matching anti-particle would be one with a negative charge and negative spin. Anti-particles also help make up something called Anti-matter. Rule of thumb, It is always opposite day in anti-matter land. As of 2010, scientists were able to trap these particle in the CERN reactor proving their existence.


This particle is the answer to gaps in theory of gravity. Gravity in the universe can change based on the mass of an object. Such as black holes, stars, planets, etc. It is easy to observe, but it is also really confusing on a molecular level. If gravity did contain a particle, it would explain how gravity exerts a weak pull on every object without exhibiting any mass. This sounds a bit confusing, but some particles such as photons do not contain any mass at all. If gravity also contained a particle, it would complete The Unified Theory. Scientists have gone as far as to complete a full scale of parameters of how a graviton would behave. Now we just need to find a particle that matches the parameters.


This is the Inspector Spacetime of theoretical particles. These particles are described as the sparticles of gravitons that can attract and repel particles at the same time. They could help gravitons create anti-gravity, but not in this dimension.... But rather the 5th dimension of spacetime. If you are scratching your head at this point, it's ok. The idea for this particle was formed around The Kaluza Klein Theory. This theory states that electromagnetism and gravity can be unified into a single force under the condition that there are more than four dimensions in spacetime. So this particle would theoretically exist outside our universe, and finding it would prove the existence of other dimensions. Neat huh?


These particles are thought to be the sub-particle that makes up quarks. Currently, we cannot observe what particle creates a quark. But we can take a few guesses. There is currently no scale right now which could measure a size of a preon. So we have no idea how big they are, what their mass is, or how many of them are contained in a single quark. But proving their existence could open up a whole new door of theoretical particle theories. There is an idea that preons are actually made up of anti-matter. This would explain why we have trouble observing them, and why we cannot sense their charge. Simply because, they are emitting whatever the opposite is of a quark.


If you thought graviphotons were weird, wait till you learn about branes. This I swear, is what your weird friend in college experienced when he dropped too many shrooms in the campus parking lot. These particles operate on something called Membrane Theory. Where gravity and other forces leak into our universe from other dimensions. These forces are contained in a particle called a brane, that can encompass other dimensions. They have different labels based on how many dimensions they contain. A 0-brane would contain zero dimensions, a 1-brane would contain one, and so on. This leads to the theory that our universe is really one large brane with four dimensions. This idea would help build upon the idea of graviphotons. 



"What? Strings can't be particles, that's an object!" Well, that's why this next particle can be a bit confusing. It operates on the idea that particles are not points that travel about the universe, but rather strings. This is where String Theory comes into play. String theory is a Theory of Everything that merges both gravity and quantum physics together. Currently , gravity and quantum physics cannot co-exist together, so scientists have been looking for an explanation for both. If this theory is correct, then these strings would form the building blocks of quarks, and those quarks as we know form atoms. 

God Particle:


Saving the best for last. The God Particle, known as the Higgs Boson, is probably the one of the most important particles in quantum physics. It was first theorized in 1964 to explain how some particles appear mass-less, when they contain mass. As well as the Higgs Field. (More on this later) The Higgs Field is thought to contain the force that gives all particles and material in the universe mass. By proving that the Higgs Boson is real, you can prove that the Higgs Field is real, as the particle exists inside of it. As of 2012, two scientists have thought to made the first discovery of the Higgs Boson. They were able to observe a particle during this time that matched theoretical data of the Higgs Boson.  As of October 2013, the Nobel prize in physics was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter Higgs to the discovery of a "predicted fundamental particle".

The Brout-Englert-Higgs Mechanism and The Higgs Field

The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism was developed in 1964 by different groups of scientists to explain how bosons contain mass. Peter Higgs, Robert Brout and François Englert were the first groups of scientists to suggest the theory. The current Standard Model of particle physics doesn't account for how bosons and photons have mass while still exhibiting the weak force and electromagnetic forces. Under the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, these particles are allowed to obtain mass when they move about and collide in something called The Higgs Field.

The Higgs Field exists in all of space, and is thought to contain the force that gives all particles and material in the universe mass. The more a particle interacts with this field, the heavier it is. 


If any of you would like to implement the actual physics of The Higgs Field inside of Houdini, you can grab the data from this website: HERE.

Quantum Shapes

Now, let's talk about something fun and different. Quantum shapes. These are functions/objects referred to as amplituhedrons. They are used to describe how particles interact in a geometric version of Quantum Field Theory. 

In this version, the locality and unitarity positions of particles can be removed. This means that we no longer need to assume that particles can interact only from adjoining positions in space and time. As well as the concept that all probabilities of all possible outcomes of quantum mechanical interactions add up to one. Keeping this in mind, both of these concepts are two of the most founding principles of quantum mechanics. Therefore this quantum shape theory considered very divergent from traditional thinking.

An Amplituhedron's properties are based on it's geometry and the way the particles are moving about inside of it. It's also considered a starting point to help describe a quantum theory of gravity. 

This shape is built almost exactly how it's name suggests. It is a scattering of amplitudes across and inside a surface. These amplitudes represent the probability of change a certain set of particles will emit when they turn into certain other particles upon colliding. In short, based on where the particles are in the geometry, and how fast they are traveling, will determine how they form and change over time. These shapes have the same result as Feynman Diagrams.

Feynman Diagrams are diagram that shows what happens when elementary particles collide. They are 2D representations of particle movement. The lines in a Feynman diagram represent the probability amplitude for a particle to go from one place to another. They are also considered a Rube Goldberg machine as there is thousands, if not infinite possible outcomes. In this case, our Amplituhedron is a 3D representation of this. But Amplituhedrons go one step farther, and simplify Feynman Diagrams to one function rather than countless ones. This is not only easier to calculate for a computer, but also saves countless time in data collecting.

In short, these shapes are easier for quantum scientists to predict particle movement as they allow a 3D representation of how gluons and other particles collide. As a 2D sketch takes hours to draw out and calculate. They are also perfect infinite shape to scatter particles across.

Strange Matter

Strange matter is also known as strange quark matter. As we previous discussed, strange matter is made up of strangelets and quarks. In a normal environment, quarks exist in groups of threes. However, when quarks come under massive amounts of pressure they start to change. For example, when neutron stars collapse, they crush their own atoms and release a wave of quarks into open space. These quarks can then join together in an amount larger than a group of three, and become strange matter or strangelets

Strange matter is dangerous as anything that touches it becomes strange matter. Once touched, the once normal matter condenses and becomes condensed quarks. These new strange quarks would then be free to fly around the cosmos as well.

Now, if you are starting to be a bit worried, that's alright. I would hate for the Earth to get struck by a flying noddle of strange matter and be gone forever. Luckily for us, scientists haven't had the chance to directly observe strange matter and prove it's existence. Therefore, strange matter is very much a theoretical concept. Scientists have also stated they aren't entirely sure either if strange matter can break fee from the center of neutron stars without disintegrating. So that is also good new for us as well.


In the Standard Model of Physics, 17 particles and their interactions and forces are accounted for. It also gives a theory to almost all other fundamental particles and how they interact in the universe. The exceptions being gravity, and how gluons and photons behave. 

Super-gravity is one theory out there that helps explain where gravity can fit into the Standard Model and supersymmetry. In 1973, Julius Wess and Bruno Zumino came up with a new 4D model of Super-symmetry in the universe. This model would later be called Super-gravity. This idea was based off of Dual-resonance models. These models are a system of interacting S-matrix (The Scattering theory, AKA a physical system undergoing a scattering process) theories and other interacting strings. In some ways, their idea is considered an early version of String Theory.

Their model goes something like this. The universe is not entirely symmetrical when it comes to particles. But rather that supersymmetry is a “local” symmetry. In other words, its transformations vary over space-time. However, supersymmetry states that every particle must have a super-symmetric partner with the other type of spin. Or a twin as it were. By introducing the concept of super-gravity into this model, this allows for this twins to be removed from the equation, and for particles to exist beyond extra dimensions in space-time.


In summary, this allows particles like fermions to exist without mass anywhere in The Higgs Field or about the universe. As they no longer are controlled by mirroring another particle somewhere else. They can do almost whatever they would like. It would also allow for particles to carry enough mass to create a force strong enough such as gravity. And with these particles free floating and scattered randomly about the universe, then gravity could be created anywhere, in selective places, or wherever these scattered strings are located.

The particle that would carry this gravitational force would be called a graviton. 

Application in VFX

Now we are through all those confusing theories and data, let's get back to VFX. 

While I was researching for this article I did my best to see how quantum physics was impacting the field of VFX. And vice versa. I went through 10 years of SIGGRAPH papers looking for something that tied atomic or quantum physics in our field, but found almost nothing. There was a ton of information of fractals and quantum computers, but not much on VFX. If anyone reads this and finds other quantum physics sources, please let me know. I would love to read it.

I also looked through NASA, CERN, and some other sites. Here's what I found. Some of these creations have links to other quantum fields we've mentioned in previous articles. As well as  the basic fundamental theories. At the end of this chapter I will be linking a few sites where you, yourself can grab data to create models such as Feynman Diagrams inside of VFX software. 

Let's start with some CERN projects.

Art has always gone hand in hand with science. So it's no surprise that in 2013, CERN decided to feed some of their work back into art. In Berlin they were able to take some of their Large Hadron Collider data and create a fully timed visual effects display for the public to view. They took particle data from their collider, turned it into a musical score, and timed and tuned visual effects to the music. As small as this project may sound, it's a great example of scientific expressionism.

NASA has also been very art and simulation savvy. They have a whole branch of their services just for processing data as visual effect simulations, 3D creations, and much more. The Goddard Media Studio, and NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio are two of these places that are dedicated to visualizing physical data. You can view their creations HERE.

Now onto SIGGRAPH! 

Out of all the quantum computing papers there were three that caught my eye. Let's start with the first one which is called Schrödinger's Smoke. 

In this article, (Published in 2016) Albert Chern, Felix Knöppel, Ulrich Pinkall, Peter Schröder, and Steffen Weißmann prove that using the Schrödinger Equation you can generate vortex-like smoke effects. They also were able to generate dynamically thin vortical structures inside the smoke, and visualize them accurately. You can read the article HERE. This is a great example of abstraction from quantum physics that we can use in our day to day simulations.

Quantum Supersampling was the next article I stumbled across. Published in 2005, this article shows how quantum computing can affect the resolution of rendered images. In this text, they explain how using different formulas such as the Monte Carlo method can create different rendered results. They also explain how quantum sum estimation can improve render times as it uses a probability of correctness based on the number of iterations performed. As well as placing all the pixels into a quantum superposition. This allows for them to have a parallel simultaneous evaluation. Boom, no more render time coffee breaks. You can read the article HERE.

The final one that I saw was also about rendering. The Advances in the Quantum Theoretical Approach to Image Processing Applications was first published in October 2016. This one builds upon the idea that we can use quantum computing for improved rendering. It suggests we can add additional compositing factors onto the images at a faster rate. Jobs such as plate preparation could be drastically improved through this technology. They suggest that using quantum computing we could quickly denoise, edge-detect, and store images faster. You can read the rest HERE.

Footnotes, and Links to Data for Visual Effect Simulations

Here is some raw data that you can use to create physically accurate simulations, or models of quantum physics formulas inside of VFX software. Inside are the formulas and values you can add to your customs simulations depending on what you would like to replicate. Have fun!

  • Dataset from the ATLAS Higgs Boson Machine Learning Challenge 2014. HERE

  • Electronic Detector Data for Neutrino-Induced Charmed Hadron Production Studies: HERE

  • Feynman Diagram FormulasHERE

  • Feynman Diagrams and the Strong Force: HERE

  • The Higgs Boson Discovery and Associated Signals: HERE

  • Quantum Numbers and Electron Configurations: HERE

  • Atomic Structure: The Quantum Mechanical Model: HERE


“The End of Quantum Reality” Documentary Opens Limited US Theatrical Engagement: https://www.shootonline.com/spw/%E2%80%9C-end-quantum-reality%E2%80%9D-documentary-opens-limited-us-theatrical-engagement

Category:Animations of quantum mechanics: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Animations_of_quantum_mechanics

The hard sell of quantum software: https://physicsworld.com/a/the-hard-sell-of-quantum-software/

GIF-Animations for Quantum Mechanics: https://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Services/Class/PHYS386/images/movies/index2.html

Physical Simulation & VFX: https://www.sidefx.com/products/houdini/fx-features/

Stephen Hawking's Most Provocative Moments, From Evil Aliens to Black Hole Wagers: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/stephen-hawking-controversial-physics-black-holes-bets-science/#close

Visual Effects: http://www.academia.edu/Documents/in/Visual_Effects

Explorations of the Quantum World for Non-Science Students: https://web.phys.ksu.edu/vqm/software/online/info/summaryOfVqm.html

QUANTUM VFX COMPUTING: https://vfxscience.com/2018/09/03/quantum-vfx-computing/

Deluxe's Method Studios to Acquire Award-Winning VFX Company Atomic Fiction in Continued Global Expansion: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/deluxes-method-studios-to-acquire-award-winning-vfx-company-atomic-fiction-in-continued-global-expansion-689243501.html

Physics Works: https://www.iop.org/publications/iop/2015/file_65433.pdf

VFX in movies: from weightlessness to curly hair: https://physicsworld.com/a/vfx-in-movies-from-weightlessness-to%E2%80%AFcurly-hair/

Atomic Fiction Alien VFX Tech in The Predator: https://www.fxguide.com/fxfeatured/atomic-fiction-alien-vfx-tech-in-the-predator/

A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics: https://www.quantamagazine.org/physicists-discover-geometry-underlying-particle-physics-20130917/?fbclid=IwAR2Cb3AiDEPSRYW2Cz5-iFuOBjM0aP1U1F6Cq6XbRttv6pptkIfDCsRlPjk

10 Theoretical Particles That Could Explain Everything: https://listverse.com/2013/05/03/10-theoretical-particles-that-could-explain-everything/

The Higgs boson: https://home.cern/science/physics/higgs-boson

Antimatter Atoms Trapped for First Time—"A Big Deal": https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/11/101118-antimatter-trapped-engines-bombs-nature-science-cern/

The origins of the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism: https://home.cern/science/physics/origins-brout-englert-higgs-mechanism

LHC data triggers operatic visuals in Berlin: https://home.cern/news/news/cern/lhc-data-triggers-operatic-visuals-berlin

VISUAL DISTORTION EFFECTS IN A HIGH GRAVITY ENVIRONMENT: https://apod.nasa.gov/htmltest/gifcity/nslens_effects.html

Quantum Supersampling: https://dl.acm.org/doi/epdf/10.1145/2897839.2927422

Advances in the Quantum Theoretical Approach to Image

Processing Applications: https://dl.acm.org/doi/epdf/10.1145/3009965

Schrödinger's Smoke: https://dl.acm.org/doi/epdf/10.1145/2897824.2925868

Stabilizing Integrators for Real-Time Physicshttps://dl.acm.org/doi/epdf/10.1145/3153420

Opposites Attract--Free Lectures on Art and Physics: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6502

Black Holes and Neutron Stars: https://apod.nasa.gov/htmltest/rjn_bht.html

Scientific Visualization Studio: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/search/?search=quantum


Quantum Approximate Optimization with Hard and Soft Constraints: https://dl.acm.org/doi/epdf/10.1145/3149526.3149530