60 years of computer science and AI

The Science of Doctor Who: Quantum Spies

Photograph taken at the National Museum of Edinburgh Sat 18th March

This activity is part of the Science of Dr Who: Science Saturday drop-in for all families. It will be facilitated by Dr Chris Heunen, a reader in Quantum Informatics  at the University of Edinburgh. Volunteers from the Quantum Informatics Research group will be joining him to help young participants through their hands-on secret spy mission.

Quantum Spies is an activity for children aged 8-12. Participants will explore the mysteries of quantum informatics, discover hidden messages, cover their tracks, and intercept secret communications in order to earn a quantum spy licence.

The aim of the activity is to introduce participants to the superposition principle of quantum informatics through a hands-on secret spy mission.  

Traditional spy props: magnifying glasses will be used during the activity to showcase the superposition of polarisation angles in light. The activity also creates an opportunity to discuss practical applications of the principle, such as LCD displays and fibre optic internet.


Photograph taken at the National Museum of Edinburgh Sat 18th March

The Science of Doctor Who

The National Museum of Scotland is currently hosting the Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder exhibition. This must-see exhibition brings a scientific perspective to The Doctor's adventures, drawing on content from across the full canon of Doctor Who. Science Saturdays are accompanying the exhibition and looking into science inspired by Dr Who. Science-themed hands-on activities, demonstrations and specialist talks are included. Everyone is welcome at these free events for all ages.


Event report

On Saturday 18 March 2023, the National Museum of Scotland Held a Science Saturday, themed around the science behind Dr Who to accompany their Dr Who exhibition. A team of volunteers from the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics ran an event about quantum informatics, called Quantum Spies: Robert Booth, Marine Demarty, Chris Heunen, Jon Larrea, Ujjwal Pawar, and Chuanhao Sun. Participants learned in a hands-on way about quantum superposition through playing with polarising lenses in three spy-themed games. The event was aimed at children age 8-12, but many adults and younger children had fun participating too. Together with teams from the Robotarium, Heriot-Watt University, and the School of Mathematics, the event was set up in the Grand Gallery, the Museum's main concourse. According to the Museum count, around 3000 people interacted with the event throughout the day, but it felt like it went by much quicker than that!

Dr Chris HeunenReader in Quantum Informatics  at the University of Edinburgh


Photograph taken at the National Museum of Edinburgh Sat 18th March

The Science of Doctor Who: Quantum Spies

From AI and quantum realms to different dimensions and time travel, Science Saturday brings together expert-led activities that explore the real science behind Doctor Who's interstellar adventures.

National Museum of Scotland, Main Gallery

Free drop-in