I was recently sent an advance screener for a new film called Particle Fever. The film is based on the years leading up to the first test of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN laboratory. The LHC is the biggest machine ever built by human beings. LHC is made of multiple experiments in 4 locations around the rings. LHCb, ATLAS , CMS and ALICE. The project includes 10,000 people from over 100 nationalities and uses 100,000 computers to deal with the data.
The film is beautifully shot. It is eye candy for big thinking philosophers, futurists and physicists. An instant geek classic.
The opening scene of the film really illustrates just how enormous the LHC machine is. The scale is breathtaking, and the detail of engineering is astounding.
According to the CERN website:
“At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.
The instruments used at CERN are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before the beams are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.
Founded in 1954, the CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 21member states.”
In the film David Kaplan answers a basic question: “What is the purpose of CERN?” by saying “We are trying to understand the basic laws of the universe.”
One scene really demonstrates the short sighted view that most people have about CERN. During a lecture David Kaplan is asked “What’s the economic return, how do you justify all this?” Kaplan responds “I have no idea. When radio waves were discovered they weren’t called radio waves because there were no radios. They were discovered as some sort of radiation.”
We have no idea what could come from a new discovery. Personally I’m hoping for teleportation, but if that is too large of a request then Ill settle for time travel.
Fringe scientists feared turning on CERN would cause a black hole. It did not (as far as we know) cause a black hole, and we are still here…I think.
[youtube responsive=true id=”Rikc7foqvRI” align=”left”]
According to the films Youtube page:
“Imagine being able to watch as Edison turned on the first light bulb, or as Franklin received his first jolt of electricity.
For the first time, a film gives audiences a front row seat to a significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough as it happens. Particle Fever follows six brilliant scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, marking the start-up of the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet, pushing the edge of human innovation.
As they seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe, 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries joined forces in pursuit of a single goal: to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter. But our heroes confront an even bigger challenge: have we reached our limit in understanding why we exist?
Directed by Mark Levinson, a physicist turned filmmaker, and masterfully edited by Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The English Patient), Particle Fever is a celebration of discovery, revealing the very human stories behind this epic machine.”
FEATURE IMAGE: (Maximilien Brice, © CERN)