A physics-based documentary may sound yawn-inducing, but this trailer for Particle Fever, about the Large Hadron Collider, looks like a surprisingly good time. Seriously, this could be really interesting. I can barely multiply and I’ll go see this when it arrives at a theater near me. In a town like Boston, I won’t be the only geek munching on popcorn while watching a science flick.
For those of you who don’t know what the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is, let me try to explain. Or you could just wait to see Particle Fever, as I’m sure it provides a much better explanation. What the hell, here goes nothing. The LHC is the biggest, baddest machine ever built. Its construction at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland took an entire decade, from 1998-2008, and it lives in a tunnel 574 feet underground that has a circumference of 17 miles.
The LHC smashes particles together, which allows scientists to test their wacky theories in particle and high-energy physics. It actually has seven different detectors: two of them search for particles that might indicate the origins of mass and dimension, including the Higgs Boson particle, and anything relating to dark matter. Another detector works on quark-gluon plasma (otherwise known as quark soup), and others that deal with the antimatter that was created during the big bang. Just another day at the office over at the LHC.
Speaking of those folks, it took 10,000 of them, from over 100 countries, to design and build the LHC, which makes it one of the biggest collaborative projects ever. I’d say all this is deserving of a documentary, wouldn’t you? Director Mark Levinson, who happens to have a PhD in particle physics, has been working on this project since 2006 and spent four years on-site collecting footage. A bunch of physicists appear in the movie too, largely discussing the hunt for the Higgs Boson. While we may not think that has anything to do with us, it certainly does—it’s the particle that holds everything together. Understanding it would provide unparalleled insight into how we, and everything, got here in the first place.
Early reviews of the movie are very positive, and praise Particle Fever for taking an inaccessible subject and making it interesting and comprehensible to a general audience. I’m sure Levinson’s knowledge of the field helps with that, as well as producer David Kaplan, a theoretical particle physics prof at Johns Hopkins.
Particle Fever> played at the 51st New York Film Festival last fall, and opens in New York in early March. From there it heads to other cities, so you’ve got some time to study up on your physics so you can sit proudly among the geeks.