Particle Fever (2013)

Not Rated   |    |  Documentary


Particle Fever (2013) Poster

As the Large Hadron Collider is about to be launched for the first time, physicists are on the cusp of the greatest scientific discovery of all time -- or perhaps their greatest failure.


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Director:

Mark Levinson

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5 September 2014 | atlasmb
8
| The Excitement of a Scientifically Historic Event
This is not an educational film designed for physicists. Those who say the film is light on science should look to its title: "Particle Fever". What does "fever" refer to? Unbridled emotions--from joy to fear--that accompanied scientists' anticipation of an historic event: the operation of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) in Meyrin, Switzerland.

The film explains how the theoretical basis for the CERN experiments dates back decades. Entire scientific careers have focused on theories that might be perfected or destroyed with data from the LHC.

Before I started watching this documentary, I decided that I was looking for clarity regarding the physics behind this endeavor. And I was hoping that the film would be engaging. The film is a success on both points. As a layperson, I could never hope to understand the mathematics of theoretic physics or the mechanics of experimental physics, but this film provides the basics for understanding the issues at play and their magnitude. Using a few "actors" to speak to the camera, especially those with overt enthusiasm and those who have invested their lifetimes in this arena of scientific thought, helped me feel their "fever" and understand the stakes.

For the most part, this film is presented chronologically, beginning in 2007 as the LHC becomes operational. History and theory are interspersed throughout the film.

The most anticipated results of the LHC data pertained to the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle critical to modern particle theory. Much of the drama, at least for those unfamiliar with the data CERN has provided over the years, concerns this particle.

This film also shows the relationship of the scientific community with media, which sometimes has the power to excite popular opinion for better or worse. Information presented about a CERN-like project in Texas illustrates that politics play its part, often controlling the purse strings.

On the downside, I found some of the universe theory to be anthropocentric and even anthropomorphic. Also, when Nima A. says it is "incredible" that the laws of nature are understandable via math, I understand what he means, but I wonder if there are other "maths" unavailable to us that could explain those laws of nature that are imperceivable by man. We can know but a small part of the multiverse. This is something astronomers have already accepted.

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$53,901 9 March 2014

Gross USA:

$869,838

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$869,838

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