Review of Mark Levinson's "Particle Fever"

Particle Fever  ★★★½


Lucky for me I decided to go through the list of upcoming movies on my Fandango app or I would never have heard about Mark Levinson's new movie about CERN going live with their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2008 and its subsequent findings. Double lucky for me, I chose a screening on accident that included a Q&A after with scientists from Fermilab and Argonne.

The film itself does a great job of documenting the event, however, I do wish it took more time to explain in greater detail the ideas behind the project and why it's so important. This hurts its overall effect, especially for people who don't have a clear understanding of particle and high-energy physics, but the information that is given is enough to get the viewer though and I had no problem seeing why this was such a huge moment for science and humanity. This film is a great opportunity to learn something about our universe and the importance of experimentation and discovery. I sincerely hope that junior high and high school science teachers knew about these screenings and encouraged their students to seek them out or organized trips to the theater.

There were a few moments from this documentary that I absolutely loved as they drove home even harder my love of science and fact-based skeptical thinking. With all of the political and religious reasons people hate each other in this world, it was great to see how everyone came together on this project regardless of background. The LHC was built in a tunnel 17 miles in circumference and nearly 600 feet underground the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland by thousands of scientists and engineers from over 100 countries, as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. After the LHC's initial findings are revealed, theoretical physicist David Kaplan comments with a smile that it proved many of his ideas to be wrong. Can you imagine a politician or religion defender reacting in such a way? Because Kaplan is a scientist driven by truth that's supported by testable, repeatable, fact-based data; he looks forward to where the new information will lead him instead of digging his heels in to defend his ideas after they are proven false (or can't be proven.) This is how we can learn more about ourselves and the universe we live in.

I also appreciated his response to an economist who asks him what's the financial reason to be investing so much money into these studies. He reminds us that much of the technologies we depend on today (the internet for instance was actually created by CERN for scientists to share the information from these studies worldwide) weren't discovered on purpose but by people pushing the boundaries and searching for answers even when there was no clear financial gain to be made. It could lead to nothing or just understanding everything.