Movie Review: “Particle Fever” Is, Scientifically Speaking, Fascinating


Review by James McDonald

Physicists are on the cusp of the greatest scientific discovery of all time — or perhaps their greatest failure.

I’ve never really had an interest in science. Film-making grabbed me by the throat when I was just ten years old and has not let go but that’s not to say that I don’t have great appreciation and respect for the subject. I love science fiction but even when I was in school, science bored the hell out of me. “Particle Fever” is a thought-provoking documentary that addresses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern, Switzerland. Its aim? To allow physicists to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics and high-energy physics, and particularly prove or disprove the existence of the theorized ‘Higgs’ particle and of the large family of new particles predicted by supersymmetric theories.

When it was announced that the Collider was built so that scientists might find the so-called “God Particle”, by smashing two opposing particle beams of either protons, the entire world erupted into chaos. There were rumors that the Collider would destroy earth with planet-eating black holes and organizations started popping up around the globe, groups like ‘Citizens Against The Large Hadron Collider’, a non-profit organization established for the purpose of using legal action to prevent the operation of the Collider until further safety tests were conducted. Well, after years of preparation and panic, the first test went off without a hitch and shortly thereafter, the Collider was shut down for two years for necessary systematic repairs.

During power testing on the LHC, there was a fault that occurred in a superconducting interconnection between a dipole magnet and a quadrupole magnet which resulted in helium being released from the magnet cold mass. No one was injured or put in harm’s way, but this caused a delay that analysts weren’t expecting. The movie follows a small group of scientists and physicists leading up to the initial first test and then the final experiment in which the world was informed that everything went well and that they were pretty sure that they had found the long sought-after ‘God Particle’, or the aforementioned ‘Higgs’ particle, as it is also known.

Naturally, there was a lot of scientific jargon, some was well explained, some, not so good so there were moments where I was left scratching my head but for the most part, while I may not personally agree with scientists playing God, I liked the overall approach of the movie. Watching these people who have spent their entire lives studying and dreaming about a moment like this and then to be given the opportunity to actually be a part of it, that was intriguing and I could feel their excitement. The ending was left open and while they stated that they had indeed found what they were looking for, nothing else was ever said so I can only assume that they are still running tests and experiments and that sometime in the near future, they will tell the world exactly what they found.

In select theaters Friday, May 16th including the Angelika Dallas

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James McDonald
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