Superficially PARTICLE FEVER is a quest-narrative charting the search
by a group of 4000 physicists at a variety of locations - Geneva,
Princeton, Texas, for a particle that might provide the key to the way
the universe works. There are several obstacles placed along the way,
including an inconvenient breakdown of the machinery used to conduct
the experiment, but the film ends on an optimistic note as the quest is
concluded, and everyone celebrates through internet links.
Mark Levinson's film contains a fair amount of technical language spoken by a variety of interviewees, including physicists Martin Aleksa, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Savas Dimopoulos, and Fabiola Gianotti (among others). A lot of it is difficult, well nigh incomprehensible for nonspecialists to understand, but as the documentary unfolds, it soon becomes clear that the quest to prove the theories behind the particles is a peripheral element of the narrative. Levinson is far more interested in showing how the project involves representatives from different nations working together in a community of purpose - even those originating from countries (e.g. the United States, Iran and Iraq), which are supposedly at war with one another. The sight of them participating so enthusiastically offers a hope for the future; beneath the rhetoric expressed by politicians and warmongers there lurks a genuine desire for co-operation across cultures. Perhaps if more attention were paid to these initiatives, then the world might be a safer place.
More significantly, Levinson's film shows that the so-called "two cultures" theory espoused by C. P. Snow and other writers has been satisfactorily exploded. Snow insisted that the "arts" and the "sciences" could never work cohesively with one another: one was interested in "ideas," the other in "truths." PARTICLE FEVER begins by insisting that the scientists are pursuing universal "truths" that would help individuals understand the worlds they inhabit; but as the documentary unfolds, so several of the scientists admit that their conclusions will be tenuous at best, and always subject to renegotiation. Put another way, they admit that "truth" is a relative term, dependent on the context in which the term has been employed; this knowledge lies at the heart of all "artistic" endeavors as well. We understand that both communities are engaged in similar activities; the need to discover new things about the world we inhabit and share them with others. This is what drives new research, irrespective of whether it is in the "arts" or the "sciences."
Ultimately PARTICLE FEVER is an uplifting film that demonstrates the value of common research, and how it can be conducted across all platforms and all disciplines. Let us hope that the group of scientists have been inspired to continue their valuable work.
Action / Documentary
Action / Documentary
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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