Particle Fever is a very immersive documentary about the scientific 20 year monolithic programme that is the Hadron Collider, where ten thousand people, from all over the world (100 different nationalities) are working together under the umbrella of the highest ideals known to their community.
The film follows several scientists as they converge at CERN to immerse themselves in a heady brew of theoretical and experimental physics as they try to find the God-Particle using the massive (17 mile long) Hadron Collider. Each scientist is a character in their own right and it’s nice to see so many scientists, at the top of their game, collaborating so openly with one another and still getting childishly excited by their work. And, even though there are over 100 thousand computers involved in the project, it was kind of nice to see good old fashioned blackboards still be used to chalk up ideas.
The idea behind smashing protons together within the collider is basically to reproduce the physics of the ‘big bang’ and to determine if the Higgs-Boson particle exists, as this could rewrite what we think we know about the building blocks of our universe. The whole set-up is awe-inspiring; an underground laboratory of gigantic proportions, one which so far has cost in the region of £4.5 billion.
The documentary nicely shows how with even the most exciting of scientific experiments there are still dull days, frustrating days and days when the final ‘ping’ of collected data can be both under and over-whelming, all at the same time.
We are given the chance to get to know a few of the scientists a little better and even find out how one of them ended up choosing a career in physics over philosophy, due to the former’s more practical applications.
However, the longer the film goes on the more the viewer’s head will hurt as it takes you deeper down the rabbit hole into a world where the laws of physics, as we currently know them, might have to be re-evaluated due to the possibility of different multi-verses.
Kudos to the filmmakers then for bringing physics to the masses in a digestible chunk and even managing to bring some of the underlying drama and tension of the four main projects to the surface, as scientists put their own reputations on the line to seek out the truth, as they see it.
To anyone who even takes a mild interest in science it won’t surprise you to learn that the Higgs-Boson was ‘discovered’, and this finding was a pretty emotional time for many on the project, including Mr Higgs himself. But, like all projects, as one stage ends another begins and we later see the scientists regroup back at the lunch table, asking each other to pass over the tomato salad before they take their next meta-physical step into the undiscovered country that is the wonderland of particle physics.