Particle Fever: The Search for the Higgs boson

Released theatrically in 2014, Particle Fever documents the search for ‘the God particle’—the Higgs boson, the discovery of which would ‘explain everything’—at the Swiss-based Large Hadron Collider.


Like Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 and every biographical, historical, and biblical movie ever made, we know the end of Particle Fever. And, like Apollo 13, this film is totally engaging as we encounter trials and triumphs on this path to discovery. (But, there is a twist at film’s end.)

The film follows six scientists as they speak about their lives and their thoughts in the run-up to and after the Higgs discovery. For some, there is a distinct possibility that their life’s work in support of this or that theory may become meaningless as a result of the particular discovery.

In any case, ‘A star is born’ in this group of dedicated researchers: Monica Dunford. Her enthusiasm and ‘joie de vivre’ practically steal this magnificent show. In addition to working an infinite number of hours a day, her ‘leisure’ time is spent marathoning, cycling, rowing, and mountain climbing. There is no discovery that could bring this woman down.

Speaking of ‘discovery,’ that word is peppered throughout the film in reference to discovering subatomic particles. Increasingly larger forces and energies are being used to collide protons.

I wonder: Are these scientists with this massive science-fiction-turned-science-fact machine ‘discovering’ particles or ‘creating’ new ones. I asked a Stanford physicist this question. It was a new one on him. I asked if the world of particle physics had ever even questioned the assumption that everything they discover has existed before, and he wasn’t aware of that questioning.

So, I ask the question: On what basis are we assuming that we are not creating new particles? I’m just sayin’.


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