There are two kinds of “Why?” The first: what’s it worth? Why ask why, bottom line, unless you’re talking money?
A scientist working on the large hadron collider (LHC) has his finger on the pulse of the other kind of why. Asked what the LHC is good for, he said the following about the largest machine ever made: “Maybe nothing, except understanding everything.” Another way of putting it is that what may be “least important for our survival are the very things that make us human.”
What does the LHC do? It crashes stuff into each other. It’s like a kid experiment, except the ten billion dollar toy is 17 miles long and what you crash together are sub-atomic particles.
The documentary film “Particle Fever” puts us in touch with the kid-like, very adult passion and commitment to what the media calls “The God Particle.” This isn’t a religion versus science film, but it is a marvelous demonstration of the method and “proof” that defines science. It’s also a nerd fest that’s rather exciting, including men and women, and dozens of nationalities that make boundaries irrelevant. Even if you don’t get caught up in the discovery tension, you will appreciate the dedicated scientists who do.
The God Particle is the Higgs boson. (You might say that bosons are what force matter to matter.) Scientists doing lots of math theorized that the Higgs boson is a huge player in the so called “Standard Model” of what goes on inside atoms and across the universe. But scientists who theorize aren’t really worth the chalk they scribble with unless they can verify their predictions through repeatable experimentation.
Peter Higgs, one of the scientists in the 1960s involved in developing the theory that bears his name, sat in the audience in 2010. “Particle Fever” puts us in the room with the test makers and test watchers. It shows the proof that science offers about the theory and the curious thing about proof in science. It demands more experimentation, more proof, further theory, experimentation, and proof ongoing.
Allow yourself to catch “Particle Fever.” God, it’s worth it.