Film Reviews

The Atom Smashers (2008)The Atom Smashers (2008)

"I can't imagine waking up in the morning and not thinking about trying to find the Higgs boson particle," gushes a particle physicist at Fermilab, "and how we'll find it. It's fantastically exciting." Even people like me who don't understand the physics can still catch that infectious love for science. This documentary film introduces Fermilab, built in 1969 about thirty miles west of Chicago. Until recently, its four-mile long tunnel called the "tevatron" was the largest atom smasher in the world. In particular, the film introduces you to the scientists at Fermi who are looking for the elusive Higgs boson particle, the Holy Grail of particle physics, which, if it exists (!), would explain much about the nature of reality that we currently don't know. But there's "competitive collaboration" with the new Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which recently opened at seven times the energy. The last third of the film examines the deplorable cuts to basic science under the Bush budgets of March 2006 and December 2007, and how they devastated Fermilab in particular and American experimental physics in general. That's a depressing commentary about the value that our government places on basic research.

From Wikipedia: "The Higgs boson is a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model in particle physics. At present there are no known elementary scalar particles in nature. The existence of the particle is postulated as a means of resolving inconsistencies in current theoretical physics, and attempts are being made to confirm the existence of the particle by experimentation, using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Other theories exist that do not anticipate the Higgs boson, described elsewhere as the Higgsless model."