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'Particle Fever': Finding the Higgs Boson

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Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014
“The entire control room is like a group of six-year-olds whose birthday is next week, you know, and there’s gonna be cake, there’s gonna be presents, their friends are gonna be there, and they just know its going to be great.”

Monica Dunford rides her bike to work. More than once in Particle Fever, the camera follows her along un-busy streets in her neighborhood, on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland, her head helmeted, her pants leg Velcroed. But as typical as she may look, Monica is not. She’s an experimental physicist, for one thing, and for another, she works at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This is the place where everything changed. Everything. It’s the place where, on 4 July 2012, a dedicated company of scientists found the Higgs boson. Dunford records her thoughts at the time, one of several video-diary-like moments: “I don’t think I can describe the excitement,” she says, her hair pulled back, her hands in motion, and a fraction of the gigantic collider—chips and tubes and cables—overwhelming the background of the shot. “The entire control room is like a group of six-year-olds whose birthday is next week, you know, and there’s gonna be cake, there’s gonna be presents, their friends are gonna be there, and they just know its going to be great.”

  
This excitement is contagious in Mark Levinson’s terrific documentary, now available on iTunes. The movie follows the Higgs discovery, the ups and downs, the thrills and disappointments, with help from scientists from at least two essential sides of the process, the experimentalists like Monica and the theorists, like David Kaplan and Nima Arkani-Hamed. As they work toward a shared goal, the film expands its own energy and beauty.


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13 Mar 2014
Particle Fever tells a fascinating, intangible, vastly complex story of what it means to discover the Higgs boson, specifically, what it means for a fascinating, emotional, wholly appealing assembly of scientists.
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