Summary of Particle Fever

835 words | 3 page(s)

Particle Fever is a film about an exciting experimental period in the field of physics. In fact, one of the lead scientists during the featured project said that it was a historical moment. About 10,000 scientists from all over the world assembled to achieve a goal with a construction period spanning more than 30 years. Anyone who doesn’t understand physics might laugh at the ridiculousness of searching for something as small as a particle. However, the discovery made (as explained in the film) has confirmed theories and raised more questions in a way that had everyone in the film bubbling with excitement. To summarize, the film is all about the burning questions of physicists, their newest discovery and its implications.

In order to be a successful scientist, a person needs to be filled with questions. The theorists will propose ideas that are based on observations and events in nature. The experimentalists will design tests for those theories. Some of the questions mentioned in the film were, “Why is the universe big?” and “Why is gravity so much weaker than all the other forces?” During the mid-1980’scientists began building an enormous machine called the Large Hadron Collider (abbreviated as the LHC). The LHC is a giant “7-ton superconducting” magnet. It was set up with pipes running along-side of it through a massive tunnel. It became known as the “Biggest machine ever built by human beings.” (Levinson) The film opened with the completion of the machine along with the anticipation everyone felt. This birth of the LHC came from the idea of wanting more knowledge about the universe.

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During the years of the machine’s assembly, scientists discussed their theories about “how matter got created” and what the “deep fundamental theory of nature is.” (Levinson) The scientists believed that the LHC would help discover and reveal new particles in the universe that have yet to be discovered. The entire time while building the LHC, scientist knew that they could be terribly disappointed if the machine did not confirm the existence of new particles. In particular, everyone was looking to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson particle. This machine allowed for successful confirmation that the Higgs boson particle exists. Unlike most other scientific experiments (with the exception of placing a man on the moon), this event was played out in front of a sea of international media cameras. Fortunately, there was great success when they fired up the machine.

There are beneficial implications of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. It allows researchers to confirm more than just the basic laws of physics. They believe that the period following the big bang, the entire universe was filled with nothing but particles. The particles hold the clues to the formation of everything in outer space that is studied today. They have the secrets of the past and mysteries of the future. For example, the historical understanding among scientists was that atoms comprise all known matter. Neutrons, electrons and protons are the three particles that form atoms. Although many new particles have been discovered since the 1930’s they all have the same fundamental parts.

Physicists theorized the existence of something called the Standard Model. Peter Higgs wrote that there is a missing particle in the Standard Model that is responsible for holding all matter together. The significance of the Higgs particle is quite extensive .The speaker in the film credits the Higgs particle with the formation of “molecules, planets and people.” (Levinson) Since all living things are tied to planet Earth, it is safe to assume that the evolution of species would not have taken place without the Higgs particle. The biggest benefit at the time of this film was being able to confirm the above-mentioned theories of Peter Higgs. After all when a man in the audience asked if there was any economic gain or commercial application of the Higgs particle, the speaker answered saying, “We have no idea.”

The researchers featured in the film were nervous about the possibility of learning that their theories and long-held physics laws were incorrect. They were open to discovering something new that would explain the origin of Earth and every living thing depending on it. Ironically (and these sentiments are totally understood) political proceedings inhibited this project from being completed in Texas. The U.S. Congress did not feel that getting a deeper understanding of the universe should be an expense prioritized over other pressing issues in this nation. In conclusion, experimentalists and theorists wanted to prove that the Higgs particle is real because of the significant application it has to life and the laws of physics. They were wildly successful and people were able to see their triumph either in person or on film. The images in the film were astounding. It was hard to believe that tiny human beings (compared to the size of this enormous magnetic machine) could design and build such a massive object, just to discover something a million times smaller than a microscopic object.

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