Particle Fever

During my second week of senior project, I was able to go to a theatre with my mentor to watch Particle Fever, a documentary by a JHU professor on the adventure that leads scientists at CERN towards the prominent “god particle.” This scientific documentary is uniquely edited with fascinating graphics to demonstrate the components of Standard Model and the structure of the famous Large Hadron Collider. The significance of witnessing the discovery of Higgs boson is as important as watching Edison turned on the first light bulb.

 

This film provides a front row seat to the general audience and explained modern physics in plain and comprehensible language. Followed six brilliant scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider(LHC), which is the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet, the documentary has not only spread the influence of modern physics but also has revealed the advancement human innovation. The film started with explaining the need for a collider with higher energy. Whilst the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) project in Texas was shut down in Congress in 1993 due to budget reason, LHC built in 1998 superseded Tevatron in Fermilab in energy and thus became another center for particle research. Some of those criticisms, rather unscientific, include the fear that the collider will generate a black hole that will engulf the earth once started and the devastating influence beams may have on the surrounding environment. Though in retrospect, none of those criticisms are true, they certainly created detrimental public image for the experiment yet to be conducted.

The incredible size of LHC

The incredible size of LHC

 

The documentary faithfully recorded the exciting moment of the inaugural test that ignites electronic incident shortly after the project was launched and scientists’ reaction to the major setback. As the result, around 50 superconducting magnets were damaged, forcing the entire project to be shut down, repaired and inspected for almost an entire year. Despite this delay and setback, the project was re-launched in 2009 into full operation.

 

The film then elaborated in great length about the significance of the ongoing research for the god particle. In that, scientists and postdocs thoroughly explained the two theoretical models, supersymmetry and multiverse. These two models individually predicted the mass of the god particle and thus if the finding of CERN is exactly the same or leans toward one prediction over another, scientists can be more certain regarding the future of particle physics. It turned out that the measured mass (126Gev) falls between the two prediction and lean toward neither theories.

 

Supersymmetry Model beautifully presented by the documentary

Supersymmetry Model presented by the documentary

This duality of the out come can make the scientists both cheerful and frustrated. While it is upsetting that two of the most well developed theories may be futile, researchers nonetheless are motivated by the unknown path to which the new discovery will lead. For many times in the past century, scientists believed that particle physics is becoming stagnated with the completion of Standard Model. Now with the new measurement as the beacon light, the unknown territory may soon be illuminated.

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