Every Atheist Needs: Particle Fever

Particle FeverSaturday night found Godless Dad and I surfing Netflix, trying to navigate their completely insane organization method, when we found this documentary. Particle Fever is a film about the discovery of the Higgs particle and takes place at CERN over the course of quite a few years.

The film has no shortage of breathtaking shots of the Large Hadron Collider which should actually be called the Fucking Massive Hadron Collider. It takes us through the first beam when the LHC is first turned on and the helium leak that caused it to be shut down for months. We follow several brilliant physicists, at CERN and in the USA and get a good idea of the magnitude of the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Peter Higgs makes an appearance in this documentary. He is the man who predicted the existence of the Higgs particle back in the 60s and who had waited until 2013 to see his prediction proven true. Understanding this 50 year process gives you a real, deep respect for scientific findings and the men and women who facilitate them.

Interestingly, the film points out that a Collider had been under way in Texas, when construction was halted by the religious right questioning whether this was the best way to be spending billions of dollars. The entire project was eventually shut down.

We also meet Nima Arkani-Hamed, who is a brilliant Iranian theoretical physicist and whose parents were both physicists in Iran. They were forced to escape Iran during the Islamic revolution, and found their way to Canada to continue on with their academic careers. Nima is now one of the most brilliant minds in all of science, having been a professor at Harvard and now at Princeton.

I couldn’t help but wonder, after this documentary had ended, that if science didn’t continually have to come up against resistance from religion, how much further would we be along? If the collider in Texas had been built, and if all the scientific minds stuck in oppressive theocratic regimes were able to study their fields freely, how much further along would we be?

Any answer to this question may be speculation, but I don’t think anyone would argue that our understanding of our world and its origins would be much more vast and that idea alone, is one of the biggest reasons I fight the destructive virus of religion. It’s holding us back and we have such great places to go.

So, check it out : Particle Fever and let me know what you think!

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  • Southern Skeptic

    I saw that in Netflix and was wondering if it was any good. I’ll check it out this weekend.

    • Yeah, worth it. Some parts are a little slow, but if you love science it’s a must-see.

  • Bad Girl Bex

    This is a great film. Really helps to put the human face on what is for many, a strange, unknown, esoteric area of scientific research. Even had a little tear in my eye when it showed Peter Higgs getting all emotional as all the data from the different stations around the LHC came through, indicating the presence of a particle he had proposed existed, way back in 1960. He was astonished that we (the human race) had managed to prove the existence of the Higgs in his lifetime and this confirmation vindicated his efforts, in a fitting conclusion to the film. There are some great characters in the world of theoretical & experimental physics and this film did a great job of highlighting all the wonderfully quirky, fascinating, idiosyncratic and intelligent people behind one of the most controversial projects in human history. Well worth a watch – even for those not particularly well versed in particle physics.

    I’m glad you reviewed this film on here GM – great summation as always! Much love xx

  • Tony

    I’ve heard Neil Tyson talk about the “what if” of “how far would we be if Islam hadn’t stopped Arabian math & science progress, or if Christianity hadn’t put us through the Dark Ages”. We might be zipping around the Solar System on the regular by now!