I don't claim to know a lot about physics ... or, for that matter, anything about physics. My high school teacher gave me a B-minus, but admitted it was only that high because he liked my story about him as a football coach. In college, alas, none of my teachers coached football. But the good thing about "Particle Fever" -- which debuts Wednesday (Jan. 6) on PBS -- is that it requires no special knowledge. It tells about an epic project, but does it skillfully, on a human scale. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
Think of this as
stealth science – massive in size and scope, yet out of sight.
That's the Large
Hadron Collider, in Switzerland. “You go there and you just see
this little village,” said Joey Huston, one of the physicists
working on the project. Then “an elevator drops you 300 feet.”
Now, he said, you're
staring up at the Hadron. “It has as much steel as the Eiffel Tower
... Your jaw just drops.”
Fever” -- which reaches PBS on Wednesday – one physicist (David
Kaplan) calls it “the biggest machine ever built.” Another
(Monica Dunford) calls it “a five-story Swiss watch.”
Using some animation, “Particle” make this accessible to people who know
nothing about physics.
it with Mark Levinson, a Hollywood sound editor who also has a
doctorate in physics. To edit it, thety hired Walter Murch, who has
won three Oscars (including editing “The English Patient”) and
been nominated for seven more (including “Apocalypse Now”).
“He got 500 hours
of footage down to about an hour-and-a-half and did a really
incredible job,” said Huston, a Michigan State University
The result explains
a project created by CERN, a coalition of scientists from more than
100 countries. Construction began in 1998 and lasted a decade, with
the cost variously reported at $5 billion to $10 billion. Then
experiments began, probing nature of matter and the creation of the
All of that gets a
human touch from “Particle Fever.”
We meet veteran
physicists, some with their lives' work teetering on the results.
Peter Higgs, for instance, is 86; the results would support or refute
the “Higgs boson” -- dubbed the “God particle” -- that he and
five other physicists theorized a half-century ago.
And we meet young
people like Dunford, a post-doctoral student who grew up on a
California farm. Now she zips around the Swiss village on her bike,
heading to her role in mega-science.
Fever” (2013), 10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, PBS (check local