It’s hard to beat the stakes built into the new documentary Particle Fever, as the film’s stars—six scientists preparing for the activation of the Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border starting in 2008—will tell you themselves. “I’ve never heard of a moment like this in history, where an entire field is hinging on a single event,” explains theoretical physicist David Kaplan, and he’s not exaggerating. The LHC is the largest machine ever built, designed to collide particle beams at unprecedented speeds, and in so doing, answer deep-rooted questions about the universe’s most basic functions. But director Mark Levinson is as concerned with people as with physics, and his film balances accessible, engaging explanations of the science behind the LHC with deeply sympathetic portraits of the humans devoting their lives to it. In their hope, their hubris, their disappointment, and triumph, they prove just as complex as the machine.
PARTICLE FEVER COMES OUT IN LIMITED RELEASE ON FRIDAY, MARCH 7.