The film's central story follows a small group of American explorers at Dallas-based oil company Kosmos Energy. Between 2007 and 2011, with unprecedented, independent access, Big Men's ... See full summary »
Although this is a documentary about the world's greatest scientific undertaking, there's no need for those who've abandoned hope of understanding physics or other advanced sciences to roll their eyes and move on. This one is less about the abstract principles and obscure questions motivating thousands of scientists and dozens of governments to collaborate on the massive European nuclear facility CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) than about the personal and human factors behind it.
The script offers some degree of Physics for Dummies (present company included), in trying to explain the basics of what we know about subatomic particles, and what proving there's such a thing as the Higgs boson could mean about the nature of existence. The so-called "God Particle" was posited as the reason atoms collect to form all matter, including life as we know it, in the universe. Supposedly, learning not only that it exists, but what it weighs could either support arguments for some sort of intelligent or symmetrical design, or a cosmic randomness that might pervade through innumerable parallel universes.
But before you doze off, remember this is mainly about the people behind the curtain. We learn about their dreams and motives. We even share in many of their lighter moments, along with the suspense of whether this massive undertaking would even work, what it would help us understand, and where any results might lead academic endeavors in multiple disciplines for generations to come. It's less scientifically informative, or slickly produced, than the new incarnation of Cosmos that's been running on several TV networks. But it's more intimate in showing relatable emotions among the brainiacs who've devoted years of their lives to this highly speculative venture.
Perhaps the best feature of the film is its clarity about the underlying difference between science and other human pursuits like religion or politics. Everyone at CERN was seeking objective, provable answers, even if they unraveled their own beliefs. And all were dedicated to the mission with absolutely no idea of what commercial uses, if any, their outcomes might engender. It's the purity of human curiosity at its finest. Learning for its own sake. No one at NASA expected the space race to leave us with Tang and other related products. Time will tell on the practical applications and cultural developments we'll receive from the labors of these scholars. For now, it's reassuring to know they've got a place to find the answers.
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