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 »
Two Republican congressman speak against funding for the construction of the Superconducting Super Colider in Texas. This gives the false impression that it was Republicans who ended the project. The 1993 Congress had Democrat majorities in both the House and the Senate. Additionally, the President at that time was a Democrat. The leader of the effort to end funding for the project in the House was Democrat Jim Slattery. Voting to end the funding was bipartisan. See more »
Basic science for big breakthroughs needs to occur at a level where you're not asking "What is the economic gain?" You're asking "What do we not know, and where can we make progress?"
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The main focus of this film is the interaction of scientists with the LHC and its data. Many shots are either banter in the CERN offices or YouTube-like video contributions from scientists themselves. Basically, it adds a human element to what you might read in the news. The engineering of the LHC is scarcely touched upon, and while the film (directed by a physicist) attempts to explain the consequences for particle physics, its dramatized overview is not really accurate; the viewer would be advised to read Lee Smolin's book "The Trouble With Physics". The substitution of pictures of difficult-looking math equations for real scientific exposition became irritating. Furthermore, while we see people interacting with each other in a superficial way, the film doesn't really dig into the culture of theoretical physics -- for example, I enjoyed a shot where physicists discuss how rumors are displacing older methods of data distribution like the arXiv, but the context of this discussion was not given and I worried most of the audience would not understand it.
I subtract four stars for lack of depth and would probably extract more, except that the screening I went to had an interview with the director afterwards, and I realized from him that it was quite difficult for this documentary to achieve what it did. The science the LHC produces comes in the form of millions of spreadsheets full of numbers, which must be analyzed by thousands of experimental physicists sitting at computers around the world. It is rather hard to make a long documentary film about people analyzing numbers on computers. The director made a number of clever stylistic decisions, like mainly interviewing people who were physically present at the CERN buildings, and separating the segments of experimental and theoretical physicists. To get theoretical physics onto the big screen in a thoughtful and entertaining way is really an accomplishment in itself. It was also pointed out that the documentary skillfully focused on a few likable subjects among many to give a hint of the vast size of the project. All in all, the film is a decent portrayal of the kind of willpower and teamwork that is needed on a project the size of the LHC, but don't go to it expecting to gain a very deep knowledge of today's physics or the scientific community.
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