The documentary film The Atom Smashers, which I posted about earlier, premiered at the Museum of Science and Industry last week, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with Mark Oreglia from Chicago, Ben Kilminster and Marcela Carena from Fermilab, Robin and me from UC Davis, and the two filmmakers, Clayton Brown and Monica Ross. We took individual questions from a moderator, Sylvia Ewing, and then from the audience. I have to say that my favorite question came from a student who asked if our quest to understand nature at the particle level was never-ending, due to Godel’s Theorem or something like that. That question is worth a post all by itself, and I want to apologize to than young man for not answering it more fully. Bottom line answer: it probably is never-ending, but more like an infinite series is never ending, rather than the truth being out there, never accessible to experiment.
Ben Lillie, a theorist from Argonne/Chicago who attended the premiere, wrote a very thoughtful review and captures a lot about what folks have been saying. Julia Keller wrote an article about it two days before hte show for the Chciago Tribune. The film was shown at Fermilab yesterday, and overall we’ve gotten a lot of great positive feedback on it.
Robin and I only saw the movie the night before the premiere for the first time, and had only 24 hours to get over the weird feeling of seeing yourself in a movie. But Clayton and Monica did a great job of picking out some of the more interesting and intelligent things we had to say, and they fit well into the overall story line of the film.
This is a truly new approach to making a science documentary, rarely if at all pedagogical about the science itself, but rather digging a level deeper into what it’s like to do what we do, what motivates us, and the never ending struggle to maintain funding. There is kind of a bittersweet feeling at the end – no Higgs, no funding – but the fact that we all still hope that we will break through some day soon to the next level of understanding about our universe is palpably present at the end.
The film will be shown on PBS’s Independent Lens on Nov. 25. Bravo, Clayton and Monica and all the rest at 137 Films!