The Atom Smashers on PBS Nov. 25

By John Conway | November 24, 2008 6:02 pm

Faithful readers of Cosmic Variance will remember that the documentary The Atom Smashers will be on the PBS show Independent Lens on Tuesday Nov. 25. On the west coast it’s at 10:30 pm; it could be other times in other places. I am in the film, at least the latter half of it, quite a bit, including one of the final long quotes, which I really like.

I’ve seen the film three times now, once the night before the world premiere at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, then at the premiere, and then at Fermilab a month later. At both showings we sat on panels and took questions afterward from the audience – lots of good questions, too, I have to say.

Every time I see it I like it better and appreciate what Clayton and Monica have achieved. Apparently the judges at the Paris Film Festival thought so too, awarding it their Audacity Award. And Ben makes particle physics look as cool as we particle physicists know it is…

Alan Boyle has a very nice article on the film over at his blog, Cosmic Log, at MSNBC. He captured the spirit of the film well, and to my delight got my most cryptic quote to him correct, word for word!

Here is another very insightful take on the film by Anthony Kaufman at SEED Magazine. And though I linked to it before, here is Julia Keller’s piece from the Chicago Tribune, one of the first to appear.

The version appearing on TV is a 53 minute version, rather short compared with the 68 minute version that we’ve seen so far. It will be interesting to see what Clayton and Monica managed to find to remove; I liked it all!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and the Media
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  • ree ree

    I thought it’s on at 10:30pm eastern.

  • Bob

    Alas, in the LA area, there are 4 PBS stations, and it would appear that none of them are carrying the show. Hey, Sean, what gives? Can’t you throw your weight around? :-)

  • Chad Cuddihy

    Alas, the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is not airing it either.

  • Harold

    Hi Bob, in some places it’s called the “Independent Lens Episodes” Does PBS carry that for you? As advertised, I get it here in LA for 10:30pm. Looking forward to it!!

  • josh

    afraid they cut you out, sean

  • CW

    I watched the episode last night, and thought it was well-produced.

  • Lee Sawyer

    John Conway, movie star! What readers of this blog need to know is that the poor guy has been hunting for the Higgs since we were on the ALEPH experiment back in the late 80s!

    The show looks really good. It does not broadcast here (Louisiana Public Broadcasting) until Thursday so I have notified my faculty and students to go watch it.

  • Yvette

    So THAT’S what that was! At home for Thanksgiving break at 11pm EST, irked because they were doing reruns of The Daily Show, and I heard “particle physics” while I was flipping through. Stopped in order to catch most of the talk about Fermilab and the importance of science and all that jazz.

    I confess I enjoyed it but spent most of the time wondering “what IS this thing?!” Should’ve known to check out the physics blogs.

  • Clayton

    Hello — I’m one of the co-directors of “The Atom Smashers.” Thanks for the link to my blog about the making of the film! I hope it was enjoyable to those of you who watched. If you missed it, or are interested in buying a copy (the dvd for sale is the 73-minute “director’s cut” with some extras, including the video Leon Lederman’s made to try to convince Ronald Reagan to support the Superconducting Super Collider), you can do that by visiting our site at Also the film will be shown again on PBS on January 27.

    We enjoyed depicting many of the complexities of the fascinating search for the Higgs from the standpoint of Fermilab — it was a great story to tell with many interesting people (John Conway among them) and complex issues. We’re interested to hear your thoughts.


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