Understanding the inner workings of existence is a challenge not everyone is equipped for. In my high school physics class, I learned a handful of Newtonian laws and something about a quark, and that was about it. But during Particle Fever's 120-minute runtime, I felt like a physicist.
The documentary centers around the discovery of the Higgs Boson, one of the biggest moments in physics' millennia-long history. Physicist-turned-documentarian Mark Levinson interviewed experimentalists at CERN, capturing several amazing milestones in science, and also a collection of U.S.-based theorists. The stakes? Well, before the Large Hadron Collider smashed subatomic particles into its own miniature Big Bang, physics as a discipline was at a crossroads. Two prevailing theories—supersymmetry and multiverse—hinged on the existence of the Higgs Boson.
But this film has much more going for it than being just a bland explainer piece. Levinson develops the friendly antagonism between theorists and experimentalists, the close relationship of science and art, and the benefits and challenges of blue skies research.
It's likely that you've heard of this film because it made a decent amount of internet buzz earlier in the year, but now you don't need to find a local arthouse to learn you some science. Netflix added Particle Fever to its streaming roster in mid-July.
I spoke with Levinson and producer David Kaplan in February when the film was still in the festival circuit and both stressed how they didn't want teach the audience physics but make you feel a part of this major scientific discovery—even if you barely knew what a quark was. [Netflix]