Skip to main content

Fermilab stars in new documentary

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory has become quite the movie star, with connections to three films released in the last twelve months.

The latest is The Matter of Everything, a documentary produced by Canadian filmmakers. It takes a look at quantum physics through the work done at Fermilab. Here's a trailer. The film has several showings in Canada this summer. For those south of the border, a DVD is available on the filmmakers' Web site.

The Web site states:

The Matter of Everything is a feature documentary that explores quantum reality and the interconnectedness of nature from the quantum to the universe. Challenging us to see beyond our everyday sense of experience, the film reveals what we are, a billionth of a billionth of the human scale. At that level, physicists at Fermilab, one of the world’s largest particle accelerators, describe a world more unified than ever imagined.

Through her interviews, Olga Antzoulatos, a non-science educator, soon finds that “the human scale is not preferred for understanding nature – even on the human scale” as physicist Chris Quigg notes.

The scientists involved in the film are: Janet Conrad, Enrico Lunghi, Arlene Lennox, Chris Quigg, Rocky Kolb, Peter Skands, Paul Delaney, Paul Nienaber Sr., and Scott Menary.

Courtesy of 137 Films

Poster for The Atom Smashers. Courtesy of 137 Films

Fermilab also was featured in the Chicago-based documentary The Atom Smashers, which was released last fall. It aired on PBS's Independent Lens and was showcased at science and film festivals in several countries. PBS Channel WYCC will broadcast the film on August 20. The documentary highlights the race between Fermilab's Tevatron experiments and CERN's Large Hadron Collider experiments to find the Higgs boson, the particle that explains why elementary particles have mass.

Antimatter canister from "Angels & Demons". Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Hollywood invention: antimatter canister from "Angels & Demons." Courtesy of Sony Pictures

This spring, particle accelerators and antimatter were featured in the Hollywood movie Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks. The movie featured footage shot at the European laboratory CERN, and particle physicsists around the world used the opportunity for a lecture series on the science behind Angels & Demons.

Since 1985, Fermilab has produced more than nine nanograms (billionth of a gram) of antiprotons, more than any other laboratory. But even this amount is about 100 million times less than the amount that thieves steal from CERN in the Angels & Demons movie.

 Learn more about how and why Fermilab produces and captures antimatter in this 8-minute podcast by Keith Gollwitzer, head of Fermilab's antiproton source.