Talking Stone Film

Film Reviews & Headlines


MALE SPEAKER: So
at Google, I feel like we’re a bunch of
software engineers, and sales, and so on. And many of us engineers
are frustrated physicists. We would have loved to be
experimental and theoretical physicists as we grew up, but
we had to settle for Google. So we all take a
pretty strong interest in things going on, especially
with the Large Hadron Collider. I think you’ve probably
all seen the doodle we did a couple of years ago
when everybody was concerned that you would create a
black hole that we would all get sucked into. So we have a bit of
fun with it as well. And we’ve also done Street
View inside the LHC, So people can get
a sense of what it’s like to be inside the LHC
by kind of walking around it virtually. From the Google side, do we
have any physics undergrads in the group? Oh, only one. Fine. You’re definitely on
for asking a question. But many of us are fascinated
by what’s been going on, and have been incredibly
excited to live through, vicariously, this
historical event that’s happened in the
past couple of years. But with that, I’d like
to turn things over to Mark Levinson, who’s
the director of this movie, to introduce the
other panelists. MARK LEVINSON: So just I’ll give
a little bit of an introduction to what’s going on here. I don’t know how many
people know about this film. We’ve been working
on it for years. David Kaplan first had an idea
to do something like this. He is a theorist, and
saw that something was happening that was
going to be monumental. And was a unique situation
in the history of science, where something was
going to turn on. Do you want to just get
a little intro, Dave, before Savas gets back? DAVID KAPLAN: Hello. About in 2006, I
did a calculation that any theorist
could do and discovered that somebody needed to
make a documentary film. And I was the only
one in my field willing to do
something like that. And so I started. I bought a camera, I
started doing interviews, and discovered I didn’t know
how to operate a camera. And then had to figure out how
this film was going to be made. I didn’t really have a
desire to make a movie, I had a desire for
this movie to be made. But I understood it had
to be made from somebody who was deep inside the
world, and sort of living it. Somebody who was not going to
be intimidated by the physics, but understood that
this was a human drama and that this is a side of
science that I never see captured in any other way. So I wanted to see it. And I wanted to feel it. And I wanted my
friends to be known, because these are my favorite
people in the universe. I didn’t understand
why everybody didn’t know about them. And I didn’t understand why
this amazing event was going to happen and nobody was
going to know about it. I ended up being
wrong about that. It was all over the papers. But that was the
original motivation. And then mark discovered
some crazy physicist wanted to make a movie. And Mark’s training is a
PhD in particle theory, and then went on to
make movies, which is the natural progression. He is the only one in
that Hollywood gang who would really
understand immediately that there was an
incredible story there. That the humans that are doing
it are amazing and interesting, and that you can create
something dramatic out of something that sounds
incredibly technical. MARK LEVINSON: And here
we are many years later, with an incredible cast. And so actually, I’m going to
roll, as just an introduction, we have the trailer
that we have released. And so why don’t we roll
the theatrical trailer? Clip one. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] -Thank you all. Thank you for your attention. Thanks to everybody
on the panel. If I could just ask
you all to remain seated just for a few minutes. -In exploration
there needs to be the set of people
who have no rules. And they are going
into the frontier. -I’ve never heard of
a moment in history where an entire field is
hinging on a single event. The Large Hadron Collider, the
biggest machine ever built, is finally going to turn on. -You take two things and
you smash them together. You get a lot of stuff
out that collision, and you try to
understand that stuff. -It could be nothing other than
just understanding everything. -Little did I know
when I started that the experiments
would take 30 years. And here I am still not knowing. I really want to know the truth. -The first time I ever saw it,
I remember walking in and just being stunned. Like five stories
completely filled with custom-designed,
hand-soldered microelectronics. -There are 10,000 people,
over 100 nationalities. -Ciao ciao. -100,000 computers
deal with the data. In fact, the World Wide
Web was invented at CERN so that physicists
could share the data. -This is really my
generation’s only shot. -Let’s get started everybody. Now comes the day of reckoning. -Given the complexity, we’re
already about a week or two behind. -They’re saying hat all
their tools are breaking. -It begs the question,
what are the risks? -It would be a
catastrophe for physics. -This helium leak,
really frustrating. -We’ve got magnets sheared
off their [INAUDIBLE]. -Completely catastrophic. -We’re at a fork in
the road, and it’s cranking up the suspense
as much as it possibly can. -We may discover
additional space dimension. The mystery and the
origin of the universe. -We may be at the
end of the road. -The entire control
room is like a group of six-year-olds whose
birthday is next week. -It’s incredible that it’s
happened in my lifetime. -Whatever we learn
is going to have a dramatic impact on
the way human beings think about the
universe forever. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] MARK LEVINSON: So this
is a very unique moment. I think it may never happen
again, and hasn’t happened, where actually everybody
is here at one time. And we have a very
interesting distribution here. These are the experimentalists,
and these are the theorists. And yes, well, OK, Mike sort
of straddled things, actually. But I’m putting him in the
experimental side anyways. But this separation is something
that people outside of physics don’t really
understand that much. That really it’s a
completely different culture. And one of the things
that comes out in the film is that they have really
different perspectives, and different attitudes. And I think that one
of the great things about the LHC and
the film is possibly that it brought them
together in a way that has not been as
pronounced before. But I want to just look at
a couple of clips from early on where we hear a little bit
about the different attitudes that the two camps had
towards each other. And then think about how
that may have changed. Next clip. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] -I always get the
impression that theorists think that experimentalists
are failed theorists. Which is not, I
would like to say, what experimentalists
think about themselves. I remember once I
was a grad student, and a fellow grad
student of mine was lamenting about how
challenging theoretical physics was. And he says to me,
oh, I think I’m just going to join
experimental physics. It’s so much easier. And he says to me,
what do you guys do? Just bang around with
a hammer all day? And I was thinking,
God, I don’t think I’ve used a hammer
in my entire career as an experimental physicist. Is that really what you
guys think about us? That we’re just like,
knock, knock, knock, like some sort of cave people? Every time I go into
the theory coffee room, it’s like either a,
they’re drinking coffee, or they’re just kind of
writing something randomly on the board, or they’re
reading magazines. Physics magazines,
I’ll give them that. It does seem like
a life of leisure, actually, in some ways. It’s kind of nice. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] MARK LEVINSON: And on
the other hand, some of the theorists, actually,
because this experiment was going on, they thought,
maybe I should actually get closer to the experiment
and actually try to help them, because they need a
little bit of guidance. And so we have a
Nima’s perspective. Roll it. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] -The experimental
community’s like a big, huge, multi-headed hydra. There’s no one single boss. There’s no one who
runs the whole show. So it’s complicated to
know who to talk to, how to make sure things get
done, how to even approach broaching the subject
of having theorists and experimentalists
collaborate more closely. I used to say that for a
while, in the beginning, it was like being in
a David Lynch movie. You would wander
around and just keep getting strange
characters, and you have no idea where they fit
into the grand scheme of things. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] MARK LEVINSON: So
I’m just curious. You people have finally met. Have your perspectives
changed at all? Well, Nima just said his
hasn’t changed at all. NIMA ARKANI-HAMED: It’s still
like a David Lynch movie, but it’s one of the
David Lynch movies that makes a little more
sense than the others. You eventually realize that
Fabiola’s extremely important, and it’s important to
be on her good side. MARK LEVINSON: OK. Experimentalists. FABIOLA GIANOTTI:
Can I say something? OK, so I agree with
what Monica said. That sounds right. However, I never use
a hammer in my career, but I’m very good at
soldering and welding. And actually, I learned
several practical things. No, jokes aside, I think
we are very good friends. I think that it’s very nice
that we have the opportunity to discuss very often, and
to give them the impression that the give us guidance,
which is not true. And to tell them what
the truth actually is, because sometimes they’re
a bit, say, disoriented. NIMA ARKANI-HAMED:
Actually, if I can also make a slightly serious
comment, the issues that I was talking
about back then really had specifically to do
with the ways in which searches for a new phenomenon
would be carried out. And that’s something which,
in the intervening time, exactly this kind
of collaboration between experimentalists
and theorists, much closer collaboration
than existed in the 10, 15 years
previous to that has really made a significant
impact on how these things are done. And I really wouldn’t make
the same comment today. Things are in much
smoother and better shape. MARK LEVINSON: Savas,
has your attitude towards experimentalists
changed? SAVAS DIMOPOULOS: Actualy,
I always felt close to them, and I’ve been talking to
them throughout my career. So I don’t feel this
dichotomy to the same degree that was reflected
in these clips. Maybe they were chosen
because they were extreme, just for fun. But I think we are much closer. Without them we
wouldn’t know the truth, and without us, they wouldn’t
be able to organize the truth into a structure, a
coherent, logical structure. MARK LEVINSON: Do you think
the LHC represented something different in terms of
bringing you closer together? That there was closer
collaboration than possibly in past experiments? MONICA DUNFORD: Well
I think that one of the things with the
LHC is that it basically, before the LHC
turned on, we really didn’t have a significant
amount of data. And so I think there was,
sort of, naturally then, in this waiting period– I
mean the LHC took 20 years to build– that in this waiting
period of these 20 years, there was really nothing
for us experimentalists to talk to the theorists about. So now I think, and
just in the last couple of years, that has just
been revolutionized. We have terabytes of data. And so now we can
go and say, well this is what we found, or,
this isn’t what we found. And what do you guys think? And there’s a lot of
back and forth now. So I think the data sort
of has changed everything. MARK LEVINSON: I mean,
Martin and Mike actually both started in theory. You said you originally thought
you were interested in theory, and Mike, you’ve got a degree
in lattice gauge field, right? So you started in
theory, you’ve moved more towards the experimental side. Totally, in Martin’s case. Did you make the right decision? Yes, I never regretted
this decision. I mean I started in theory. During my studies, I
spent a year or so deeply going into theory, and quantum
field theory, and so on. But I think it was just
natural [INAUDIBLE] for a particle
physicist afterwards. And then the choice
actually came. It was really CERN, I mean
this opportunity at CERN to work there, and to work
on these big experiments. And that happened to be
as an experimentalist. And that’s why I signed
up as an experimentalist. But it’s true. I mean, if this would have
been possible as a theorist, maybe I would have done a
totally different career. But anyway, for me
already at that point, it was clear that this
is a close collaboration. It’s clear that one cannot
exist without the other. I mean, theory
without experiments, they would just develop
ideas, ideas, ideas, and they would diverge. And experimentalists
without theorists is a bit, you measure, but afterwards
you need an interpretation. And very often the measurement
itself can’t tell you so much, but of course the
interpretation and how it fits into the theory, this
can explain you many things. And that’s why
[INAUDIBLE] the LHC has impact on theories of
a big bang, on dark matter, and so on. This is because there’s
this interpretation. SAVAS DIMOPOULOS:
Having theory develop before the experiments
actually happen is also very useful,
because that pinpoints the type of signatures
that experimentalists should look for. So it’s very important. For example, the missing energy
signature of supersymmetry. I don’t think it’s
something that’s obvious before you
have some theories that have this as a signature. And many other things. There is a famous
saying which says that, you have to
believe it to see it. You have to know ahead of
time what you’re looking for to be able to see it. MARK LEVINSON: So
just going back to what people thought
they were going to see at the
beginning of this, I want to just look
at a couple of clips from some first interviews
of what people up here were thinking before it
actually turned on. Next clip. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] -I think that we
are not in a crisis, but we are really in front of
a brick wall at the moment. We need, absolutely, some input
from experimental physics, from the collision
[INAUDIBLE] energy to move on. -The worst possibility
is they discover the Higgs, nothing else. The new deep physics, dark
matter, supersymmetry, [INAUDIBLE], it’s just
around the corner. But the LHC can’t quite do it. And there’s no way we’re
going to convince anybody that it may be just
around the corner and it’s worth
building other machine. So the field ends
because of that. A miscalculation. -You really begin to doubt
whether we can actually make this thing work. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] MARK LEVINSON: So before. Where are we now, actually? What would you say? DAVID KAPLAN: Mine was the most
dramatic statement, I guess. Part of the motivation
for the movie was that when we
were up at night, I remember a conversation
with Nima at 3 o’clock in the morning at
CERN, thinking what if we, as in theorists
thinking about physics at these energies, were
just on the wrong track. And that what would
be revealed would be that this program, at
least what we had dedicated our theoretical careers
to, or most of them, just happened to
be a wrong turn. And we had to go
some other direction. And that emotional
drama made me think somebody has got to record this. But that sort of drama
is a very human drama. It’s a generational drama. It’s that we people may
be affected negatively. You could look back and say, the
career didn’t amount to much, because you didn’t move in
the direction that brought us real progress, or at
least visible progress. But all those dead ends
are incredibly important regardless. We need to explore
all directions. And it doesn’t matter–
this is actually something Nima said in
one of the interviews– it doesn’t matter
what happens to you. It’s not about you. It’s not a personal thing. It’s necessary
for so many people to be pushing in all directions,
because we don’t really know what the big
answer will be, or the next piece of
information will be. Now the LHC has seen the Higgs. I felt much more emotional about
that than I expected to feel. Because one thing about the
distinction between theorists an experimentalists, theorists
might read a blog rumor and decide they know
what’s going on. And experimentalists will
wait until the probability that they’ve seen an
accident is one in trillion, and then they’ll say
publicly that they’ve discovered something. So that distinction
means that we’re speculating in many
possible futures. And so when you hear me
talking a few years ago, you’re listening to
me speculating down one path or another. And I know Jerry,
who’s here, told me that the problem
with the theorists is we talk way too long. But I’m going to
say one more thing and then I’ll shut
up, which is I think, especially Americans,
particle physicists suffer from post-traumatic
stress disorder. Because in 1993, while building
the biggest experiment ever in Texas, a factor
of three times larger than the one in
Geneva, that Congress decided to cancel it
after spending $2 billion and digging 14 miles of tunnel. And that shook the field in
the United States to a degree where we stopped thinking
about physics all the time, and we started thinking a
little bit sociologically. Like, will they allow us? Can we keep going? Can we push in the direction
for pure knowledge, and pure science,
and basic research? There was a mistrust in the
people who, up to that point, were supporting
this kind of thing. And so that added to the drama,
especially before the machine turned on and a beautiful
discovery was made. NIMA ARKANI-HAMED:
So you should know that the Higgs is
a crazy particle. And it holds a really
enigmatic place in our understanding
of the world. On the one hand, it’s
been, as you all know, it’s been anticipated
for almost 50 years. Maybe you didn’t know,
but it’s been hypothesized and people have been
expecting something like it for a long time. So from the point of view
of a theoretical physicist, it’s in the canon of
things which is allowed. We understand it very well. And it’s the simplest
possible solution to a very fundamental
problem, which I won’t explain now in detail. But anyway, it’s the
simplest possible solution. On the other hand, it’s
absolutely shocking that something so simple is
actually realized in nature. And I think that
shock is something which even us theorists– I
mean we’ve known all of this in principle for a long
time– but if you asked David many years ago when
he made that comment, I think it was commonplace
amongst theorists to think, well yeah, we know
the Higgs is there. It’s about what’s coming next. And I think something which
has happened to all of us in the interim, is as the actual
reality of this damn particle came into existence–
and, in fact, the particular strange mass that
it has also became evident– is we’re all appreciating much
more deeply how utterly bizarre it actually is that something
so simple does describe nature. We’ve never seen anything
like it before anywhere. Anywhere in physics. There are all kinds
of different systems that people can engineer
in the laboratory that have qualitative
aspects of the physics very much like all the rest of
the particles, and the forces, and interactions that we’re
familiar with in the vacuum of our universe. But never a Higgs. Never something that
looks like a Higgs. So the fact that,
on the one hand, the simplest possibility
is what’s realized, but on the other hand,
that simplest possibility we’ve never seen
realized anywhere else, is absolutely bizarre. And I think we’re all
appreciating how bizarre it is, and taking a step back. What’s transpired
at the LHC so far is not exactly what
some of us expected. On the other hand, it’s
not so different than what some others of us expected. And we’re left in
a strange quandary. The idea that the experimental
high energy physicists, especially in this
country, suffer from the post-traumatic stress
disorder of the Superconducting Super Collider is
absolutely correct. And it’s as David said, it
colored a lot how we even think about justifying
what we want to do. But in fact, the
real justification for doing what we’re doing is
to keep pushing the frontier And seeing what’s there. And in particular,
since we’ve never seen anything like
the Higgs before, it’s very important to study
its properties in detail, and to go to even
higher energies, and see what its quantum
mechanical properties look like. And while that might be
difficult to convince people in this country to do it,
Europe is showing some ambition to do something like
this, and also China may be showing some ambition
to do something like this. Build the next accelerator. Three times bigger
than the LHC, even. In 20 or 30 years, this
is something people are starting to
take this seriously. MARK LEVINSON: Experimentalists
are chomping at the bit. FABIOLA GIANOTTI:
OK, so first of all, following on what
David said, you have perhaps picked
up another difference between theorists
and experimentalists. They work overnight,
we work on daytime. We sleep overnight so that
we are lucid on day time. Seriously, as an
experimentalist, first of all, we have just discovered
a new particle. It’s a very special one. It’s completely different from
the other elementary particles that we have observed until now. There were 16
elementary particles before the 4th of July. The Higgs boson is
the 17th particle. It’s completely different
from the others. It’s a very special
one for reasons that will be a bit
difficult to explain, a bit technical reasons. But I consider the Higgs
boson as a new friend. And as a new friend, you want
to know him, her, it, better. So we have to measure its
properties in more detail. For that we need more data, and
Mike will give us more data. Right? He said yes. So first of all, this is
really a very nice thing to do. To measure the Higgs boson
in all possible details, because it can be a
door to new physics. And into a better understanding,
also, of the universe, and many things that we
don’t understand today. And the second thing
is that the LHC just started the exploration
of the new energy scale. We’ve been operating
at an energy which is a factor 1.7
lower than the design energy of the accelerator. So in one year from now, we will
get close to the design energy. And we have been
collecting an amount of data which is a factor of
10 less than the design value. And a factor of
100 less of what we can go by pushing the
machine to the extreme. To its extreme possibilities. So we’re just starting. So for me, it’s
like opening a door. And the expectation
is still very high to find new physics
in one year from now. It’s like opening a door and
being in front of a nice garden with a lot of flowers. MARK LEVINSON: Mike,
you expressed concern. Are we ever going to
get this thing to work? You’re responsible
for delivering beams to these people and
worrying about it damaging their detectors. Do you feel an ease now? The machine, for everybody
who hasn’t seen the film and doesn’t know, the
machine was turned off. They’re doing major
renovations and upgrades. They will start again
at the end of next year at essentially
double the energy. And what’s your
feeling now, Mike? Are you confident now that the
next one is going to go well? Easy? MIKE LAMONT: Yes. MARK LEVINSON: This
is for their benefits. MIKE LAMONT: We were lucky. I mean, the LHC was
initially conceived in ’84. It took a long time to develop
the ideas, develop the magnets, the technology required. It was late, it was over budget. We turned it on,
and we blew it up. And we were off for over a
year picking up the pieces. So we started back
up at the end of 2009 and we’ve just came about
halfway through a long shutdown of about two years to
consolidate the machine so we can take up to design energy
at the beginning of 2015. So I think it’s fair to say an
awful lot of lessons have been learnt about the process,
about what went wrong, about the technology. And those lessons have been
applied during this shutdown. So I think the results
that are coming through give us some confidence that
we can go to 6 and 1/2 TeV without too many problems. MARK LEVINSON: I’m sure
they’re all very comforted to hear that. So I want to actually look at
another side As David said, the film really shows the
human side of these characters. And I think you
already get a sense, they have more dimensions than
just what typically people think of us as physicists. And one of the
interesting things is that several of our
characters play the piano and talk about certain parallels
between art and physics. And I want to just show
the next clip, actually. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] [MUSIC PLAYING] [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] MARK LEVINSON: So what is
the role, for you, in music? And do you think there
is an overlap between art and science? Do you think artists can
learn from scientists? Do you think scientists
can learn from artists? FABIOLA GIANOTTI: I don’t
want to speak too much, but for me music is a very
important component of my life. I think I am a
modestly good physicist because I’ve been
studying music. And music and physics are
really very close to each other. They both require
rules, mathematics. Music is based on a harmony,
which is the physics of sounds, essentially. And a Bach cantata,
for instance, is a piece of mathematics. Because Bach was really
following the rules in a very strict way. On top of which, Bach
has put all of his heart. So music is rules, and
a lot of creativity, and fantasy, as much as physics. So for me, hey are really
two different expressions of the same human [INAUDIBLE]. SAVAS DIMOPOULOS: Well, I was
the last child in a family, so my parents were
sick and tired of teaching music to their
kids by that time I was born. So unfortunately, even
though I love music, I don’t play an instrument. On the other hand,
it seems to me that the creative
process the sciences and the arts must have
some similarities. One of the things they share is
that they appear that they are not very practical
endeavours to start with. They don’t have an
obvious utilitarian value, either the arts or the
sciences, to start with. Yet they are very
important for human beings. And that, for example,
is a similarity that comes out that at
the very end of the movie. That they seem to be not needed
from the evolutionary point of view, yet they are there. And it’s a mystery for
why we do art and science, and why we don’t
satisfy ourselves from much more mundane
activities that are more directly
essential for our survival. MARK LEVINSON: Do you
want to say something? NIMA ARKANI-HAMED:
I mean, that this is a big subject about which
many platitudes are said, of the relationship
between art and science. I don’t think it’s
true for all the arts, but there are certain
parts of the arts that are extremely similar,
I think, psychologically to what we do in physics. Very particularly what we
do in theoretical physics. I think certain kinds of
novelists and composers go through a very
similar process we do as theoretical physicists. Because there’s a
structure, and there is an external notion
of right and wrong. Now, of course we have
an external notion of right and wrong which is
almost literally God-given, out there in the universe. But really great music
and really great novels also have a sense that
there’s some perfect structure that you constantly
fail to live up to. And you keep chipping away at
it until finally some jewel emerges, which was sitting there
all along, sort of inevitably there to be discovered. But which takes an enormous
amount of time and persistence to actually find. So I think that’s a fundamental
psychological difference that– I’ve talked
to Mark about this– I had a conversation with
Ian McEwan back in November at the London Science Museum. We had a wonderful
conversation, and had a very interesting
dinner afterwards. And it’s very, very similar. The basic psychology
is very similar. As far as things like
playing the piano goes, I don’t know how you
guys feel about it, but it’s sort in the
opposite direction. And it’s the difference between
playing and composition. I find that things
like playing the piano are a wonderful antidote to
the frustrations of research. The hardest part of our
job is that you wake up in the morning, and you
work very, very hard, and you have nothing to show
for it at the end of the day. And you fail miserably over
and over and over again. And we’re not idiots. We’re trying. We’re trying this,
were trying that, we’re trying the other thing. And maybe you take a
little bit of solace you failed a little less badly
today than you did yesterday. But mostly you fail. And every now and
then, if you’re Savas it happens more often
than for some of the rest of us, you have a big peak. And you’re maybe excited
for two or three days. And that’s it. And then you’re
back to the misery. So that’s life. And that’s what you have
to get used o if you want to be in this business. When Monica was complaining
about us drinking espresso and just chilling
all the time, it’s hiding the suffering underneath. But playing the
piano, by contrast, is something that you
practice, you get better. And it feels good. It feels good because it’s not
true for anything else we do. MARK LEVINSON: Actually,
that may be a nice lead-in to– don’t do the very next
clip, but the clip after. Yep. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] -Coffee is a very
serious business in the life of a theorist. It’s not like physics research
where you can wait for 30 years before you know
if you are right. Within a few
minutes it pays off. If you succeed, it’s great. If you fail, you get to try
another one in another minute. In particle physics,
you construct the theory 20 years ago, and it
may take that long before you know if you’re
on the right track. Jumping from failure to failure
with undiminished enthusiasm is the big secret to success. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] MARK LEVINSON: So
I think that really is sort of the key in many
ways to continuing in this. And the life of a
physicist, though, is a very particular
mode in either case. And I think before we
open it to questions, I just want to end
with a– now go back to the penultimate clip–
in terms of Monica. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] -I have a friend who
works for Google, who when we says he’s on a
plane and he works for Google, everyone’s like,
wow, that’s awesome. You work for Google? And I’m on a plane and
I say, I’m a physicist. And people are like, yeah,
where’s my reading material? But thing is that I essentially
do, on a day to day basis, the same thing that
people do at Google. I mean, I write huge
optimization algorithms, you know? I write programs. Actually, many physicists,
when they leave physics, go to Google. On one hand, people
are like, Google, cool. On the other hand, physicist,
you’re just like, geek. [END VIDEO PLAYBACK] MARK LEVINSON: So I hope you
get a different appreciation for people here. But I think at this point we’ll
open it up to any questions that anybody may have. AUDIENCE: Hi, thanks
for coming in today. I had a comment on
the sociological issue that you mentioned before. I would say that I’m of the
minority in that I would appreciate tax
dollars being spent on the pursuit of
pure knowledge, and I would read up
on what you find, and I would be in
that part of society. But the majority
would probably want to see what’s the
practical benefit that’s going to come out all this? So I wanted to ask you all
what are your thoughts on that. If we were going to
call our congressman and ask for more dollars to
be spent on your research, what should we say? NIMA ARKANI-HAMED: Can I
say something about that.? So just so you have an idea
of the scale of the projects that we’re talking about, when
we say big accelerators cost $10 billion, that’s one part
in 10,000 of our GDP over 20 years. So it’s a lot on the scale
of scientific projects, but it’s not back-breaking by
any stretch of the imagination. Now normally when this kind
of discussion comes up, we talk very appropriately about
the completely unanticipated consequences of
curiosity-driven basic research. Faraday, when he was famously
doing his experiments on electromagnetism, some
minister came to see him and asked exactly your
question, what is this good for. And he famously responded,
I don’t know sir, but someday you will tax it. And that was correct. It was 20, 30 years before
people knew about radio waves. Our entire technological
life is driven by that. People in the 1930s
were doing experiments to try and understand
the detailed properties of the hydrogen atom,
and strange mysteries about how atoms can even work that led
to the development of quantum mechanics. Now quantum mechanics,
in the year 1927, was perhaps the most
esoteric branch of science. And relatively speaking,
the most esoteric branch, probably, we’ve ever seen. There were maybe six people on
the planet who understood it. And yet, no one could have
foreseen that 30 years after that our detailed
understanding of the quantum properties of matter
would lead to revolutions like the transistor. And again, by some
measures, 2/3 of our GDP is directly consequence
of quantum mechanics. So people talk about that. It’s very appropriate
to talk about that. And that’s the most
fundamental reason to do this. We push boundaries,
and particularly technological boundaries,
and in the process of doing that,
inevitably you have to bring so many people
together to solve such difficult problems,
especially technical problems, that great things are
bound to come from it. Again, famously the World Wide
Web was developed at CERN. Originally as a method
to allow physicists to share information
efficiently. And something
about scientists is that we don’t care about money. I mean, it may be
strange, but we really don’t care about money. Anything we discover,
as part of our culture, is something for the world. So all those things are true. If you want to be a super
hard-nosed, pragmatic, practical guy and
say, but come on, in actual, quantifiable
dollars and cents, what do I actually
get from investing in literally your accelerator? There was an interesting
study that was done. Not a study, but
sort of a half-study, but I think fairly
plausible, that was done about the impact of the big
accelerator we have in the US outside Chicago that was
ultimately shut down. That’s the sad end of
US high energy physics. At least our leadership in
this particular frontier. That accelerator cost around
$5 billion over its lifetime. And if you actually
look at, concretely, the number of highly
trained PhD’s, for example, that
were trained by this. The US Census Bureau
gives dollar figure to how much a PhD is worth. It’s worth $2 million. So just the number of PhD’s
that were trained already made up for the
$5 billion spent. And then on top of that, the
infrastructure that was there for developing
magnet technology, for developing
things that ended up being useful for cloud
computing and so on. And those industries would
have succeeded anyway, but even if you’re very
conservative about just even a mild speed-up to the
development of those industries, you’re
talking about $50 billion. It’s a 10 to one return
on investment, easily. So by any measure, it’s
one part in 10,000 of GDP, it’s a 400-year
tradition of pushing the technical
boundaries of the world, and giving a
template for how you go about solving seemingly
impossible problems. And even very directly, with
the technologies involved, a large return on investment. I think it’s a no-brainer. But given that the
scale of money is large, this argument needs
to be made, and it needs to be made clearly. MARK LEVINSON: And
everybody on this panel will be happy to elaborate
on it even further. Next question? AUDIENCE: Over here, Mark. MARK LEVINSON: Oh, Jerry. AUDIENCE: A couple
questions if I may. Well, first of all,
was Enrico Fermi unique as a highly accomplished
theorist as well as experimentalist? And if so, why don’t we
have more such today? And when theorists hang
out and talk shop together, are they talking concepts? Are they talking math
in a semi-pure sense? Or are they just, I don’t know,
bullshitting, brainstorming? MARK LEVINSON: Well, let’s
let the experimentalists talk about Fermi. MONICA DUNFORD: So I’m a
huge admirer of Enrico Fermi. He was a great physicist, and
he was a great experimentalist, and a great theorist. MARK LEVINSON: Let me just
say Monica had an Enrico Fermi scholarship. MONICA DUNFORD: Fellowship. Yeah, exactly. AUDIENCE: I had the privilege
of visiting a friend there about 35 years ago. MONICA DUNFORD: OK. And I think the times
have changed a little. In Enrico Fermi’s time, he could
do an experiment on the time scale a few months to a year. And the difference
between the LHC is that in order to reach
these energies that we need to reach– we’re talking about
starting an accelerator in 1984 and having a turn on a 2009. And so this is kind
of, in that way, forced specialization
into the experimental side versus the theory side. But I think that this has really
been changing a lot now that we do have data, and
we will have data now for the next
couple of years. As the machine will continue
to deliver more and more data, I think it will go back
more towards the sense that experimentalists
and theorists will be talking with each
other, and figuring out what we should look for next,
how what we found or haven’t found fits into
theories, and so forth. So I think it’s working
more towards how it was in Enrico Fermi’s time. But there’s a phrase always
use in my group, which is that if it was easy, it
would have been done already. So essentially, all
the things that you could have done in two
months have been done. And now you’ve got to do
everything in 20 years. MARK LEVINSON: Savas? SAVAS DIMOPOULOS: So as
far as what we talk about, we talk about all of the
things that you mentioned. But most of the time we talk
concepts, and equations, and pictures. We mostly think– at least
from my circle of friends and myself– in
terms of pictures when it comes to solving
specific problems. Most of us rarely
think at the level of equations, which is what the
public seems to think about. It’s mostly in terms of
pictures and concepts. And the equations come near the
end to justify the pictures. And often they
justify, sometimes they contradict the picture. But it’s the final test. AUDIENCE: If I may, I’ve
just a punchline of a joke that I like that
no one else does. But I bet you guys will. And I’ll just do the punchline. So a string theorist
is explaining to is artist friend how
he understands things. And he says, I
just visualize it. And the artist says, how do you
visualize 11 dimensional space? He says, simple. First I visualize n
dimensional space, and then I let n be equal to 11. AUDIENCE: So the Higgs
boson was postulated in the early-mid
’60s, and it took us until a couple of years ago
to actually track it down. So why was that? I can think of a
bunch of reasons like money, like theory,
like building magnets, the computation. And you’re not allowed
to say all of the above. What were the long poles
and the constraints in getting from there to here? MARTIN ALESKA: Well, I
think the main reason was that the Higgs has
its mass which it has. And that was not known, by the
way, when it was postulated. One would have thought that the
next generation of accelerators might see the Higgs already. I mean, there are papers
where it’s even below a GeV, and so on. It turns out to be 125 GeV. So it was clear that
such a heavy Higgs boson needs a big machine,
which can actually be created. And we were a bit,
if you want, unlucky because the LEP was
just on the edge. The previous
accelerator at CERN, actually, was just on the edge. Or the Tevatron was just
a little bit too little. And then LHC got it. NIMA ARKANI-HAMED:
But we’ve known something is going on
at roughly these energy scales, or distance scales,
depending on how you count, since 1895. So in 1895, people
discovered radioactivity. And you think about it, this
is a completely insane thing. You have a nucleus
that’s sitting there– or let’s make it simple. You have a neutron. Take a neutron an empty space. It sits there for
15 minutes and then it disintegrates into
a proton, an electron, and something called an
antielectron neutrino. But anyway, 15 minutes is a
gargantuan, long, long, long, long time scale compared to all
the time and distance scales of atomic and nuclear physics. And we now understand
why it takes so long is because
the physics that’s ultimately responsible for
making the neutron disintegrate operates at distances there
are, in turn, 100 times smaller than the nucleus itself. And so people indirectly
knew about this scale, as I said, even in 1895. But we properly
understood the way to conceptualize it already
by the ’50s and ’60s. And it wasn’t until the
1980s that we actually discovered the particles
responsible directly for radioactivity. And then the fact that it’s
another 20, 25 years after that before we go another factor
of 1 and 1/2 higher in energy. Had the Higgs been down
there just a factor of two lighter than it
was, it would have been discovered in the 1980s. But this is a
difficult business. And so every time you need
the next generation machine to just push the energy
frontier a little bit, you’re talking about another
20 years’ investment. So it actually makes perfect
sense that it took so long. AUDIENCE: I want to
argue that you shouldn’t stop at Particle Fever One. Where’s Particle Fever Two? The story is not over. Dark matter is not discovered. And there’s the continuation
of the human story as well. The whole conversation about
the accreditation of Higgs. The dual award of
the Nobel Prize. More movies like this is good. MARK LEVINSON: Well
that’s very good to hear. And just a commercial
plug, the film opens today at the Film Forum. And so you can express your
enthusiasm for the film and for future films. It’s playful at the Film
Forum for a couple of weeks. It’s opening in LA, it’s
opening across the country. And obviously, I think
the greatest thing is that people come out of the
film and they do want to know. And I hope people
will follow it. Whether it turns
out to be a film, and has all the drama
that this one had is going to depend a lot of
these people sitting to my left and what they find. But we will certainly be
keeping people updated. And I hope people come out of
the film, they want to know. After many of our screenings,
one of the first questions is, have they found
anything else, are they going to
find something else, when are they going to
find something else, and when’s the sequel. And all of those are
very interrelated. And we will see. And I think we’re all extremely
pleased to have just tapped into an audience that
really does want to know. And hopefully we’ll be able
to provide the answers when the machine turns on again. AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Jeff. I’m a fashion designer
and a creative director. So I couldn’t be more layman
than anyone else in this room, probably. But I’m very interested in
what you guys are doing. You mentioned that the current
LHC is under construction and is being renovated
for double the power in a couple of years. Can you explain when that opens,
at best case scenario, if all your dream scenarios came
true, when that thing reopened what does that mean? What could you compare
it to in world history? Is it like
discovering the wheel, or is it time travel, or
is it the World Wide Web? What can you compare it to
that has happened in history that this will be the outcome? SAVAS DIMOPOULOS: Since
I’m a professional dreamer, I’ll tell you my
best case scenario is we discover new
dimensions of space. Instead of three
dimensions, maybe that are 10 extra dimensions. Ten total dimensions
of space and time. And we find that
these dimensions are relatively large. By large, I mean
a little smaller than a millimeter, which is
really macros– really big, from the point of view
of the atomic nucleus. And this corresponds to finding
inside these new dimensions there could be parallel
universes similar to ours, or maybe with different
laws of nature. Maybe there are
parallel universes where the electron mass
is different than what it is in our universe. And somehow this
can give us access. Finding these extra
dimensions creates the space inside which
you can have new worlds. AUDIENCE: When is the last time
we discovered a new dimension? SAVAS DIMOPOULOS: Well, in a
sense, time has been adopted. The most fruitful way to
think of time, it turns out, is in a way that’s democratic
with space and time. That there is some
close interconnection. And that was, in the early
part of last century, early part of the 20th century,
this realization was made. And it, in fact, stemmed
from Einstein’s theory of special relativity. That’s the best way to
understand the theory. So that is the last time. What they would
draw a parallel with is, perhaps, the discovery
of new continents. But this is a very
vague parallel. It’s really new worlds. You can fit many,
many parallel worlds with even different
physical properties. And some particles, like what we
call the graviton, the particle that is the cause
of gravity, can travel inside these
extra dimensions and somehow access these worlds. This is a theory
that, in fact, exists. it’s a theory that
Nima, Gia Dvali, and I– so there is
mathematics behind this. It’s not just discussion. DAVID KAPLAN: It could
be science fiction. Its rigorous, that’s all. NIMA ARKANI-HAMED: It’s
(SHOUTED) science (WHISPERED) fiction. SAVAS DIMOPOULOS: There is math. So somewhere in the Platonic
world of mathematics, this structure exists. Whether it is realized
in nature or not, that’s what people on the left
will decide, hopefully soon. And so that is probably
the wildest dream. And in fact, to underline
that it is science, there have been tremendous
experimental constraints that have already been set from
the first round off the LHC on the size of these dimensions. That is the wildest thing. There are somewhat more
spectacular discoveries that involve a theory
that’s called supersymmetry. That is a bit
harder to visualize, but you can perhaps think of
it as a new dimension that has weird properties. So that would be my
number two scenario. But I’m sure other
theoretical friends have– DAVID KAPLAN: I think we should
let the experimentalists speak. FABIOLA GIANOTTI:
Well, going back to the initial theme of
this discussion, difference between theorists
and experimentalists, you also realize the
theorists talk a lot, and they’re not shy at all. And we are much more
quiet, and more shy. No seriously, I think what Savas
said is very nice, very good. And for me, already to
discover the Higgs boson was something quite special,
and really revolutionary. And I like to compare it
to the man on the moon. Not only because of the
big jump in some sense, in the kind of big jump
in our achievement, accomplishment of mankind. But also because of all the
technology that is behind. The man on the moon is
not just going there and putting a flag on the moon. It’s all the technologies
that has required, that has been developed
to achieve this step. And going back to the
discussion about why we are spending so much money
on fundamental knowledge, of course there is
an important aspect that in order, today,
to make step forward in fundamental
knowledge, in some cases you need a lot of technology. So we need technology to
advance fundamental knowledge, and fundamental
knowledge, in turn, allows you to improve
your technology. So it’s kind of
virtual and positive– this draws a nice loop
between knowledge and science. MARK LEVINSON: Did we ever
get that last clip converted? Excuse me? No? OK. So you want to wrap it up. MALE SPEAKER: Yeah,
we should probably wrap up, but thank you
so much for coming. This was just
absolutely fascinating. And we’re thrilled
that you came along. All the best for the premiere
tonight, and thank you. MARK LEVINSON: Thank you.

15 thoughts on “Mark Levinson and cast: “Particle Fever” | Talks at Google

  1. So concluding, it makes perfect economical sense that google should put all its profit into fundamental research.

  2. Certain aspects of "Particle Fever" were fascinating, but on the whole, I thought the film was over-hyped and somewhat vapid.

    One problem with "Particle Fever" was the filmmaker's emphasis on personalities over science. The physicists from Stanford and Princeton did an excellent job of describing the CERN experiments and how Higgs fits into the larger framework of scientific understanding, but besides those two guys, the movie was patently lacking in scientific depth. To be perfectly candid, the expression "a mile wide and an inch deep" comes to mind.

    Another problem with the film was the contrived presentation of the material. There were too many shots of physicists writing faux-complicated formulae, replete with lots of integrals and epsilons, on chalkboards. Did the director really believe that the audience was dumb enough to think that physicists just happen to write complex proofs on boards while a camera is rolling in front of them? Hell, you could almost hear the director coaching the physicists to "write something impressive looking" on the board so the audience will understand how brilliant they all are. This intellectual condescension toward the audience is unforgivable.

    While the bare-bones science and scripted formula writing detracted from the film as a whole, the worst facet of "Particle Fever" was the inclusion of the American female "scientist" who was working at CERN. She was featured promenently in the film (for reasons of diversity, no doubt), but she contributed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING of an intellectual nature to the picture. At one point, after the preliminary data on the proton collisions had been collated, she actually uttered the line, "Data is cool" to describe the depth of her feelings about the experiment. I literally shuddered in the theatre.

    Was that bimbo really the best female scientist the director could find? I mean, come on. We all know that universities grant admission to females and minorities who are intellectually substandard, but that chick was truly embarrassing.  There's no doubt that aesthetically unrefined males and females who look for "empowerment" anywhere and everywhere they can will be impressed by shots of  this "scientist" riding her bicycle and rowing. However, anyone with a modicum of insight into physics will be taken aback by this character.

    On a scale of one to five, "Particle Fever" gets a two from me.  If the female American had been jettisoned from the film, it might have ranked a three.

  3. that fucking skunk at 7:35 monica dunford is sooooooooo fucking annoying and pretentious. she really makes this documentary really hard to watch. she acts as if she is the mastermind of the universe and creation………disgusting. she's nothing but one more of those ignorant arrogant "scientists". 

  4. What a joke this film was.  Most if not all of the people in the movie I could tell were scripted actors.

  5. A couple of these people, especially the chest hair, stuttering guy don't make believable scientists.

  6. ….
    SECRETS OF TIME AND SPACE IS BEYOND THE SCOPE OF MODERN 'MAN'S' KNOWLEDGE.
    THE ANSWERS ARE IN PURE SCRIPTURE, AND ARE HIDDEN FROM THE FAITHLESS….
    (ACTUALLY IT IS AS SIMPLE AS IT IS COMPLEX….)

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