The Scientific Lens

The Yukon Film Society and Yukon Arts Centre present the return of the Available Light Cinema series on Sunday, September 21 with two films of the scientific variety. The science fiction film screening at 9:00 p.m. is Jonathan Glazer’s chilling parable Under the Skin. Scarlett Johansson stars in it, and it has been compared to the films of Stanley Kubrick. At 7:00 p.m. you can catch the documentary Particle Fever, a film that, at its core, aims to humanize the colossal contrivance that is the Hadron Collider.The collider is the world’s largest machine. It’s in Switzerland, and it was designed over decades of worldwide collaboration. Its aim is to re-enact the Big Bang. Through several point-of-view stories, we gaze into the homes and workplaces of scientists who live and breathe to be a part of the discovery of the Higgs Boson: a particle that is theorized as being the key to understanding the existence of matter as we know it. It’s science versus God. The science behind this monstrosity is made adequately accessible to John and Jane movie-goer. If it seems a little heavy, keep in mind the film’s director, Mark Levinson, is attempting to educate us on years of research, and some rather complex physics, in less than two hours. So if you’re not especially scientifically inclined, you might have to hit the rewind button a few times to completely conceptualize the theories. That being said, the payoff is huge; it’s fascinating stuff. The film certainly tries to be seductive and entertaining in its use of fantastic animations of sub-atomic particles bursting like fireworks, and images illustrating the staggering proportions of the grandiose Hadron device, accompanied by a mystical score.The artistic bits stand in stark contrast to the mostly dry dialogue and footage of geeky scientists with greasy hair in their day-to-day lives.The contrast, however, challenges us to look past the inaccessible exterior of the hyper-geek (along with his or her lofty inventions) into the mystery and frantic beauty of the scientific mind. A scientific beehive is cracked open before us; The Hadron Collider is its mechanical queen bee. This particular academic ambition has gripped the worldwide physicist community in such a way that it has taken on a hive mentality. All differences of culture and creed have been cast aside to allow for the unadulterated pursuit of enlightenment. And wild-firing of synapses in thousands of brains are bent toward a common goal. It’s a testament to the power of a united human race, when all bets are off. Although most of us know the ending before we see it, this film invites us into the experience and excitement of a leap of faith. We share in the frightening prospect of the poignant disillusionment that is explicitly possible for a multitude of people whose lives have been spent trying to discover a single particle, which might not even exist. Stakes are high, and so is tension, as the world stands on its tiptoes and peeks over the precipice of unfathomable possibility. Granted, the nerd-level is off the charts, but the film is mostly enlightening, schooling and dazzling with cutting-edge discovery. It helps us understand the obsessive determination and fever that possesses these people and their desire to replace the creation gods of the world with science, and once and for all materialize the mystery of the universe.Big questions, and big answers, sometimes come in particle-sized packages.

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