I was only half joking when I told particle physicist Dr. David Kaplan that listening to him had raised my IQ at least five points. He had just explained in garrulous fashion, and in terms that were both clear and compelling, how the observer effect couldn’t have applied to the search for the Higgs particle when the Large Hadron Collider in Cern was looking for it. If we had discussed nothing else on October 27, 2014, it still would have been one of the most interesting interviews I have ever conducted, but fortunately for me (and you), we went on to talk about the philosophy of research, including why failure is sometimes success, what exactly the Higgs particle is, the serendipity of an advanced physics degree in landing Oscar(tm)-winning film editor Walter Murch, and how the right teacher can make all the difference. For myself, I wanted to know how, when pondering the structure of the universe, the good doctor wasn’t in a constant state of transcendent awe. His answer, also clear and compelling, didn’t so much deny the sense of wonder, as it explained a different approach to experiencing it.
PARTICLE FEVER is his documentary about theory, practice, and the confirmation of the Higgs particle. Covering the heady times leading up to the first experiment on the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland, it follows physicists from several disciplines talking science and why they love it, as it also explains the mysteries of the standard model used by physicists to explain the universe, and just why that Higgs particle is so important to it. Dr Kaplan teaches in the department of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. The film was directed by Mark Levison. Dr. Kaplan’s research areas include super-symmetry, extra dimensions, and dark matter. His previous non-research work includes co-hosting season three of National Geographic Channel’s Known Universe documentary series.