For the first time ever, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory or Fermilab has opened its doors to documentary filmmakers. The film, entitled Fermilab: Science at Work, spans 40 minutes and was filmed by Clayton Brown and Monica Long Ross. It gives viewers a first ever glimpse at the inner workings of one of the most exciting and intricate laboratories in contemporary science history.
Fermilab was founded in 1967 by its first director; Robert Wilson. Since its inception, the laboratory has produced some of the most ground breaking equipment ever to grace the face of physics, which include the world’s first ever four mile particle accelerator ring and the tetravon, which up until 2009 was the highest-energy particle accelerator in existence. The laboratory is also responsible for the key discovery of the bottom quark in 1977 and also the discovery of the top quark in 1995: elementary particles and fundamental building blocks of matter.
The documentary enters the laboratory and provides an insightful look at the explorative laboratory and its employees. The lab employs over 1700 professionals, which consist not only of physicists, but machinists, technicians, electricians and mechanics. The informational segments of the documentary are interwoven with personal commentary by some of the scientists and this elevates the poignancy of the film. Every employee is ebullient to be apart of the processes of the laboratory and in educating the various touring parties and guests that visit the lab.
Fermilab is a referred to as a “discovery laboratory”, which is indicative of its dedication to the discovery of new knowledge throughout three fundamental frontiers addressing space and time. The Cosmic Frontier seeks to understand dark matter and dark energy through various experiments. The Energy Frontier explores the early universe through simulating its conditions by smashing particles together at extremely high velocity and the Intensity Frontier is dedicated to the exploration of the rare and mysterious processes within physics to potentially reveal new subatomic particles and forces.
The exploration of these sectors leads to the collation of billions and billions of data files. The data collected at Fermilab could lead to the discovery of new knowledge in multiple fields that might not be currently applicable to a problem and have immediate relevancy, but that could be aid future research. Fermilab physicist Deborah Harris surmised, “You don’t plant an olive tree for your children; they take fifty years to bare fruit. You plant them for your grand children.” Science at Work provides the only in-depth portrayal of an exploratory lab to date and is an effective and informative piece of documentary film-making. Watch it.