Physicists produce physics horror flick 'Decay' in an effort to increase understanding
It's easy to get overwhelmed when someone talks about the Higgs boson, the large hadron collider or almost anything else at the center of modern physics. But on a very basic level, people are often extremely interested. So student scientists at the CERN laboratory turned physics into an easy-enough-to-understand horror film.
For many, physics was one high school subject that just never sunk in.
And though physicists at CERN, European Organization for Nuclear Research, have had quite a busy year, they’ve somehow managed to set aside time to explain physics to the rest of us in a new, self-produced horror flick called "Decay."
"Decay" is a 75-minute zombie flick, splattered with corn syrup blood and driven by terrifying plot twists. In the film, exposure to the Higgs boson particle is what turns innocent researchers into brain eating zombies.
While the film doesn’t show "real" science, the satire does engage the public with particle physics in an entertaining way. Burton DeWilde, a former doctoral student conducting research at CERN, co-produced, edited and directed the photography for the film.
DeWilde said the film was put together less out of need and more out of a sense of adventure.
"An idea was conceived and, I think more amazingly, followed through for about two years," he said. "It started as a lark, then became something much more ambitious."
The global population is certainly interested in physics; DeWilde says he can see it in their eyes when he talks to them. But then he gets into the details of whatever it is he's trying to describe, and then it doesn't go so well.
"This movie was very much an introduction to particle physics, but not trying to teach real science," he said.
The movie was always a student project — never a primary focus of CERN researchers. And some European tabloids have tried to portray it as a bit of a scandal — a scandal DeWilde wears as a badge of honor.
The filmmakers spent a great deal of time trying to make sure they "followed the rules," DeWilde said, out of concern CERN might not see the humor in what they were trying to do.
"I think, in the end, CERN recognized that any time you start a conversation about physics or particle physics or engaged a general audience on this topic, there's possibility for a learning experience," DeWilde said.
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