The Atom Smashers chronicles two gripping races: a forty-year international scientific competition to find the universe’s most important subatomic particle and the effort of a massive machine built to find it. The observation of the world-famous Higgs particle promises to be a crucial step in discovering the most intimate secrets of the structure of matter and the origins of the Universe.
The film tells about the American physicists who run the Tevatron, a four-mile tunnel buried beneath the Illinois prairie. The Tevatron stumbles, breaks, is repaired, and surges ahead in attempts to find the particle, beat the competition, and claim a Nobel Prize. Meanwhile in Europe, the LHC, the largest particle accelerator in the world currently being built in Geneva, is almost ready to be commissioned.
The race to find the most important elementary particle enters its crucial stage. The stakes are huge. But, all of a sudden, the US administration announces major cuts to research funds and the closing down of the Tevatron. “This is not the time to be getting out of the game”, scientists warn. The documentary tells about the intersection between science, politics, and culture. While going through the project steps, it highlights the life and feelings of the physicists who work overseas and are afraid of losing this major race. Two continents, two accelerators, one particle: who will find it?