A particle of physics comes to the movies

Angels and Demons, the latest film from the makers of The Da Vinci Code, were partly filmed in Cern, where Finnish researchers are involved in attempts to solve some of the mysteries of the universe.

Angels and Demons

The protagonists of the thriller, with much of its action taking place on the streets of Rome, have to prevent the destruction of the Vatican by a secret brotherhood that is trying to destroy it with the help of antimatter stolen from Cern.

The work of the real European particle physics laboratory in Cern, Geneva, has gained publicity for the construction of the world’s largest LHC (Large Hadron Collider).

Finns working with the LHC are supervised by Professor Jorma Tuominiemi, who saw the film in advance. “The film depicts LHC physics in a whimsical fashion. The director and the cinematographer provide a fairly accurate picture of the dimensions of the test station built for the LHC. However, the antimatter production and storage equipment filmed in Hollywood are not realistic.”

Cern has produced antimatter since the 1980s. Antimatter is a state in which matter exists. Based on current research, primary particles have their anti-particles, which have similar characteristics as the primary particles but their electric charge is the opposite. When a particle and anti-particle encounter each other, they destroy one another and energy is created.

However, the LHC equipment appearing in the film has mainly been designed for investigating phenomena other than antimatter.

“Based on our observations, the existing universe seems to only consist of matter,” Tuominiemi says.

“Once we have understood why the matter/antimatter symmetry has been broken, we will know more about the birth of the universe.”

The real LHC will once again be started at the end of the year. Before that, you can get a particle of enjoyment from this film.

The film is based on a novel with the same title by Dan Brown, and stars Tom Hanks.


Text: Minna Meriläinen
Foto: Sony Pictures
Translation: AAC Noodi

13.5.2009
www.helsinki.fi/digitalcommunications


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