It was sort of inevitable that tonight, I would be watching a catastrophic movie on TV Prima (in Czech dubbing) about the LHC black hole. The original name of the 2013 German-Austrian film is
Helden – Wenn dein Land dich braucht (Heroes: When Your Country Needs You, IMDB)The movie by the commercial TV station RTL that got mostly negative reviews is 140 minutes long – a big movie, indeed. The budget was €8 million i.e. $11 million – a lot. The very topic, the deadly LHC black hole, was silly so I had known that it would be scientificially implausible. But what surprised me that the filmmakers also hold manifestly Luddite, anti-scientific and anti-technological sentiments. Technology has surpassed the humanity a long time ago. It is a sin for humans to continue the research like that, and so on. All this stinky crap.
Trailer in German: click here
Also, some captions in the movie say that "it is no science-fiction". Instead, "it may really happen". Well, it can't.
Pictured are the heroes who manage to win the fight against the arrogant villains, the CERN physicists, and save the world.
A group of small schoolgirls is visiting the world's largest collider. It isn't called the LHC in the movie – probably because the filmmakers were afraid that they could be sued – but the collider happens to be in Geneva, too. It is huge but a little bit different than the LHC. So the beams – looking like two blue laser beams – collide in front of your eyes. They claim to collide atoms, not protons (it's probably not easy to accelerate them) but they are just upgrading the energy to \(14\TeV\), too.
A girl on the excursion suddenly sees that some M&M's are floating in front of her eyes. Later, we see two brothers whose countryside house (along with the legs of one brother) is destroyed by an object from space. I was afraid that it would be a "piece of a black hole" but fortunately, it turned out to be a satellite whose trajectory got deflected by a new force. Another satellite destroys the Reichstag; it is not a big deal because soon or later, a Bulgarian activist would have to do this job, anyway.
Airplanes in Berlin start to crash, and so on. You get the picture. So an ingenious heroic (obviously female) physicist, formerly employed by CERN, called Sophie recalls her theory and immediately gets in touch with the (male) German chancellor. He has no clue about physics (unlike Merkel) but he is quickly asked to turn off the LHC. I didn't know that it's the German chancellor who is turning the LHC on and off but this improvement of the legal status has probably pleased the patriotic German TV audiences. ;-)
However, the German chancellor can't turn the experiment off because his Swiss subordinates have lost the contact with the LHC. So the LHC keeps on running happily. Previously, the "arrogant" LHC scientists – who play games pretending that they are gods (the main heroes, a Christian priest, and a Muslim apparatchik all agreed that it's a sin for humans to do experimental physics) – would dare to celebrate the upgrade to \(14\TeV\) while looking at the LHC beams. There was an accident at the LHC that damaged most of Geneva (you could see the huge black hole at the intersection of the beams) but it wasn't a problem for Rolf Heuer to extinguish the small fire while the 100-meter-deep trench along the LHC's circumference was being formed. ;-)
So the mechanism is clear. The black hole was created and it deflected the M&M's and airplanes and satellites and so on. The fact that such an evolution contradicts the equivalence principle (M&M's should accelerate just like the nearby girl), the mass conservation law (you can't really create a new heavy object out of almost nothing), and the law about the constant motion of the center-of-mass doesn't matter.
I know that this movie is supposed to be tragic and catastrophic but I admit that I have been laughing most of the time so far (and be sure that catastrophic movies with humans involved – even if some kitschy climate-change-like hysteria is involved – often make me cry). Sometimes the scenes are sad and mundane for a while – overloaded hospitals, extra appendicitis (the surgery has to be done by a nurse at the end), and so on. But then they return to the LHC tunnel and discuss that the black hole is probably "behind this door". The black hole has to be bombed by NATO so that it "collapses" (a black hole, almost by definition, is the maximally collapsed form of matter; you can't make it collapse even more than it already is). When I hear sentences like that with 5 distinct misunderstandings of basic physics, I just have to laugh.
In the remaining 2 hours of the movie, they will have to drop a piece of software that turns off the LHC from some airplane, or something like that (maybe the teenage hacker who is also stealing motorbikes will help them?). I will stop blogging and continue watching because I am pretty curious what they can do in the remaining 2 hours so that the movie isn't a boring redundant junk – which it may be. (Oh, I see: much of the last 2 hours is about their drinking beer, belching, having sex, and talking about the matches of FC Schalke: many of the heroes who saved the world are fans of this soccer team. Some new mountains are created in Germany within seconds; Mount Germany separates Germany to South and North Germany. Youth is happy and feels romantic in a world where electronic devices have been destroyed by EMP. And so on.)
At any rate, many of the effects are visually impressive. Quite a contrast with the Luddite, anti-scientific message of the film. It's also funny how the filmmakers like to reshape every physics question to the length scale of 5 meters and the energy scale of a few megajoules, not acknowledging (and perhaps not realizing) that the interval of length scales and energy scales that physicists actually deal with spans dozens of orders of magnitude on the log scale.
People with some basic knowledge of particle physics may watch this film and include it among comedies about the human stupidity. But you are free to find additional dimensions in the film. But I think that the lousiness of this movie went well beyond their ludicrous opinions about physics and the scientific method. Too many characters that mostly served no purpose, for example. Bad acting. Cheap stories about the tragedies. One could be frustrated by seeing that many people – even in the cultural "front" of the would-be pro-scientific European continent – are so hostile to particle physics. But if you realize that this movie has become a complete failure with the viewers and critics, the sorrow turns into smile and you may even feel some sympathy with the makers of this movie because they're anti-physics but they still decided to have something to do with particle physics and they paid the price.
They're like the cheeky teenage daughter stuck in the LHC tunnel who told her mother that she was not interested in all that science junk and now she had to suffer. Her mother slapped her in her face and the daughter deserved it. The makers of the film were slapped in their faces as well and they mostly deserved it, too.