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Science Careers Blog

January 11, 2013

Physics Students Shoot a Zombie Movie at CERN

Last month, Science Careers profiled three young scientists who contributed to proving the existence of the long-sought Higgs Boson, at the European particle physics laboratory (CERN) near Geneva, Switzerland. Science declared the discovery the Breakthrough of the Year for 2012.

But this isn't the only thing young scientists at CERN have been up to. A small group of physics Ph.D. students and postdocs have been shooting a 75-minute zombie movie set at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

According to a press release from H2ZZ Productions, the inspiration came to Manchester University Ph.D. student Luke Thompson about 3 years ago when he joked that "the tunnels under CERN would be ideal for a zombie movie." "Decay" was made on a shoestring budget of 2000 British Pounds and with a cast and crew of of about 20 people. 

The plot--less original, perhaps, than the setting--"follows a small group of students (played by physicists) after a disastrous malfunction in the world's biggest particle accelerator. As they try desperately to escape from the underground maintenance tunnels, they are hunted by the remains of a maintenance team, who have become less than human", due to exposure to the newly-discovered Higgs boson.

To Thompson, the film "seemed a good opportunity for some satire, making fun of all the scare stories about the LHC," he said in an article published today on Times Higher Education. To assistant director Clara Nellist, it was a way to reach out to the public. "Researchers laugh at the intentionally bad science, but I've also had my 80-year-old grandma asking me about the physics," she said in the same article. CERN found out about the movie around the time it was finished, and does not endorse it, Thompson told Times Higher Education. Yet, the movie, has been screened at institutions like the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) near Chicago, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, and the GSI large-scale accelerator facility for heavy ions in Darmstadt, Germany. It was made available for free on the Internet on 8 December.

If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you at least take a peek at the trailer. If you wish to dig deeper there's a critique of the movie and more details about its making on Wired.

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