Production on Fermilab film has begun
So, Monica (my co-director), Stefani (our cinematographer) and I have started shooting the new Fermilab promotional film. Over a year ago, Fermilab contacted 137 Films because they were pleased enough with our depiction of their lab and the people in it in our first film, The Atom Smashers, that they wanted us to make a new promotional film for them. The one they currently were using was over ten years old. Naturally, we were thrilled to do it. One of the things we discussed in our initial meeting was that they wanted the film to focus not on the Tevatron, that incredible 4-mile in circumference machine that dominated The Atom Smashers, but rather on all the other science done at Fermilab. Partly, this is because the Tevatron’s life expectancy is short; as we documented in our film, funding and a massive new accelerator at CERN were final nails in the coffin of this 40 year-old machine. But a main reason is that there are so many fascinating things happening at the lab that aren’t involved in a multi-billion dollar, headline-topping race to find the mysterious answer to life, the universe, and everything that the Higgs boson is reputed to be. I’ll be profiling those things in upcoming entries.
But back to our shoots at Fermilab. We were there last week on Daughters and Sons to Work Day (DASTOW, per the scientists’ trend of making pronounceable abbreviations of everything longer than a couple of words) following around neutrino physicist David Schmitz, who performed a really nice show for the kids where things rolled, swung, bumped, and moved (all following Newton’s laws of motion) and then caught up with him as he explained the latest work being done on his experiment, the MINERvA neutrino experiment. Again, I’ll explain more of this in coming entries, but for now, I’ll just say that he and his group were testing a giant hexagonal … water tank. That’s right, a plastic hexagonal shape about a foot wide filled with good old water. Dave was talking on the phone with a couple of colleagues about a recent development: cracks had formed in some of the washers used to bolt the sides together so the thing wouldn’t collapse under the weight of all that water. They had drained the tank, replaced the washers, and filled it back up with water to see if it would leak. The ultimate destination for this large water-filled wafer was deep underground, sandwiched between metal plates of the same size, so they didn’t want any chance that it would start leaking at some point in the future. So Dave hung up the phone and headed over to the big warehouse where it was located and checked out the wafer where it was sitting for three weeks, making sure no cracks appeared in the washers. Our cinematographer, Stefani, noticed how much of a funhouse-mirror it was to shoot Dave through the water-filled tank, so she got up on a scissor-lift (while three months pregnant — her baby will be a true adventurer) and got some nice shots.
In subsequent posts I’ll be doing a lot more explaining about neutrinos, neutrino detectors, the MINERvA experiment, and the big Questions Fermilab is after (the same ones we’re referencing in our new film for them). I’ll also describe the other things we’ll be depicting in the film, including the fantastically intriguing Dark Energy Camera destined for the top of a telescope in South America.