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Dance, opera and the Large Hadron Collider: match made in heaven. Literally.

Miracles happen underground near Geneva. Or rather, those miracles happen every second around us, but underground near Geneva, they are being recorded. In 2013, they discovered God, or at least, a portal of light that betrayed the existence of the Higgs-boson, the most elementary particle of elementary particles, which provides mass to everything around us.

On 18 March, they will restart their 27-kilometre-long circular apparatus, the men of CERN, in search of proof that everything, but everything we think is real, is just an illusion. Indeed, the next bang in the Large Hadron Collider is supposed to prove the existence of supersymmetry, the fact that all the particles that make up us, which are actually waves of pure energy, only become something the moment we observe them. And if that is not crazy enough: at the exact moment they are observed, a partner particle of that particle takes exactly the same shape. Here, or 15 billion light years away from here. Without the speed of light being an obstacle to that.

After that discovery, the world will not end. We will eventually have to start thinking completely differently about who we are, why we are here and what it is all for. If that is allowed to be for anything at all.

Such extremely fundamental science is hard to put into words. Surely we prefer to ask the question of practical utility of science. The billions that the LHC has cost, the millions that a single collision costs: we're not going to make better coffee makers out of it. Or better rocket engines, if need be.

At first glance, the LHC merely serves man's hunger for knowledge. This can then be captured in thick books and unreadable articles in famous scientific journals, but at CERN they came up with something ingenious: the men in dust coats, who can get hysterical about a single 0 in a place where it does not belong, have made their knowledge available to art. And not the Bob Ross art, the art in which you can see via artist impressions making the collision of elementary particles suitable for over the sofa.

On Saturday 14 March, the film Symmetry premieres at festival Cinedans in Amsterdam. A dance film with an important role for the beautiful soprano Claron McFadden and, of course, the Large Hadron Collider. I saw a first version in a dark little studio in Amsterdam and was deeply impressed. Director Ruben van Leer's film does exactly what thick tomes cannot: make tangible and insightful what the idea of a particle accelerator does to you.

Of course wonderful that they were allowed to portray the collision detector beautifully lit. Hilarious too that they were allowed to add flashy graphics to the grey numbercrunching screens in the control centre, for effect. But far more beautiful is what you just have to experience: the falling away of tangible reality, the attraction between people and, ultimately, the beautifully portrayed fact that we are not even dust, but waves.

The film references great science fiction classics like 2001, A Space Odyssey, and at times you are reminded of the more psychedelic episodes of the original series of Star Trek. Not bad, indeed: it's the kind of image that makes you realise that science is also a form of dreaming. Only art can make that clear.

Good to know
Cinedans is from Wednesday 11 to Sunday 15 March in Amsterdam

The Cern festival is on 18 March.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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