It is on like a Tevatron
One of the best things about being a filmmaker is that sometimes you get to go places and see things that are off limits to the general public. My camera has opened a lot of doors for me but of all the crazy things I’ve been allowed to shoot, the stuff I got to film this past week takes the cake. For reasons that are still not 100% clear to me, I got to spend 2 days filming a music video at one of the most important scientific facilities in the world; FermiLab. FermiLab is located in Batavia, IL and is home to the world’s largest particle accelerator. (Though the Large Hadron Collider at Cern will be taking over that title soon) Anyway, it’s a big ass machine called a tevatron that flings particles at each other at mind-blowing speeds. When the particles collide they rip apart and physicists are able to catch a passing glimpse of the stuff that makes up those particles. But that’s just one of the many types of world-class science they are doing at FermiLab. Those people are hardcore over there.
I grew up only about an hour from FermiLab. I was kind of an atomic energy nerd when I was younger and I always hoped that my class would go to the lab for a field trip. We never did and I always regretted it. Well, I that is to say I did regret it. Over the last few days I got to see every nook and radioactive cranny of that place.
How’d it happen? Well a few weeks back a Nerdcore rapper from Florida named Funky49 e-mailed and said he had written a rap about FermiLab and he was flying to Illinois to visit the facility. Funky makes a brief cameo in Nerdcore For Life and he knew that I lived not to farm from Batavia so he asked if I’d want to shoot a music video with him while he was in town. I said ‘heck yeah’ and that was that.
FermiLab was really, really, REALLY supportive of the whole project. As it turned out the Fermi rap was even the brainchild of FermiLab scientist; Dr. Ben Kilminster. Funky49 had created an entire hip-hop album about Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry. Dr. Ben heard it and thought Funky would be the perfect guy to do a rap song and video about FermiLab.
Now, if you are a gigantic mega-nerd this whole concept might sound a little familiar to you. A rap video shot at particle accelerator? Hasn’t that been done before?? It sure has and that’s the point! As I mentioned, the tevatron at FermiLab is about to lose its “world’s largest” status to the new particle accelerator at CERN in Switzerland. Last year, some staff members at CERN created their own hip-hop video entitled “The Large Hadron Rap.”
The video is pretty good and damn did it blow up on the web-o-sphere! The Large Hadron Rap video is up to 5.2 million views on youtube. So the FermiLab folks figured that perhaps it was time for the Americans to rebut with a hip-hop video of their own! And so, I now find myself on the front line of history’s first international, particle physics hip-hop feud.
Funky49 and I spent two days running around the FermiLab compound. And man, it really is a “compound.” It’s a huge, amazing place. What I like best about it is that the designers of the facilities really tried to reflect spirit of the mid-west in the grounds. There are vast fields of open prairie between the buildings and there’s even an entire heard of buffalo living there.
It’s going to take me a few weeks to cut the video together but I have a feeling it will turn out to be something really cool. We were allowed an absurd level of access. We even got to film the open tevatron! After we were done, we had to get “frisked” by a Geiger counter to make sure we hadn’t been irradiated. And that wasn’t just some overcautious act. The hardhats of our two chaperons tuned out to have been contaminated with radioactive dust while we were filming!
So anyway, it was a great couple of days. Huge thanks to Funky49 for asking me to do the video and extra big thanks to Dr. Ben and all the great people at FermiLab for showing us around and putting up with our shenanigans. Check back in a few weeks to see the finished video!