+ Presentation by Professor Semir Zeki
Particle Fever is an American documentary film, unusual in being directed by a former theoretical physicist and having among its producers a professor of physics. It is about the series of experiments culminating in the identification of a fundamental particle of nature, the Higgs Boson.The footage for the film, collected over a 7-year period, was edited by Walter Murch, who won Academy Awards for work on Apocalypse Now and The English Patient. It took about seven years to make, and follows physicists and mathematicians who apprehend truths about the structure of the Universe long before the facts are actually discovered through very costly experimentation, involving hundreds of scientists and untold millions of pounds. The apprehension of these truths often comes, as with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, through mathematical formulations of great beauty. In the words of the physicist Paul Dirac, the experience of mathematical beauty in these formulations thus becomes a guide to their truthfulness and, by extension, gives us insights into the laws governing the structure of the Universe.
Semir Zeki is Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London. His work has been directed towards understanding how the visual brain, which constitutes almost a quarter of the human brain, is organized. He has shown that it consists of many visual areas that are specialized to process different attributes of the visual scene such as visual motion, colour and different categories of form. He has also been interested in learning how a sensory input can lead to an affective, emotional, state, which has led him to study the neural correlates of the experience of desire, love and beauty, including mathematical beauty. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and a Foreign Member of the American Philosophical Society. In addition to articles in specialized scientific journals, he has written three books, A Vision of the Brain, Inner Vision: an exploration of art and the brain, and Splendors and Miseries of the Brain and co-authored a book on art and the brain with the late French painter Balthus. An exhibition in 2011 at the Pecci Musuem of Contemporary Art in Milan, entitled White on White: Beyond Malevich, was devoted to his own art works, based on his studies of colour vision.