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137 Films is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) documentary production company based in Chicago that promotes science through storytelling. We create films out of the stories found in the world of science to entertain, educate, and inform by exploring how science's search for answers impacts our cultural, political, and personal lives.

our staff

clayton brown

monica ross

amy ellison

mia capodilupo

stephen poon

olivia curry

executive director

artistic director

director of development

director of operations

assistant editor

social media coordinator

our board

philip cable

Carolyn blessing

andy swindler


peter doetschman






our advisory board

richard cahan

Dr. John Conway

dr. robin erbacher

Congressman Bill Foster

Dr. Michael Lubell

rich moskal

dr. alan schriesheim

Author, Publisher, Former Program Officer Driehaus Foundation

experimental physicist, UC Davis, Fermilab/CERN

experimental physicist, UC Davis, Fermilab/CERN

11th District of Illinois

Director Public Affairs, American Physical Society

Director, chicago film office

Chairman emeritus, argonne national laboratory

137 Films and our films are supported, in part, by grants from the following organizations:

And by over 250 individual donors.  You can join them!

Web hosting and support provided by

why 137 films?

One hundred thirty-seven is a magical and bizarre number for physicists.  It is the value of a number called the fine-structure constant. This constant, 137 (or actually, 1/137), is the way physicists describe the probability that an electron will emit or absorb a photon: it's the square of the charge of the electron divided by the speed of light times Planck’s constant. It combines electromagnetism (the electron charge), relativity (the speed of light), and quantum mechanics (Planck’s constant), and, strangely enough, is a pure, dimensionless number.  It has fascinated physicists for decades.


Throughout the Thirties and Forties, the greatest scientists of the day tried and failed to figure out the magic number 137. The great Werner Heisenberg told his friends that the problems of quantum theory would disappear only when 137 was explained, and spent years trying to explain it; fortunately, the problems did go away despite his failure.


Richard Feynman, one of the greatest physicists of this century said that physicists ought to put a special sign in their offices to remind themselves of how much they don't know. The message on the sign would be very simple. It would consist entirely of one word, or, rather, number: 137.


Dr. Leon Lederman, Nobel Laureate, in his book The God Particle said "I tell my undergraduate students that if they are ever in trouble in a major city anywhere in the world they should write '137' on a sign and hold it up on a busy street corner.  Eventually a physicist will see that they're distressed and come to their assistance."


During an interview for The Atom Smashers, John Marburger, President Bush's science adviser (himself a physicist), asked if we had ever stood on a street corner and tried it.  Monica said "we named our company after it, held it up, and physicists have been coming to our assistance ever since."


(thanks to Charles C. Mann for information about 137)