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Giving a course on general ideas about elementary particles


Quarks, mass shell analysis and the bootstrap
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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In the theoretical physics… fundamental theoretical physics community I think they were, once quarks were suggested, I think there were people who liked quarks and people who liked the mass shell analysis and the bootstrap and so on, but there were very few who felt comfortable with both. But I felt perfectly happy with the mass shell formulation, which I had helped to develop, and I was of course very happy with the quark formulation as well. And I didn't see any contradiction between them and I still don't. The part… the bootstrap of course is a somewhat ill-defined set of ideas, except that it… it's some sort… it… it utilises the consistency properties of mass shell amplitudes and some kind of condition to specify the theory, some sort of non-singularity condition to specify the theory. But the part I liked best about it was the idea of hadronic egalitarianism—'nuclear democracy' Geoff called it–but as soon as I started dealing with the quarks on that very same day, I decided the principle must be that all the observable hadrons are equally elementary or non-elementary. And I think that holds up to today also.

New York-born physicist Murray Gell-Mann (1929-2019) was known for his creation of the eightfold way, an ordering system for subatomic particles, comparable to the periodic table. His discovery of the omega-minus particle filled a gap in the system, brought the theory wide acceptance and led to Gell-Mann's winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969.

Listeners: Geoffrey West

Geoffrey West is a Staff Member, Fellow, and Program Manager for High Energy Physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is also a member of The Santa Fe Institute. He is a native of England and was educated at Cambridge University (B.A. 1961). He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1966 followed by post-doctoral appointments at Cornell and Harvard Universities. He returned to Stanford as a faculty member in 1970. He left to build and lead the Theoretical High Energy Physics Group at Los Alamos. He has numerous scientific publications including the editing of three books. His primary interest has been in fundamental questions in Physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles and their interactions. His long-term fascination in general scaling phenomena grew out of his work on scaling in quantum chromodynamics and the unification of all forces of nature. In 1996 this evolved into the highly productive collaboration with James Brown and Brian Enquist on the origin of allometric scaling laws in biology and the development of realistic quantitative models that analyse the influence of size on the structural and functional design of organisms.

Tags: Geoffrey Chew

Duration: 1 minute, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008