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Reading from Quarks, color and QCD


My 'business trip' honeymoon in 1992
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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We began to think, Harald and I, about Yang-Mills theory and a Yang-Mills theory based on color, and we started to prepare a talk for the International Conference that summer, summer of ’72 in Chicago. And for a while what we were talking about was essentially quantum chromodynamics: Yang-Mills theory of color coupled to... with a color octet of gluons, coupled to quarks with color. But by the time we... I actually gave the talk with David Gross in the chair, that summer of ’72 in Chicago, we had gotten cold feet on various issues, and I describe all that in this little historical reminiscence, called Quarks, Color and QCD, which I gave at two meetings. I presented it personally at the Stanford meeting in the summer of ’92. It was just a couple of days after Marcia and I were married. We were married on a Sunday in Aspen by the mayor, John Bennett, our friend; the next day we left for Oxford where I got an honorary degree and I marched in the procession; the next day after that we left for Stanford where I gave this talk on quarks, color and QCD and then on to SLAC, and a meeting on recent history of particle physics; and then we left for Las Vegas, Nevada, for a meeting of the American Academy of Achievement, where the first few people we ran into were Colin Powell, Barbara Streisand and so on. It was all very weird. We also had two earthquakes in Las Vegas–Marcia's first earthquakes–and then by the Sunday after we were married we were back in Aspen. It was quite a week. We had told ourselves that we weren't really going on a honeymoon, it was just a business trip and that some day we would have to have a real honeymoon. But this week was a pretty exciting week. Anyway, to return from 1992 back to 1971 and ’72; so we backed off for various reasons. One reason was this: that string theory was becoming very important and we were hesitant as to whether the correct theory of hadrons would be a Yang-Mills theory or a string theory that resembled a Yang-Mills theory. And in my talk at Chicago I actually mentioned both of these possibilities, but in the written version I sort of glossed over the Yang-Mills and talked more about strings.

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: Chicago, Quarks, Color and QCD, Stanford University, Aspen, Oxford, SLAC, Las Vegas, Nevada, American Academy of Achievement, Colin Powell, Barbara Streisand, Harald Fritzsch, David Gross, John Bennett

Duration: 3 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010