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The idea of QCD takes hold


Giving a paper at SLAC. David Politzer
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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As I mentioned in that little paper that I gave at SLAC in 1992, I was appalled that people were referring to the quarks without color as Gell-Mann and Zweig quarks, as opposed to these weird things with color, which many of the SLAC people referred to as ugly. But it did give the right answer and we didn't think it was ugly at all, we thought it was terrific. But Burt Richter, who was later the director of SLAC, gave a lot of talks in which he presented a huge number of different predictions by different theorists, as if to show that the situation was completely chaotic; but it wasn't. Our prediction was unique, provided we included color, and it was correct. Whereas he himself actually thought that the cross-section kept increasing so that R would be infinite. So it was not only the pi-naught into two gamma that came out okay with color, but also the total production of hadrons and e plus e minus collisions. I was quite impressed with the work of Politzer, which was the same as part of the work of Gross and Wilczek, and… and I invited him to Caltech, our department invited him to Caltech, where he is still a professor I believe.

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: SLAC, Caltech, David Politzer, George Zweig, Burton Richter, Frank Wilczek, David Gross

Duration: 1 minute, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010