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Feynman and QCD


The idea of QCD takes hold
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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The ideas took hold gradually with many people that this theory, this Yang-Mills theory with asymptotic freedom, that is to say with the renormalization group having the fixed point at the opposite end from quantum electrodynamics so that it was at short distances that particles became nearly free, rather than at long distances; this idea took hold. It… it would explain the Bjorken, Feynman and so on idea, that it would explain the experiments which agreed with that idea and it might also at the other end, at the short… at the long distance, small momentum transfer end, where apparently the interaction was strong, might explain the confinement; there might be a potential that grew bigger and bigger and bigger at large distances and would confine all colored objects, just the way we wanted them confined. So that whole point of view seemed very nice and, as I mentioned, with the work of Polyakov and company and 't Hooft on instantons, the problem of the fourth or the ninth pseudo-scalar meson was fixed up, and objections to this theory then would…  gradually melted away. In 1976 I christened it quantum chromodynamics, using the Greek word for color, because the color variable was what gave rise to the forces, and that name has stuck: QCD, in addition to QED.

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: James Bjorken, Richard Feynman, Alexander Polyakov, Gerard 't Hooft

Duration: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010