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Crucial tests for string theory


Sheldon Glashow; enemy of superstring theory
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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It's a pity that Shelley has gone on to be such an enemy of superstring theory. I can't understand why he does that… why he has taken that position. He's also helped to spread the entirely wrong idea that superstring theory can never be tested. And of course what one could say is that the real unification that occurs in superstring theory does not occur until you reach very, very, very high energies around the Planck mass or…  and that that energy could not be achieved in laboratories or even in cosmic ray experiments in the centre of mass system, and therefore a direct test of the unified regime will not be possible. But that doesn't mean you can't test the theory. And what's curious is that Shelley participated in this move to discuss unified Yang-Mills theory with a higher group, SU(5) or something bigger that would unify the SU(2) x U(1) of the electro weak interaction and SU(3) of the strong interaction… SU(3) of color of the strong interaction, put them all together. And that theory, if it happens to have a significant degree of truth in it would also take effect only at very, very high energies, maybe 10 to the 15th, or 10 to the 14th, or 10 to the 16th GeV--also beyond the range of possible experiments. So this is a clear case of the person who lives in a wooden house not throwing termites. Why should he do that? I… I just cannot understand his position on this issue.

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: Shelley Glashow

Duration: 1 minute, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010