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The experimental confirmation of quantum mechanics


A revolution in physics?
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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[Q] Among some of the leading practitioners, Witten, Susskind, and so on, there is this vision that 'a revolution has taken place that is bigger than quantum mechanics', quote…

What is the revolution?

[Q] Whatever M-theory is, is somehow going to be bigger than quantum mechanics. That it’s going to change even the basics of fundamental physics. Have you been involved in, paid any attention to this?

Well, there is some sense in which the co-ordinate operators for the target space are represented by non-commuting quantities, matrices. Now you can still define commuting quantities which also enter, but there are non-commuting quantities that enter, and so on and so forth. So there're many very interesting features which will surely lead to a lot of re-formulations of... and possible interpretations... of fundamental theory, but I don't know what they mean by ‘bigger than quantum mechanics’; I don't understand that. Could be though that when that theory is clarified and… it will help with the clarification of the interpretation of quantum mechanics. That's conceivable. I don't quite see how, but it might happen.

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: Edward Witten, Leonard Susskind

Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010