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The decision to write The Quark and the Jaguar


The scientist as a go-between
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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In the old days individual scientists, many of them, presented their work to the public, to the interested lay public themselves. That became much less frequently the case during several decades and the job was left to science reporters and popularizers, some of whom are very clever and very good, but most of the work I think was not very good. And now, fortunately, it's becoming popular for scientists to do their own popularizing. Again, I think that's very good and I've tried to do it a little bit in my book…

[Q] Yes, well then what I'd like to talk about now a little bit is your book. You spent some years recently writing a book...

…and I think we can play something of a role in… as intermediaries in trying to extract some knowledge, understanding, wisdom, or at least to present some for the public… for the interested lay public.

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: science reporters

Duration: 57 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010