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Scientists I've known


Major issues in science
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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[Q] What do you see as the major issues, major problems that we are facing now and in the near future?

You mean in fundamental physics?

[Q] In... in… let's talk about fundamental physics we've talked about—but in science in general. I mean can one see… you've talked about simplicity, complexity, but are there specific problems?

Oh, there are many, many other things. Many of them concerned with building these bridges, bridge between neurobiology and psychology is very important. People have got some conjectures now about the binding problem, because human beings and other organisms see different facets of reality… perceive different facets of reality with different parts of the brain and yet they build up this notion of an object, even though there's a… a whole mechanism for appreciating color, another mechanism for appreciating motion, another mechanism for appreciating shape, and so on, still they… all these things are bound together to make the impression of an object, and they have some ideas now on how that might be done through common rhythm. I don't know if those ideas will turn out to be right, but they're an example of a very interesting problem, certainly. Well there are many such examples in many different fields, these problems of building these staircases.

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: fundamental physics, neurobiology, psychology, brain, common rhythm

Duration: 1 minute, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010