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Gell-Mann's first paper with Francis Low

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The Institute for Advanced Study
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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It’s a sort of hotel, of course, and there were people there for the year, for the academic year, invited by the management. And Robert and a couple of senior members… and Robert favored formalism. He had a very different set of criteria for judging things from Viki's. He was very impressed with the relativistic methods of calculation that Dick Feynman had developed, and Stückelberg.  Schwinger's method was quite clumsy, although it was covariant it was quite clumsy and I think nobody has ever used it except Schwinger and his students. But the Stückelberg-Feynman method was very useful. And Robert was impressed with the formalism that went with deriving it. Feynman, of course, had his own derivation which was perfectly adequate, it wasn't very elegant. Freeman Dyson had a sort of a sketch of a derivation that he published and he impressed Robert enormously. Why, I never really understood, but, Robert was very enthusiastic about Freeman, and I couldn't see that he had contributed very much except to make the derivation slightly better.

 [Q] The derivation here... do you mean renormalization scheme?

 No, the derivation of...

 [Q] Or do you mean the derivation of the rules?

 ...the derivation of Dick Feynman's… of the rules… rules, or the Stückelberg rules, whichever you want to call them. And... and then, yes, the other thing that Freeman did was to give a very, very crude sketch of how to renormalize to all orders, but it was extremely crude. It was improved and turned into a real proof by Salam and Matthews in a paper that I think was 140 pages long, and by John Ward in a letter that was maybe 20 lines long. Graham should be delighted that John Ward was then at Oxford and Salam and Matthews at Cambridge. The…

[Q] Did you know Ward, incidentally?

Oh, Ward, I knew Ward extremely well… he was a remarkable character, a remarkable character… he came to the institute and I saw a lot of him and I knew him very, very well.

[Q] What was the atmosphere like there?

Yeah, so they... anyway, what I was going to say was that the atmosphere was rather peculiar because, Robert invited a lot of people who had done formal things that somewhat resembled the formal method for deriving the Feynman rules in Dyson's manner. So lots of people who had fiddled with wiggly surfaces and in space-time, wiggly space-like surfaces in space-time and various other things; Costa… Olivier Costa de Beauregard, le Comte Olivier Costa de Beauregard, who had played with positrons as electrons going backwards in time. In other words, anyone who had done anything formal that vaguely resembled these advances in formalism that Stückelberg and Feynman had accomplished, was invited there. Well, these people were not very creative, most of them. They had done some little bit of formalism on, for example, on wiggly space-like surfaces, but they were not really doing much in the way of physics. There were a few people who were very interested in physics and were very clever. I was there during two… two academic years because I spent the calendar year ’51 there, so I actually met two sets of people, which was very nice.

New York-born physicist Murray Gell-Mann is 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: Institute for Advanced Study, Dick Feynman, Ernst Stueckelberg, Julian Schwinger, Freeman Dyson, Abdus Salam, Paul Matthews, John Ward, Olivier Costa de Beauregard

Duration: 4 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008