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Gell-Mann's first paper with Francis Low
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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I met Francis Low as soon as I arrived and he and I worked together. And…

[Q] In fact that was your first paper, first published paper...

... my first published paper was with Francis… was with Francis… Low and unfortunately it was on formalism, which, given my interactions with Viki,  was not something I preferred, but, it was quite useful formalism.

The people at the institute were discussing the Bethe-Salpeter equation for bound states, and of course it could be derived from the Feynman-Stückelberg rules by some generalization that would permit a bound state, and it was fairly obviously correct if one included all the higher terms. But a formal derivation wasn't, hadn't been given and we did that. In the course of that we invented some quite useful bits of formalism, which people have used ever since. But I wasn't terribly proud of it because it was formal; I wanted to do something that really made an improvement in our understanding of physics. I tried to do that... for... Francis and I did that during the... the first term, the spring of ’51. In the fall of ’51, I tried to do something different, actually calculate things, strong coupling or whatever. I played with the idea of a... a classical approximation in quantum field theory, a WKBJ method in quantum field theory and so on. But I didn't really accomplish very much. But one of my problems was that I didn't recognize when I'd done something publishable, and that problem persisted really for years and years and years. I never had any idea what was something new or interesting and what wasn't.

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, Francis Low, Robert Oppenheimer

Duration: 2 minutes

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008