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Theoretical physics discussion group at Chicago
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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We had a theoretical physics discussion group that met every Monday afternoon after lunch. We met in Gregor Wentzel's office because Gregor smoked cigars and Fermi couldn't stand smoke, cigar smoke in his own office. He didn't mind tolerating it for a couple of hours for the sake of a discussion, but he didn't want smoke hanging around in his office. So we met in Gregor's office andit was just a very few people: Murph, Ed Adams who was a… also an assistant professor, and Wentzel and Fermi and I. I think that was basically all really, just the five of us. And it was a wonderful experience. A lot of it consisted of my asking questions of Fermi which he answered, and then I would ask him some more questions based on the answers and so on. And he spent a huge amount of time thinking about physics. He didn't sleep a lot and his waking hours were devoted, in many… much… were devoted mainly to working out physics problems, physics exercises.

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: University of Chicago, Institute of Nuclear Studies, Gregor Wentzel, Enrico Fermi, Murph Goldberger, Ed Adams

Duration: 1 minute, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008