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Birdwatching with my brother


A supplementary education
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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My father was very interested in intellectual things in certain domains, certain carefully restricted domains, but he loved mathematics, physics, astronomy and related subjects. He was very impressed with the work of Einstein on special and general relativity and kept trying to understand it, and...

[Q] So was that talked about in the house? I mean was that the atmosphere of, of sort of dinner time conversations, or...?

Yes, we discussed… we discussed the stars, we discussed the planets, we discussed things of that kind. My older brother, though, was the one with whom I interacted the most. He was nine years older. His name is Benedict, now called Ben, and… I learned almost everything I learned, when I was a child, from him. And he had an additional set of interests in nature, and in art and in history and in literature and so on and so on. It went beyond what I think we would have discussed otherwise just with my father.

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: Benedict Gell-Mann, Albert Einstein

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008