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1961 La Jolla meeting: Geoffrey Chew


1961 La Jolla meeting: taking Oppenheimer to lunch
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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In 1961 we held a meeting in La Jolla for which there were unfortunately no proceedings. It was a very exciting meeting in which Goldberger and Blankenbeckler talked about  Regge trajectories; I talked about the... the eight-fold way, and the mass formula and the eight-fold way. Okubo talked about the same mass formula; people presented many new and interesting results of different kinds in particle theory. I helped greatly to organize that meeting, and Keith Brueckner had just moved to La Jolla so I thought La Jolla would be a great place to have the meeting because it would put Keith's new place on the map, and he played a big role in making it happen. So we worked together I suppose with some other people on the organizing committee. And the organizing committee took Robert Oppenheimer to lunch at the Hotel Del Coronado, this old place where lots of admirals stayed and so on and so on. I used to say there were heads of stuffed admirals on the wall. And to be respectful to Oppenheimer who fancied himself as a wine buff, I suggested that he order the wine. So we called over the aged, uniformed waiter and asked him what year a certain wine was, because the year wasn't listed on the menu, on the wine list. And the waiter drew himself up to his full height and said ‘Sir, all of our wines are at least five years old.’  Oppenheimer didn't know what to say to that.

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: La Jolla, Hotel Del Coronado, Murph Goldberger, R Blankenbeckler, Susumu Okubo, Keith Brueckner, Robert Oppenheimer

Duration: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008