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Inconsistencies in the theory of quantum electrodynamics


Working on the renormalization group with Francis Low
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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We pursued this idea that has subsequently been called the renormalization group, but was actually called the renormalization group around that time because unbeknownst to us – in fact we didn't learn about the work for many, many, many years – Peterman and Stückelberg worked on something similar. It was not the complete story that we had, it was a portion of the story, but they did work on it. They worked on it the same year – ’53 – but they published it right away, which we didn't do, so their publication is a bit earlier. And they I think used the name renormalization group which is a pompous name and not really very good because I don't believe it's really a group, it's… it’s more of a semi-group. Anyway, our work we just called quantum electrodynamics of small distances, short distances, but it was... we did a very complete – in our published paper that was published in ’54 - we did a very complete discussion of the… of the problem, including the work that was subsequently called Callen-Symanzic. I don't know why our ψ function had to be relabeled. Psi of x was relabeled the square root of x beta of the square root of x, when I thought our name for it was perfectly okay and our work on it was perfectly okay.

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: Institute of Nuclear Studies, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Urbana, Francis Low, Andre Peterman, Ernst Stückelberg

Duration: 1 minute, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008