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The effects of Khrushchev's anti-Stalin speech


Frustated by professional rivalry
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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In 1956, when some of us went to Russia for the Moscow meeting on particle physics, there were discussions about this issue. Landau and his group - Ioffe, Abrikosov, Termatirossian and so on and so on - claimed that they had shown that quantum electrodynamics was self-inconsistent, which meant in the terms that Francis and I used, that our integral dx over ψ of x would converge – but this depends on ψ of x at very large x. But all you can determine from perturbation theory is ψ of x at very small x. So the work that Landau and his friends did using leading logs didn't seem to us to be convincing, so that while they might be right, that the theory was self-inconsistent, we felt they hadn't shown it at all. But it was impossible to tell that to Landau and his group, first of all because Landau never listened to anything very much, or very rarely listened to anything; but besides that there was a special feature, which was that they hated Bogolyubov. They and Bogolyubov were scientific and political rivals and enemies and… and anything Bogolyubov had done was automatically wrong, suspect, mustn't be discussed and so on. And they thought of this work as Bogolyubov's, not ours. So we were unable to raise the issue with them in our terms. Francis wasn't there actually; I did it myself, but I represented our… our point of view.

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: Russia, Moscow, Lev Landau, Boris Ioffe, Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov, Francis Low, Nikolay Bogolyubov

Duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008