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Positive and negative weights


Ken Wilson's work with the renormalization group
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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Ken Wilson–who had been my student at Caltech–applied the renormalization group to condensed matter problems near critical points; near transitions, and phase transitions. And  got enormous numbers of wonderful results from it. The asymptotic region where the power laws became exact, approached being exact, was of course the reason... region near the transition point. Ken, I believe, when he did that work didn't know that Francis and I had worked on the… on the problem and had found this… this machinery. I think he probably attributed it to Bogolyubov and Shirkov. And I think the condensed matter community as a whole doesn't know about it.

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: Caltech, Ken Wilson, Francis Low, Nikolay Bogolyubov, Dmitry Shirkov

Duration: 1 minute, 1 second

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008