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Muon and electron neutrinos


The Stanford meeting of The American Physical Society
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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At the Stanford meeting of the American Physical Society in December ’57, Feynman and I both appeared and we both gave little papers, they were just ten minute papers. And Feynman talked about the main idea of the universal Fermi interaction, and I talked about other aspects. And I mentioned how he and I had calculated the decay of muon into electron plus photon with an intermediate boson, and how we had tried various ways of making the intermediate boson interact with the photon, including the Yang-Mills way; which was the only one that gave a finite result. So we already knew about a Yang-Mills type interaction between the intermediate boson and the photon. And I said how the rate, even when it was finite, still came out much too big and therefore something was wrong. Either there was no intermediate boson, which seemed a pity; or there was a cut-off at very, very…  cut-off of field theory at some very low energy before the intermediate boson mass was reached; or there were two different kinds of neutrinos: red and blue neutrinos, one for the electron and one for the muon. And the people who later did the neutrino experiment were sitting right there, Lederman and Steinberger, and so on, but they never quoted my talk and I was very unhappy about that. They all heard it. They were all… I'm sure they all understood it, but they never quoted it. Now of course I never took the trouble to publish it–well, actually I did write up an article on it, which I wanted to sign with Feynman, but Feynman refused to sign it for some reason.

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: American Physical Society, Yang-Mills theory, Richard Feynman, Leon M Lederman, Jack Steinberger

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008