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Global symmetry. Yang-Mill's theory. Phil Anderson

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Collaborating with Feynman
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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In the summer of ’58, Dick Feynman and I worked together on another little paper which he presented in Geneva at the–not at the International Meeting on Particle Physics, but at another meeting which was on the uses of atomic energy or something like that. But at that meeting there was a little session on pure physics and there he presented a little paper by the two of us on various issues in connection with the strong and the weak interactions. After that we didn't collaborate very much any more. I like the situation where one thought in terms of 'we'; we do this, we do that. And I am… under those conditions I am willing to be very generous about credit and so on, pooling ideas and joint responsibility; whereas Dick kept thinking in terms of what I did: I did this, I thought of that, I thought of this, I thought of that and so on. And actually he thought very highly of me and of my contributions, that wasn't the problem. It was just the… the way in which he operated was very much–what shall I say–was one of being very self-contained, even though we were collaborating. And I didn't like it very much. I didn't… I don't think we did very much collaboration after that.

[Q] Did you talk much physics after that?

Oh yeah, we continued to talk about physics for quite a while and off and on we did until the very end. Just before he died we had a conversation about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, for example, on which we had very similar views, and... no, we had… we had quite compatible views on a lot of things and we did talk from time to time, but it's just that I was so irritated by his constantly speaking about what I did, meaning himself. And this despite the fact that he did not really depreciate my contributions to anything. I know that he didn't, but somehow he was incapable of a… of a collective approach to anything.

New York-born physicist Murray Gell-Mann is 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: Richard Feynman

Duration: 2 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008