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Working on Regge pole theory


Yuval Ne'eman
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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Yuval was working in military intelligence, he was in the Israeli Army, he was very high up in military intelligence. But he decided that… that he would change careers and work on physics. He was technically trained; he was trained as an engineer. He thought at first he would work in his father's factory, I think, as an engineer, something of that kind. But very soon he got caught up in the military organisation, Hagana, and then in the Israeli Army, and in the late ‘50s he decided he wanted to work on physics, fundamental physics of some kind. And he requested a post as scientific attaché… as military attaché in London. At that time relations were rather cool between Britain and Israel, and he didn't think he'd have much to do as the military attaché and that he could spend most of his time studying physics.

He wanted to study general relativity at, I think University College–one of the… one of the colleges of the University of London way over on that side of town, toward the east. But the Israeli Embassy is in Kensington… I think it might have been King's College actually, that he was interested in. Yes, one of those, one of those colleges anyway. Yeah, I thought it was University College, but I'm not sure at all. In any case, since the embassy is in Kensington he found that the journey by tube was just too long and so he studied at Imperial College instead, right nearby in South Kensington, working with Abdus Salam. But that meant he studied particle physics instead of general relativity, and around the same time that I was working out the Eightfold Way scheme he was doing something very similar. I don't think he got the mass formula, but he did have the SU(3) and multiplets. Neither of us had published anything about the decimet, though. We knew about it of course and well, we had I guess, both of us, published the simple mathematical formula; that if you have two octets—no, no, I'm sorry, no, that if you… if you take three triplets--three times three times three--you get one plus eight plus eight plus ten. So a decimet arises from three triplets, as does an octet and a singlet. But neither of us had predicted the existence of a decimet, although I had speculated and perhaps he had also, about the character of the 3-3 resonance. And certainly a decimet looked like the best assignment. I guess I was wrong in what I said a moment ago, because I must have identified it as a… as a decimet. The reason I think that is that I saw a paper by Jun Sakurai in which he tried to put it into a twenty-seven dimensional representation, and I disagreed with that. So I must have expected that it would fall into a decimet, actually, but I hadn't done any serious research on it or written up the equal mass spacing prediction or anything of that kind, until I heard this remarkable experimental result at the meeting in Geneva.

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: Israeli Army, Hagana, London, Britain, Israel, University of London, Embassy of Israel, South Kensington, Imperial College, Yuval Ne'eman, Abdus Salam, Jun John Sakurai

Duration: 4 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008