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Working with Goldberger and Low at MIT


SU(3) - fundamental triplets
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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Everyone who played with SU(3) thought in terms of a fundamental triplet. And in my first Caltech report in January '61 I mentioned a parallel between the supposed three leptons; although really I thought there were four, with two neutrinos. But anyway, the supposed three leptons and the three entities, whatever they were in this abstract SU(3). For Sakata and company of course it was much easier because they believed that the three things really were the neutron, proton and lambda–but with the eightfold way that didn't work any more and so what were these three things? They were something abstract. The… so the formulae were all written down in terms of the fundamental triplet, even though we didn't know what the fundamental triplet was or whether there was any… actually any such thing as a fundamental triplet.

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, Shoichi Sakata

Duration: 1 minute, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008