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Weak interactions


Early days at Caltech. Working with Feynman
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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Before I accepted the job at Caltech I visited there in Christmas ’54 with Margaret, and then I went back by myself. She had to return to her job in Princeton, but then I went back. After we went to San Francisco she flew back to Princeton and I went back to Pasadena, and I gave a couple of seminars. One was on mesons and baryons, and mesons theory and so on; the other one however was on the K01, K02 idea which impressed Feynman enormously because he said he hadn't thought of it and he was just amazed and... and then I talked also about the renormalization group work, which he hadn't thought of either; and he didn't think there was anything in quantum electrodynamics that he hadn't thought of. So they offered me a job immediately. At that time it didn't take a year or so the way it does now with all the government regulations and so on. It took two days or so for them to have a faculty meeting and… and offer me a job, and later on that… that spring I… I accepted it. And when I went there in… starting in April–yeah, in April or early May ’55--it was taken for granted that… that Richard and I would work together. And we did. We did a lot of very amusing things; we discussed things, we had lot of fun together at that time. Later on I got sort of fed up with his self-absorption–what I considered his self-absorption and his ego and so on. But that time that hadn't happened yet and we worked quite happily together.

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, San Francisco, Pasadena, Richard Feynman

Duration: 1 minute, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008