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The parity revolution: accounting for the τ and θ puzzle


Weak interactions
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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We talked about strong interactions and weak interactions and electromagnetism and all… all the problems of elementary particle physics and on different days we talked about different things. And the… the nature of the weak interaction was certainly very important, and at one point I went into him and said, ‘What if… could the zero mass of the neutrino be explained by a parity violating weak interaction?’ Because I never paid much attention to the–I mean I didn't believe in the fundamental character of parity conservation, as I explained. I said, ‘What if we really have one plus gamma five times the neutrino?’ And we talked about that for a while and then, I don't know, somehow we dismissed it and we didn't go back to it. We were both very interested in the idea of an intermediate boson for the weak interactions and a real universal family interaction–not just something that looked vaguely like a universal family interaction, but a real interaction analogous to electromagnetism through an intermediate boson, one or more intermediate bosons. We were interested in that too. But we couldn't fix on a particular set of ideas.

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, Richard Feynman

Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008