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Murray Gell-Mann


Murray Gell-Mann (September 15, 1929) is an American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles. He is the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at Caltech, a Distinguished Fellow and co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute, Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of New Mexico, and the Presidential Professor of Physics and Medicine at the University of Southern California.

He formulated the quark model of hadronic resonances, and identified the SU(3) flavor symmetry of the light quarks, extending isospin to include strangeness, which he also discovered. He developed the V-A theory of the weak interaction in collaboration with Richard Feynman. He created current algebra in the 1960s as a way of extracting predictions from quark models when the fundamental theory was still murky, which led to model-independent sum rules confirmed by experiment.

Gell-Mann, along with Maurice Lévy, developed the sigma model of pions, which describes low energy pion interactions. Modifying the integer-charged quark model of Han and Nambu, Fritzsch and Gell-Mann were the first to write down the modern accepted theory of quantum chromodynamics, although they did not anticipate asymptotic freedom. In 1969 he received the Nobel Prize in physics for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions.


1.) "Feynman, Gell-Man, Weinberg, and their peers accept Newton's incomparable stature and shrug off his piety, on the kindly thought that the old man got into the game too early. ...As for Gell-Mann, he seems to see nothing to discuss in this entire God business, and in the index to The Quark and the Jaguar God goes unmentioned. Life he called a "complex adaptive system" which produces interesting phenomena such as the jaguar and Murray Gell-Mann, who discovered the quark. Gell-Mann is a Nobel-class tackler of problems, but for him the existence of God is not one of them." Herman Wouk, The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion (2010).

2.) "So we don’t have to assume these principles as separate metaphysical postulates. They follow from the fundamental theory. They are what we call emergent properties. You don’t need something more to get something more. That’s what emergence means. Life can emerge from physics and chemistry, plus a lot of accidents. The human mind can arise from neurobiology, and a lot of accidents. The way the chemical bond arises from physics and certain accidents. Doesn’t diminish the importance of these subjects, to know that they follow from more fundamental things, plus accidents. That’s a general rule, and it’s critically important to realize that. You don’t need something more in order to get something more. People keep asking that when they read my book, The Quark and the Jaguar, and they say ‘isn’t there something more beyond what you have there?’ Presumably they mean something supernatural. Anyway, there isn’t. (laughs) You don’t need something more to explain something more." Murray Gell-Mann, Beauty and truth in physics: Murray Gell-Mann on TED.com (2007), Ted.com.

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