Murray Gell-Mann


American physicist, Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles

Author Quotes

But when researchers at Bell Labs discovered that static tends to come from particular places in the sky, the whole field of radio astronomy opened up.

In 1963, when I assigned the name "quark" to the fundamental constituents of the nucleon, I had the sound first, without the spelling, which could have been "kwork." Then, in one of my occasional perusals of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, I came across the word "quark" in the phrase "Three quarks for Muster Mark." Since "quark" (meaning, for one thing, the cry of a gull) was clearly intended to rhyme with "Mark," as well as "bark" and other such words, I had to find an excuse to pronounce it as "kwork." But the book represents the dreams of a publican named Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Words in the text are typically drawn from several sources at once, like the "portmanteau words" in Through the Looking Glass. From time to time, phrases occur in the book that are partially determined by calls for drinks at the bar. I argued, therefore, that perhaps one of the multiple sources of the cry "Three quarks for Muster Mark" might be "Three quarts for Mister Mark," in which case the pronunciation "kwork" would not be totally unjustified. In any case, the number three fitted perfectly the way quarks occur in nature.

The persistence of erroneous beliefs exacerbates the widespread anachronistic failure to recognize the urgent problems that face humanity on this planet.

Contemplating patterns of human thought, we can, in a crude fashion, identify superstition with one kind of error and denial with the other. Superstitions typically involves seeing order where in fact there is none, and denial amounts to rejecting evidence of regularities, sometimes even ones that are staring us in the face. Through introspection and also by observation of other human beings, each of us can detect an association of both sorts of error with fear.

In fact any experiment that measures a quantum effect is one in which the quantum effect is aligned with the behavior of some heavy, macroscopic object; that's how we measure it.

The world of the quark has everything to do with a jaguar circling in the night.

Enthusiasm is followed by disappointment and even depression, and then by renewed enthusiasm.

Is it imaginable that in the 13 or 14 billion years before human life appeared there was no quantum mechanics That is ludicrous.

Think how hard physics would be if particles could think.

Even when the classical approximation is justified and quantum-mechanical indeterminacy is correspondingly ignored, there remains the widespread phenomenon of chaos, in which the outcome of a dynamical process is so sensitive to initial conditions that a miniscule change in the situation at the beginning of the process results in a large difference at the end.

Just because things get a little dingy at the subatomic level doesn't mean all bets are off.

Three principles ? the conformability of nature to herself, the applicability of the criterion of simplicity, and the ?unreasonable effectiveness? of certain parts of mathematics in describing physical reality ? are thus consequences of the underlying law of the elementary particles and their interactions. Those three principles need not be assumed as separate metaphysical postulates. Instead, they are emergent properties of the fundamental laws of physics.

First of all, it is true that mathematics is not really a science at all, if a science is understood to be a discipline devoted to the description of nature and its laws. Mathematics is more concerned with proving the logical consequences of certain sets of assumptions. For this reason, it can be omitted altogether from the list of sciences (as it was from Nobel?s will) and treated as an interesting subject in its own right (pure mathematics) as well as an extremely useful tool for science (applied mathematics).

Modern language must be older than the cave paintings and cave engravings and cave sculptures and dance steps in the soft clay in the caves in Western Europe, in the Aurignacian Period some 35,000 years ago, or earlier. I can?t believe they did all those things and didn?t also have a modern language.

Today the network of relationships linking the human race to itself and to the rest of the biosphere is so complex that all aspects affect all others to an extraordinary degree. Someone should be studying the whole system, however crudely that has to be done, because no gluing together of partial studies of a complex nonlinear system can give a good idea of the behavior of the whole.

For describing the universe, a more general interpretation of quantum mechanics is clearly necessary, since no external experimenter or apparatus exists and there is no opportunity for repetition, for observing many copies of the universe.

Murray Gell-Mann's Law: Whatever isn't forbidden is required; thus, if there's no reason why something shouldn't exist, then it must exist.

We are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game.

For me, the study of these laws is inseparable from a love of Nature in all its manifestations. The beauty of the basic laws of natural science, as revealed in the study of particles and of the cosmos, is allied to the litheness of a merganser diving in a pure Swedish lake, or the grace of a dolphin leaving shining trails at night in the Gulf of California.

My colleagues in elementary particle theory in many lands [and I] are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game. I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results. How can it be that writing down a few simple and elegant formulae, like short poems governed by strict rules such as those of the sonnet or the waka, can predict universal regularities of Nature?

Well, I don't like to get involved in these philosophical issues very much.

Hugh Everett's work has been described by many people in terms of many worlds, the idea being that every one of the various alternative histories, branching histories, is assigned some sort of reality.

Now, what that means is that there is fundamental indeterminacy from quantum mechanics, but besides that there are other sources of effective indeterminacy.

What I try to do in the book is to trace the chain of relationships running from elementary particles, fundamental building blocks of matter everywhere in the universe, such as quarks, all the way to complex entities, and in particular complex adaptive system like jaguars.

I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results.

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American physicist, Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles