Murray Gell-Mann Interview -- Academy of Achievement: Print Preview

Interview: Murray Gell-Mann Developer of the Quark Theory
December 16, 1990 Pasadena, C alifornia Back to Murray Gell-Mann Interview

Let me ask you, in a general way, about some of the things you are best known for. How was it that you began to suspect that there was some particle that we had not yet discovered or accounted for. Murray Gell-Mann: Which one? The quark. Murray Gell-Mann: Oh, I predicted lots of particles before that. And they were all found. But that was sort of by filling in gaps. I was able to create a chart of my theoretical scheme, and I noticed that there were holes in the chart. And I predicted the existence of the particles to fill the chart. And those all worked. But then the question was, was there some sub-unit out of which all of these particles were made. These strongly interacting particles. Well I tried it, and it came out that you could do it with a certain set of particles, and in a quite economical way. But they would have to have electrical charges, +2/3 and -1/3. And of course, all known particles had integral charges, in units of proton or electron charge. The proton is called +1, the electron is called -1. And all the known particles had charges of +1 or -1, or possibly +2 or -2, and so on. Nothing had a fractional charge. But these sub-units, that would give the most economical scheme for making what we saw out of hidden sub-units. These sub-units would have charges of +2/3 or -1/3. It was initially discouraged, but then I made a visit to Columbia University, and a colleague there, Bob Serber, asked me whether I had ever considered this economical way of making sub-units, considering what you then called triplet. And I said yes, I have considered it, but they come out to have fractional charges. And I showed him the fractional charges on a napkin in the faculty club in Columbia where we were having lunch. And then, thinking about it during the rest of the day, it occurred to me that if they were completely hidden, these particles, if they never came out, but they were
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Murray Gell-Mann Interview -- Academy of Achievement: Print Preview

permanently trapped inside the known particles, then it wouldn't cause any difficultly, any disagreement with observation or with any fundamental theoretical idea. And so I began to put it forward. My attitude has been misunderstood all these years. There are zillions of books which describe the history of this, and describe it quite incorrectly. And in fact the Nobel Foundation, in awarding very,.. the Physics prize this year, to three experimental colleagues who richly deserved it. My very good friend Dick Taylor, and my friends Henry Kendall and Jerry Friedman. In awarding it they mentioned that before the experiment, people thought of quarks as merely mathematical. Now that's true, but what I meant by mathematical, was that they were perfectly real, but trapped inside the neutron, proton, and the other observable strongly interacting particles. Which was correct. Completely correct. And other people, after the quark idea was put forward, came up with the notion that maybe they were directly observable. And that was wrong. But for some reason, history has twisted it around, so as to make my statements about the mathematical character of quarks, which I believed from the first day that they wouldn't come out, they have twisted it into this thing that I thought they weren't really there, which is not the case at all. It's a very strange perversion of fact, that makes its way into history sometimes, and this is one of those case. It is true everywhere. I have tried very often with authors of lots of accounts, books, papers, articles and so on, to explain to them the situation, but it never does any good. So my being right has been converted into some sort of crime by history. Isn't that strange? It must be very frustrating. Murray Gell-Mann: I find that particular aspect frustrating. It's nice to be credited with quarks, and have the Swedish foundation refer to my work in awarding the prize to these three wonderful experimentalist who confirmed the existence of quarks inside the proton. I was delighted with all of that. But I was not delighted with this funny interpretation. Actually, the Nobel Foundation didn't say it, didn't actually state the thing wrong. But the implication was that by calling them mathematical, I was sort of denying their existence. What I meant by mathematical was that they wouldn't come out. And be seen individually and directly in the laboratory. And this turned out to be so, they are permanently trapped inside. We didn't understand, of course, back in 1963. I didn't understand why they were permanently trapped. But it was later on, when we formulated the dynamical theory, quantum chromodynamics, that we began to realize what was going on. Yes, the people in your office said you had multiple personalities, but we didn't know it until this moment. Murray Gell-Mann: Aaaagghhh! One of the things we want to know is how you decided to name them quarks. Murray Gell-Mann: It was sort of an obvious name for the fundamental particle out of which the strongly interacting particles are composed. Maybe it was obvious to you! Murray Gell-Mann: Well, not quite. Not the spelling anyway. I had the sound, "quark." But it could have been spelled differently. For example, k-w-o-r-k or something like that. I thought it was a nice sound. And it didn't mean anything already, I thought, and that was good because when we give fancy Greek names to things -- and of course, I can do that -- but when we've given fancy Greek names to things, it usually turns out that what they mean later is not so appropriate as what we thought at first. The proton, for example. "The first thing," it means. Fundamental. And it turns out it's not fundamental. So, the name proton is very learned, but it turned out not to be apt. Now "quark," if it didn't mean anything at all, was
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Murray Gell-Mann Interview -- Academy of Achievement: Print Preview

not going to be obsolete, ever. Anyhow, that was fun. That was the sound. But then, leafing through James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, as I sometimes do -- it's a copy my brother bought, actually, when it first came out in the United States in 1939, and leafing through it, I saw the phrase, "Three quarks for Muster Mark." And I thought that would be very good. So I spelled it q-u-a-r-k. Now, Joyce undoubtedly meant it to be pronounced "kwark" to go with bark, and hark, and mark and so on, but I figured out a rationale for pronouncing it "quark," which is that in "Three quarks for Muster Mark" -- of course there is multiple determination of the word, as in many other cases of Finnegans Wake, and what I figured was that one source out of the multiple, the many determinants of the word -- one source was perhaps the fact that the dreamer, whose dream the book is, is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, who is a bar man, a publican, he owns a bar. And frequently, through the book, you hear people giving orders for drinks at the bar, drinks to take away, and so on. So one of the determinants of "three quarks for Muster Mark" could be "three quarts" for so-and-so. An order to the bar. And I still think that may be true, although there are many other, more important factors that have gone into the phrase. Anyway, that allowed me to interpret that maybe it was pronounced "kwork" instead of "kwark" But the commentators on Finnegans Wake think that -- and I think correctly -- that the main thing that it refers to is "three cries of the four gulls" that are following the ship on which they Tristan and Iseult are traveling. They're making fun of King Mark because Tristan and Iseult are having a love affair. Those four gulls occur throughout the book, as four evangelists, four old men in the park, and so on and so forth. Four commentators of various kinds, and in this case they're four gulls following this ship. "Quark" is listed in the dictionary as the cry of a gull. So it's undoubtedly the primary determinant, but maybe "three quarts for so-and-so" has a slight connection with it as well. That would justify pronouncing it "kwork" instead of "kwark." What initially attracted you to the word? Murray Gell-Mann: Oh, nothing, just an amusing word. The story I told just now, about the sound and the meaning and so on, is now in the Oxford English Dictionary, because they asked me for a detailed description, and I sent them a detailed letter about it. I think it is the only article in the Oxford English Dictionary that is based on a private letter. How did you feel about the way people received your theoretical work, the attention and the recognition it received? Murray Gell-Mann: I don't know. That's very difficult to say. Initially, a lot of things I did were not taken very seriously. Then finally people realized that they were right. Quark certainly wasn't taken seriously by most people, for quite a while. They thought it was some crazy thing. And people, as I said, misunderstood what I meant by saying that I thought they were mathematical. They thought I was going back on the original ideas, that they weren't true. Whereas what I meant was that they were stuck inside permanently, which we finally found to be true, and we finally understood more or less why it's true. But then, later on people began accepting all sorts of very tentative ideas of mine, as important, and working on them, and that was sort of embarrassing. I would put forward some not very serious idea, just as a passing remark, and lots of people would start working on it. So that the opposite effect. You mean a notion would just occur to you, and you made a casual statement about it and people would think that you were pointing them in a new direction? Murray Gell-Mann: That's right. A new and important direction. All of them thought it was very important. I didn't think it was important. But anyway... Many of the best things I did were not received well at first, but I think that is fairly common. People don't like to
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We discovered it independently at a seminar in Aspen in 1969 where we had painters and poets and theoretical physicists and theoretical biologists. is by being shaken somehow into a new basin of attraction. Nevertheless. 43 years before we had our seminar. more than one hundred years ago.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 4/32 . Usually. where you fill yourself up with the problem. As you know. It's random noise introduced into the solution process. Various suggestions have been made about how to do that. And then (Henri) Poincaré described this process also. the psychologist. To accelerate the getting of correct creative ideas. the normal spontaneous process. and others have written it down. for example. artificially induce the movement into another basin of attraction so that you can try a different idea. People have asked the question. But it has a sort of obvious meaning. it happens spontaneously. Is that the way creativity usually goes? Murray Gell-Mann: Normally goes. it may be that one can circumvent that process. Psychologists have noted that. is working on it. which is verification. That would be really interesting. all talking about our experiences in getting useful ideas.achievement. Is "basin of attraction" a mathematical term? Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. So. Random noise? Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. in 1926. jump-start it. The one way. that's certainly random. accelerate it. when you are doing something else. incubation. and he called the phases: saturation. they all followed that same pattern. I mean. checking to see if the idea actually works. and then you can't make any further progress by a conscious effort. and it is apparently common to a great many fields. the idea comes to you. and then illumination. or thinking about something else. you fill yourself up with a problem. And they were all just about the same. by some sort of random noise. yes. the problem is hidden away and something deep inside you is working on it. But I think it is the process. (Hermann von) Helmholtz wrote about it one hundred years ago. they are very comfortable staying in the same basin of attraction. But sometime at some odd moment. but can't solve it.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. random noise is one way to shake yourself out of your basin of attraction in which your ideas are stuck into various other basins until you might find a better idea. a moment when you saw the flash? We read there was an occasion when you made a mistake putting something on the board. It needs a lot of noise to shake them out of one basin of attraction into another one. and had a www. where suddenly a good idea breaks through. That's how you get a good new idea. And it's possible you can. Whatever that noun is. Well. Has there ever been a moment of discovery in your work. artists and scientists. some mental process out of awareness in what the shrinks would call the preconscious mind. It's written up apparently in a book by Graham Waltz. Shaking yourself out of your old basin and into a new one. Maybe it can accelerate the process of getting a creative idea. Are you saying there's some way to jump-start that process? Murray Gell-Mann: Maybe there is a way to jump-start that process. and about 100 years before it had been written down by Helmholtz. useful creative ideas. rather trivial stage. and he described a fourth. Edward de Bono suggests using the last noun on the front page of today's newspaper to solve your problem.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview change their ideas. this whole conclusion had been written down in a book. can't you perhaps accelerate that process.

then this. and explaining why it was wrong. what that means is that there is a lot of information processing going on in parallel. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. so we get the impression. That also touches on an idea we know you're interested in these days. That's a sort of unit of time for psychological attention. I had come up with an incorrect explanation. This. it doesn't seem that we can concentrate attention on a great many things. And during that 40th or 50th of a second. there are a lot of things going on at once. Now this is all in fields far from the ones I have been trained in. And if the conversation consists of reciting a series of random numbers. And I said yes I can do that. the arguments against no longer were valid. It's not close in any way. I hadn't even read it. So I obviously am not going to make any contribution to it through studying that particular kind of science. we www. Shrinks would love that.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 5/32 . Something like a fortieth or fiftieth of a second. But that our attention is not focused on more than one during a very brief time. so that it was extremely hard to follow. And it literally came out of your mouth. and the solution was being stated. but I knew what it was. then we cannot fill it in because there is no longer any pattern that you can use to fill in what you missed. So obviously there was some interesting mental process going on out of awareness. Murray Gell-Mann: Oh yes.achievement. and using the redundancy of the conversations to fill in. But in a very confused manner. like one 40th of a second. So I went to the blackboard and I started explaining the idea. Now. and had written a letter about it. But probably what we are doing is just sampling them serially. And when I visited the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. many parallel threads going on at once. The nature of that spotlight is still quite unclear. But we can jump around a lot. That was how I found the strangeness theory. plus the reason why it was wrong. and the laws of government. I guess. for example. where I had been working a short time before. because I had the idea. The problem was being solved. And I knew why it was wrong. a lot of people think it is not very scientific to think about that. which was published. Yes. I hadn't published anything. And it came out on a slip of the tongue. then this. But the search light or spotlight of consciousness seems to be a serial sequential element in this mass of parallel things. But he had published the idea. then this. I wanted to say "five halves" and I said "one" instead. which had some features in common with the correct one. that we are following several conversations at once.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview revelation. and that's what defines consciousness. and looking generally at complex adaptive systems. But by looking generally at thresholds of complexity. Murray Gell-Mann: Just a slip of the tongue. how the idea went and why it was wrong. More like one thing. But I think it is a perfectly valid question for scientists. then this. the theoretical physicist there asked me to explain how this worked. but which was wrong. in language. And another fellow had gotten the same idea. But one worked and five halves didn't. and I knew why it was wrong. Murray Gell-Mann: No. and figured out that it was wrong. by a mental process out of awareness. Part way through I made a slip of the tongue and I realized that the slip of the tongue made it ok. Is there a threshold of complexity for the phenomenon of consciousness? What is the phenomenon of consciousness? How do you describe it? How? Murray Gell-Mann: One thing that is clear is that in our human mental processes. and this was probably the right answer. That's how I figured out the explanation of strangeness. That's not even close.

linguistics. I had a very strong sense when I was a little child. none whatsoever. that when we think about these subjects. some skill that would allow me to make a living even in difficult economic circumstances. raise issues. in other words. And they assure us then. and so on. real scholars. And he said. So then he said "Well. I really don't have any talent for engineering. real mathematicians. real chemists. if you were admitted to Yale. And besides. But you can certainly ask questions. I could have changed it to anything else. They all. to being a famous physicist? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. and I was applying for admission to Yale for the following year. the existence of all of these highly trained. collectively. I believe so. "Well. and so on. I wanted to be an archeologist. So I mentioned it. looking at the same problem from different points of view? Murray Gell-Mann: And you get corrections. That's what the Santa Fe Institute is all about. And I thought I would discuss that with my father. if I built anything it would fall down. We studied the seven kinds of simple machine. yes. Real psychologists.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. "You'll starve. that we are not doing phony linguistics. and perhaps a linguist. and not just bring to the conversation a bunch of clichés from their own subjects that they are unwilling to vary. whatever they are from these various fields. They have to be people who are flexible in their thought processes. as a career? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. And he felt that I should have some reliable source of income. if I was accepted. but it seemed like something that would be useful to discuss with him. And one of the questions on the application form was. rather famous people. And I had absolutely no inclination to working on physics. which had. highly skilled. but at the same time very much aware of the facts of their own subjects. So. Not for any particular reason. it really didn't matter at all. what will be your major subject. A direct attack on it will have to be made by people who are professionally trained to study psychological phenomenon. terrible class. yes? Murray Gell-Mann: I think I can. I was in my senior year in high school. phony mathematics. My father and I didn't discuss many things.achievement. When did you first have some sense of what you wanted to do in your life. humanists. That would be a pity. let's see if we can trace it. often. But it seemed the thing to do. what are you thinking of putting down. But at the same time we have to have people who are willing to be flexible. I said archeology. But I didn't go ahead and do that. which are often far from those in which we were trained. and it was the only course in which I did badly. in their own fields." He was very much impressed with the effects of the Depression.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview might come up with some principles that will help to illuminate the nature of consciousness. assures us that we are not too far off the track when we are discussing these various kinds of subject matter. real economists." And I thought he must be joking. well.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 6/32 . It was a really terrible. among other things. why don't we compromise on physics. So there is a reality check. I said. real linguists. what would you like me to study?" and he said "Engineering. I took a course called physics in high school. Is that because you get so many different perspectives. because we deal with real scientists. I like to do these things in common with people. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. it didn't really matter what I filled in." I replied that I'd rather starve. Because when I got to Yale. So how did you get from wanting to be an archeologist or a linguist. completely changed his position in life. he said. we memorized the names of the seven kinds of simple www. Together with other colleagues.

which I think I acquired from my brother. and I became so also. though. [laughs] So I continued doing physics. at that point I decided not to pursue the conversation. But what he did most. but in my case it was mostly my older brother Ben -. And we studied about mechanics and wave motion. we went out on a big www. without ever seeing any connection among all those subjects. You obviously saw in him a great curiosity for the way the world works. and acoustics. to some extent. Did he pass that on to you? You moved very quickly through school. not terribly advanced. We thought of New York C ity as a hemlock forest. Eventually it was true that quantum mechanics and relativity were really exciting. I know he spent a huge amount of time poring over math and astronomy. and the next year I went there.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. My father said if you keep studying physics. And in other things. learning about birds and trees and flowers and mammals. knowing that it didn't make the slightest difference. if I ever got there.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 7/32 . I am certain in very special kinds of mathematics.who was nine years older -. my father read a good deal. lots of examples. and quantum mechanics. generally in the spring. He in turn. It was really great. when I knew him. You will learn about relativity. We loved nature. and we spent a lot time in a little fragment of hemlock forest that was still standing. the 50 years or whatever in between I didn't do it. And so. study advanced physics. In between. that had been too heavily logged.achievement. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. but rather specialized. and it will be really exciting. We learned the three forms of Ohms Law. E=IR. My brother was passionately interested in birds. Actually I have done it more recently. And. bird watchers do that. with a very generous scholarship. I was indeed admitted to Yale. you might have been an archeologist? Murray Gell-Mann: Yes! We've heard that your father was an avid reader. Natural history was a passion.where he lives now. Particularly birds. and so on. For example? Murray Gell-Mann: Oh.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview machine. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. and I kept on doing theoretical physics. was to study math and physics and astronomy as an amateur. and so on and so forth. a couple of years ago with my brother . and electricity and magnetism. he made a lot of progress. had learned a lot from my father. I still am. Most bird watchers have done that many times. it will be very different. Well. I really don't know. R=E/I. and we spent a lot of time outdoors. and I enjoyed it. but I was too lazy to switch from physics to some other major. Didn't you go out and try to count as many birds as you could find? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. I don't know exactly how far he got. and try to learn about them. When I got to Yale I could change it. but for laziness. people do that. I wrote down physics.who introduced me to the wonders of the world. So. I=E/R. But it was mainly my older brother from whom I learned things. And surely he wouldn't want me to go on studying that. But yes.

Of course. The Saki stories -. Most people don't appreciate the power of theory. He taught me to read. about birds and butterflies. the power of theory. with artificial boundaries. here along the C alifornia coast. So I devoured the Sherlock Holmes stories by (Sir Arthur) C onan Doyle. now we are talking about social science. and now we're talking about science. from a Sunshine Cracker box. We would go to art museums. And people who live here know that. And what was nice was that we didn't distinguish sharply among them.even though I didn't like C hesterton's attitude toward the world I enjoyed the stories. Scientific romances and so forth. G. we have a lot of places with Spanish names. Whatever mystery presented itself. I guess my favorite reading was a really thick book of all the short stories of some prolific author. He would sketch the ancient Greek statues. We talked about a great many other things -. No problem was unsolvable. Two weeks ago. but also the novels. What kinds of things did you read. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. Wells. What were your favorites? Murray Gell-Mann: When I was a boy? Very hard to remember. and art to some extent. well. Southern C alifornia. But it never occurs to them that there is a theory of the name. and things of that kind. certainly was a favorite.languages. I think. At least it doesn't occur to most of them that there is a theory of the name. but I know people in Africa have done very well. But in fact. in fact. Just about everything. to try to see as many species as possible. and people in Texas do well. your location matters enormously. many of the things I had learned from him. in southern Illinois. we were interested together in all sorts of things.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 8/32 . named by Spanish explorers.H. And I told about all the things I had learned. Did you have a favorite? Murray Gell-Mann: That's very hard to remember.achievement. The wonderful thing about the Sherlock Holmes was that logic always prevails. they are related to one another by a set of laws. by the Manu National Park in Peru. for one thing. and so on. adventure stories. and I would go look at the Egyptian antiquities. The Father Brown stories by C hesterton -. Now we're talking about art. And then. For example. I like to give illustrations which are from relatively ordinary things. Did you read much fiction in those days. Archeology and history.H. I liked short stories. I talked about nature. It's become a sort of competition now among heavy hitter bird-watchers all over the world. This area isn't bad. It was just all the richness and beauty and order in the world. Munro short stories. because they were almost all named www. Various mystery stories.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. to see a great variety of birds. or were you mainly interested in non-fiction? Murray Gell-Mann: I read some fiction. and plants. Yes.. at a cousin's house. H. could be resolved eventually if you just applied your mind to it. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York sometimes. I've always liked short stories. as a child? Murray Gell-Mann: Through my brother I became interested in a great many different things. The record is held.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview day in the spring in New York about 50 years ago. and so on. I just attended his 70th birthday party a little while ago. and so on.

Murray Gell-Mann: But I didn't drop out. Also. My father was probably happy that I was learning things.or not. So that may also have played a role. I think maybe it was because he grew up in the back woods. which was discovered on New Years Day. was popular.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 9/32 . Shortly. skipping. What about your parents? How much direction did they give you? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. He actively discouraged the natural history expeditions. as it was called. You can see that on three voyages or so.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview after the day on which the sailing voyage reached them. whether the schools like to promote people rapidly -. particularly birds. and didn't like the idea of my poking around in the woods and the swamps. But at that time. You've said that your brother encouraged your curiosity about the world. Sometimes they go together. he never wanted to leave. You can think of it as two separate things. Did they think it was bad for the student? Murray Gell-Mann: For whatever reason. the schools mostly stopped doing that. But the other nearby points and towns were also named after days in December and January preceding and following New Year's day. He didn't like that sort of thing. virtually all the names were given in sequence. I think he was so glad to get into a city. You stuck with it. and then to try to understand the pattern and regularity. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. one of those names is Punta Año Nuevo.achievement. that you promote them. Sometimes the prevailing educational philosophy is that you have to leave people with their age group.if they show a capacity for being promoted rapidly -. How do you account for the fact that both you and your brother began college two or three years before most of your peers? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. but he wasn't the sort of person to give a lot of encouragement. Of course. His father was a forester in an extremely remote area of what was then the Austrian Empire. One is to see that there is a pattern. But I think the hostility may have come earlier than that. Point New Year's Day. and the other is to understand how the pattern might have gotten that way. my mother didn't have much to do with that sort of thing. So if you have a C atholic C alendar. and a map. it's a matter of fashion. you can trace the sequences of names along the C alifornia coast according to the Saint's days and so forth that were the days of discovery. Sometimes it is divisible into those two parts. One system is to leave kids in the class with the kids their own age but www. "How did it get this way? Why is it like that?" Murray Gell-Mann: To see pattern and regularity.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. I never figured out exactly why. You also began college at age 15. in my brother's case it distracted him from school. Not always. Your brother dropped out of college at age 15? That means he started before age 15. He was a college drop out at the age of 15 because he was so passionately interest in the woods. Is it that kind of curiosity that propels people into science? To look at things and wonder. and sometimes it is that you don't.

history class for example.achievement. It's really sort of funny. It was shortly after that he became chairman of the history department at Barnard. or did they allow you to move fast? Murray Gell-Mann: I skipped enough so that I wasn't completely bored. similarly. he was teaching grade school. and I was much younger. I shouldn't say usually. He was writing a history of President Franklin Roosevelt's dealings in foreign affairs. He was astonished that I knew some things about that. Grammar school wasn't so great. It got better in high school. but he was certainly a very good teacher. What kind of conversations did you have with him at the end of his life? Murray Gell-Mann: Oh. How did you get along with other students when you were in school? Murray Gell-Mann: Oh. I think that's better than having to do the usual junk.and it is true drudgery -. it varied a lot. but over the years it got better. but later on it was very good. is terrible. I made a lot of wonderful friends. You moved through school so quickly. I usually learned the stuff right away. and just at the end of his life we got to know each other. He wrote a lot of books. Was that because popularity gets defined in different kinds of terms? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. So I wasn't very popular. it was not perfect in the beginning. but at that time. Going to college. plus material for enrichment. I think.plus material for so-called "enrichment. we talked about lots of things that we had done in between. the others knew one another. He was a rather well-known historian. among kids it gets defined in sort of ridiculous terms. In many classes I learned a lot of the things in the beginning. Later on I liked him. Doing all this stuff that they learned years before and that they know perfectly -. What was the problem in grammar school? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. and couldn't play the games so well. It got better and better as time went on. particularly in connection with Indochina. you obviously were very bright and picked up things much more quickly than some of your classmates.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview give them a lot of advanced material to work on. he did a lot of scholarly work. Were you bored at all in school. but there were others where it continued to be interesting all through the year. and much smaller. and sit in the back of the room doing calculus." I think that is an extremely poor plan. www. or at least often. when I would just arrive. But then it matters whether they have to do their regular dull class work as well. You often see stories where the person who was the most popular in high school is among the least successful later in life. High school wasn't bad at all. So we talked about it and it was very interesting.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 10/32 . I didn't at the time like him particularly. If they're excused from the usual stuff. We happened to have a very high quality history teacher in grade school. The other. during the Depression.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. which have almost nothing to do with success in later life. many of whom I still know and see.

It's a funny custom which I don't particularly approve of. Wells? A number of our interviewees have mentioned him. Even in college. I don't see that it does any harm to tell them about it." So. I don't know why that's so bad. We don't know about it but there is a thing or two to be said about it just the same. the woman's husband. What about H. and so forth.G. You may not be able to tell it to them in its full glory. who was a rather conventional historian. items in the curriculum will move down to a more elementary class. And in most serious literature. and that was interesting.when they came back.not particularly true about H. You mentioned a number of writers who interested you as a boy. I found that I couldn't get anybody to talk with me about contemporary questions. Exactly. The daring historian's book goes right on into the future. it gets easier to teach things to more elementary students.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. Do you think there is the notion that they haven't spent enough time? That they haven't paid their dues enough? Murray Gell-Mann: Perhaps. as it gets easier to talk about. But the new ideas are usually put out of reach of the students. The other historian says. in Roman times.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 11/32 . he and many lesser writers of so called science fiction dealt with the future. one didn't see much discussion of it. but it was true about some of the science fiction magazines -. and being a linguist. it was still very difficult to get people to discuss active research questions. I don't know why they can't be told about the latest stuff. Another thing is that -. as notation improves. Really? Why? Murray Gell-Mann: It was a difficult time. but you could tell them a lot about what is going on. They should be told some old stuff. Wells. Murray Gell-Mann: Well. "Well. You mentioned your interest in archeology. I think that's true.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview Murray Gell-Mann: That's right. often true. who was a more daring one. It was during the war.achievement. But possibly something like that. It's very hard to plumb the depths of people's motivation. and did not discuss active questions. But even after the war . So students get told the old stuff. "But what can we know of the future?" and the writer says. But as time goes on. where the books you could get in the library and so on were mostly very far out of date. G. Was there anything www. There's this idea that students aren't good enough to know about what is going on in science. I'm sure. and her lover. You remember the Ibsen play (Hedda Gabler) where there are two historians. many scientists have gotten into science through science fiction. C ertainly. I don't know. it became easier to teach multiplication. there is thing or two to be said about it. that multiplication with roman numerals was a graduate subject. because the future is fascinating. As people learned better notations. yes. So all of that hierarchy in school is sort of absurd in many cases. They were able to move it down in the curriculum. sort of an intellectual version of hand-me-downs? Murray Gell-Mann: Something like that.that they discussed active questions in science. and most of the best people were away.

so much for the fundamental law. we have the first really good looking candidate for that. I've done little bits of those things recently. but again it is the kind of thing that might possibly be right. And then also we have a candidate. Which is really exciting. quantum mechanics and relativity. The two of them. But that's not all there is. because. we have now. and elsewhere. but now a professor at the University of C alifornia at Santa Barbara. but of all those many throws of the quantum dice that determine the specific features of the universe. who has attracted a lot of attention with that book called A Brief History of Time. You said that when you first began studying physics. that there is only one fundamental law. We don't know. which would mean. They tell you probabilities for an infinite set of alternative histories of the universe.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 12/32 . The description of the universe in quantum mechanics is a probabilistic one. Anyway. or a linguist or an explorer. if they are right. Developed by my friend John Schwartz and his colleagues. Jim Hartle. Murray Gell-Mann: Well. I don't use that phrase.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. turned out actually to be interesting. What my father had said would be interesting. The fundamental laws do not tell you the history of the universe.. in great part right here on this floor. We may be very close to knowing. and that's rather fun. The other part of the fundamental law of physics is the boundary condition near the beginning of the expansion of the universe. So on that he was right. The equation and the boundary condition would both be given by the same formula. And it might be right also. that so many bought and have claimed to have read. you found some things that were a little more inspiring than the basic textbook physic. In the Superstring Theory of John Schwartz and his colleagues. that boundary condition needs to be adjoined to the fundamental equation if we are going to get the complete laws of physics. What some people irreverently call the Big Bang. the statistical www. and Steve Hawking. for instance. quantum mechanics. And of course they opened up the question of how general relativity and quantum mechanics would be combined together in a successful theory. I believe that it will turn out to be an important step on the way to the right one.achievement. And what we see about us is the result not only of the fundamental law. First of all. here at Caltech. what is quite possible is that it's actually right. but it is spectacularly exciting. we don't yet know. I think. the first candidate theory in history for a unified quantum field theory of all the particles and all their interactions which does actually reconcile quantum mechanics to general relativity. where we are on the verge of being able to explain how everything in the world works. So we are asked. and for the first time in history it is a candidate theory that seems to have the right properties to be the right overall theory of all the particles and all their interactions. But even if it's wrong. and how it all relates? Murray Gell-Mann: Very close in some ways. For that.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview else that you wanted to be. Relativity. formulated a number of years ago a candidate for that initial condition of the universe.. they are spectacularly interesting things. specifically. Are we now at a point in science. What was it that interested you about relativity and quantum mechanics? Murray Gell-Mann: They are just some of the greatest achievements of the human mind. But I never really became an archeologist. One of which is the unified quantum field theory of all the particles and all the interactions that I was talking about a moment ago. there are the fundamental laws of physics. my colleague and collaborator and 25 years ago my graduate student here at C altech. But. because it was originally used by people who didn't believe in it and were trying to make it sound stupid. that you didn't get to? Murray Gell-Mann: Explorer. Their condition is particularly interesting because their condition utilizes the same formula that would describe the unified quantum field theory of all particles and all their interactions. Hartle and Hawking. and he may be right. But. Anyway. with C ambridge. Whether it's right or not.

where the specific quantum effects are ignored. but also of a huge chain of completely unpredictable accidents. because it would destroy history as we know it . Computers that are programmed to invent strategies can also be thought of as complex adaptive systems. So that the rich fabric of the universe as we see it around us is co-determined by the fundamental law. seem to have a lot in common. can exist in the universe. For example. And we human beings. at least in part. and how it processes information so as to make some sort of picture of the universe. It is probably determined by the fundamental laws. is a product not only of the fundamental law. of long chains of accidents. by having the character take actions in the past which made the present possible. an infinitesimal change in the initial conditions can produce a finite change in the result. can be thought of also as a complex adaptive system. because sometimes they are actually infinitely sensitive to the initial conditions. like the sun. in science fiction there is a famous puzzle of what would happen it you could travel backward in time. what chaos means. The modern rediscovery of that sort of thing is attributable in part to meteorologists. The same applies to the evolution of life on the earth. and this long sequence of accidents.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 13/32 . in principle. and the same is true of a particular star. The shape of our own galaxy. as you know. or evolves. In non-linear mechanics systems.achievement. So far. Now that's true of the quantum nature of reality. you can't change that one little detail. He has gone www. It is very important in meteorology that you can't actually predict certain aspects of the weather very easily. Parts of living creatures. which would be really dangerous for the present. we have to understand a whole different part of science. or the mind. we can't say that such a thing actually happens. like the system of planets around the sun. but are affected in every instance by varying circumstances? Murray Gell-Mann: That's right. which is the result. then you couldn't get back to the same present. And to understand how that appears. technically. like the earth.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview distribution of the shapes of all the galaxies of the universe. like the immune system. the specific shape of a particular galaxy. I'm thinking a lot about that these days. But even in the approximation of so-called classical physics. We're always intrigued by stories where people travel backwards in time to change one thing so that one outcome can be avoided. the situation is resolved. So in some science fiction stories. a very large set of accidents. completely unpredictable accidents. in principle. And the particular planetary system. The same with particular forms of life. The brain. of course. is that the outcome in such systems can be infinitely dependent on the input. So that instead of shooting his own grandfather before the grandfather had progeny. and the same with particular individuals. are among those complex adaptive systems. which is how a system that learns. Murray Gell-Mann: That's a science fiction situation. But yes. Life as a whole can be thought of as a complex adaptive system. can be considered to be complex adaptive systems.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. there is still the famous phenomenon of chaos. And you are saying that they all operate on a set of fixed laws. A particular planet. If you change things so that the past was then incompatible with the present. it turns out the main character is his grandfather. or adapts. All of these that process information in a particular way. unpredictable accidents. In other words. Varying circumstances. which is the manifestation of the brain. unpredictable. They always find that no. that we have all these. but also of an innumerable set. is probably also the result of a lot of accidents. which contains many features attributable to accidents that are. every human individual is the result not only of fundamental laws.

But it was sufficient to pass all the examinations and get very high grades and so on. I loved that. It has no counterparts in reality as far as we know. for example. and I wondered what would happen. And I didn't know what a theoretical seminar was. post-doc graduate students. And then he finished his talk. I loved some of the history classes and a number of other things. he found that the lowest energy seemed to come out with a tri-way function of spin one. Grades and pleasing the teacher. and of course a lot of other subjects as well. I thought it was something like a class. So I did that sort of work as an undergraduate. I looked around for some teacher to please. But by that means the science fiction writer has created a consistent loop. If people have lived without it. and there. Mass. was there an experience or an event that most inspired you? Murray Gell-Mann: I loved the idea of structure in the world -. And in the dissertation. MIT. But it wasn't like that. A student is. which was held that day at MIT. area was there.. which was that a spin -. Which confirmed what he was trying to show. relationships. that thinking "ah-ha!" Murray Gell-Mann: Gee. What was the first instance in which you remember discovering that interrelationship. So many it is hard to remember what the first one was. I learned a lot of math and physics rather formally.angular momentum of the lowest energy stage of a nucleus called Boron-10 -. There was some of it I understood deeply. It was great fun. There is an intricate pattern of interrelationship among things. And by this approximate method. Anyone who was interested in theoretical physics in the Cambridge. but most of it I understood on a rather superficial level. The speaker was a Harvard graduate student who was about to get his Ph. but it was a significant bit of evidence. What happened was that the big-shot theoretical www. It's just wonderful. they should probably pick it up. and there were all sorts of other people. he attempted to demonstrate. and they are not like that at all. I attended the Harvard-MIT theoretical seminar. and so on scattered throughout the audience.from a very early age. So far that's just science fiction. When I was at Yale as an undergraduate. It wasn't a rigorous proof. but the math and physics that I learned. Something that was very important came much later. that sort of nonsense. He talked about his dissertation. because it's really splendid to look at the world in terms of connections. There were big-shot professors sitting in the front row. Then. approximately.was one unit. I think it's great fun for everybody who does it. The ground state.D. something that everybody believed to be true. younger professors. I learned it in a very superficial manner.. Would the professors in the front row give him a sort of grade? Classes was the only thing that I understood. and continues to be great fun.and the power of theory -. I was very excited at discovering relationships among things. a few weeks after I got there..Academy of Achievement: Print Preview backwards in time and intervened by siring his own father. or Boron-10 had a spin of one. in many respects just a machine for getting grades. There were so many when I was a little boy. so called. a self-consistent loop. which was after all the point of class. I don't know. I went to graduate school.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 14/32 . When you were growing up. and vary them. Try to get the lowest energy possible. The real workings of science was something I understood only from a great distance. without really getting deeply involved in the understanding of what I was doing. I learned almost by rote. And what he did was to use so called tri-way functions. from reading history books and so forth. So many people just look at facts as disconnected objects.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -.achievement.

His classes were splendid. what was really going on. What was so special about history in general. That's a great story. And he had lost his faith and he had lost his interest in religion. Murray Gell-Mann: A very similar thing." J. yes. and so on? I loved that. And he said. but he was a lot of fun. still is. His name was Dow Bunyan Bean. and that class in particular? Murray Gell-Mann: I've always been fascinated by history. and what the point of theoretical science is. It was quite a burden.J. That's right. Dey measured it.achievement.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 15/32 . And that talk was completely compatible with Boron-10 having three. I take it this person had in fact been in the basement doing research. But there were a number of others that I liked as well. to get back to what really happened.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. but to agree with what this grubby man found in the laboratory! Agreeing with nature is the main thing. What are the primary sources? What do we really know? How much is speculation? How much of what people conventionally say about history is actually false. there was a new theory of the structure of light nuclei. At least we kids considered him relatively old. There was a teacher at school who was fun. I don't think it was his research he was talking about. History and archeology. So I began to have a real idea of how these things work. heard rumors of an experiment which measured it. Murray Gell-Mann: Well. He emphasized that the way historians find that out is by studying the actual primary sources. And suddenly I had a real idea of what a theoretical scientists is. C uppling's shell model with which this new value agreed. Somebody who looked as if he had crawled out of the basement at MIT. A few weeks later. But he was very lively. He was full of animation. in fact it predicted that Boron-10 would have a spin of three. and it was not what people thought it was going to be." And suddenly it occurred to me in a sort of blinding flash that the job of the theoretician was not to please the famous professors in the front row. one of the people working on that new theory came to give a seminar. jumping www. Was there someone else who had a major impact on your thinking? Murray Gell-Mann: Not particularly. But he had read about it. Going into the lab instead of just arguing about theory in the absence of fact. and he had a Doctor of Divinity degree. What I liked about him was that he tried to acquaint ordinary students -. and had become a secular high school teacher. Because at that time. actually. What about the person who inspired you most as a young man? You talked about your brother. You mentioned a favorite history professor as well. He tried to cut through the conventional accounts of history that we all absorb in elementary courses and ordinary reading. not just reading one another's books.most of them were not professional historians and weren't going to become professional historians -. but a little grubby man got up from right next to me. I think he came from Georgia. from some place in the South. I don't know if he had a big impact on my thinking. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. It's three. so to speak. But nobody was talking about that theory.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview professors in the front row didn't say anything. They were talking about a bunch of older ideas at this seminar. He was relatively old at that time. There was one that I liked very much called Hajo Holborn. Most of my reading has been about history. the so called "shell model. duh spin ain't one. there were a number of history professors at Yale. He was marvelous. "Hey.he tried to acquaint them with how history actually operates. History and pre-history. It is still true. Going to the lab. in newspaper articles and so on. Everybody called him Doc Bean.

but not the subject. or else we went and used whatever resources where available to try and find out the answer. or read a newspaper. School was just a little piece of it. But just doing it for it's own sake. I enjoyed it.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. history is such a glorious subject.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview around. raising his voice. with a racy line of talk about whatever he was discussing. go to a film. He is really a splendid person. either he could answer it. My late wife. For me. was a wonderful. and school was incidental. of course. inspiring person -. and suddenly stopping and asking somebody a question to make sure the person was listening. First of all it was fun.achievement. I thought that was great. because it helps you to get the answer. I just drifted along playing physics because I had started physics. and I never did. or go to a museum. It was nice. He was lively. And if he didn't know something. Lots of things are simply not known. my teacher. It also seems that you picked up from him the notion that learning can be fun. I went on and went to the Institute for Advanced Study for a year after graduate school. I just turned off the teacher. Not that. Now. Was that because you had your brother leading the way? Murray Gell-Mann: Yeah. It's a pity that some people I know were put off particular subjects. as an adult. and began to teach. And every time anybody was curious about something. I already had some acquaintance of the subject. I did learn things from time to time at school. As I explained. but once they did. I liked it. Murray Gell-Mann: No. that could never happen to me. and it was marvelous. lowering his voice in all sorts of interesting ways. and my father to some extent. everything is available in a library. but it was not the main thing. who is still alive. But I felt that learning was a life-long experience. and working with him was marvelous. or somebody else in the class could answer it. Writing down some little grain in his book. then I could read. then he would immediately send whoever asked the question to the library to see what was known on the subject. I always thought that learning was fun. because I didn't form my opinion of subjects according to what some teacher said. I began to understand what it meant actually to learn. Finally. or maybe unavailable in a high school library. just snowing people with mathematics is not a good idea. School was never the primary place of learning for me. had a history teacher that turned her off history for decades. I thought that was particularly splendid. and school was sort of an ancillary piece of equipment. but I didn't need my brother. many decades. some fancy mathematics. When you got into college.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 16/32 . Helps you to solve an old one.is still a wonderful inspiring person. It's sort of a shame. given the richness www. The teacher at MIT. It may be useful to introduce some new mathematics. There are all sorts of different ways of learning. to do something. You should use methods that are as simple as possible. I have spent my life learning. rather than just to study and pass. learning was something you did. and then I came here. She had lost 30 years or something. but second I really learned something. And it was fun. that really impressed me. But the fact that he wanted to push every inquiry as far as it could be pushed with the local resources. I became very ambitious to learn more and do something in physics. or whatever. because they had teachers in those subjects who were uninspired. how did things finally come together for you? When did you know what direction you wanted to go in? Murray Gell-Mann: I didn't. when I got to graduate school. and into your graduate studies. she began to realize history had a lot of appeal. Helps you to formulate a new theory. Many people think of learning as connected with school. My first job was at the University of C hicago. Margaret. but I learned a principle. Victor Weisskopf. for example. Listen to the radio. which was that fancy mathematics doesn't have any value in science for it's own sake. If the teacher didn't teach it well. It was all very straightforward. Not a fact or a theory particularly. My brother started me out in a lot of things. because of this stupid teacher.

are at the margin. you know. the editorials.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 17/32 . It's just terrible. Maybe now. la lecture" -. versus luck. Could you give us an example of something that you wish you'd done? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. There are a few things that I have managed to get done." What matters is making a new discovery. not with just improving the formalism.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. if I had been more sensible. But I haven't been able to do it. Lots of things I could have followed up on. Some people are really hard workers. and that's painful. he just reads. but otherwise it is not to be valued. I have never done any hard work in my life. So all my successes. I don't regret having a personal life. That puts me behind by a factor of 2500. and I work at. two percent efficiency. I don't regret what little time I managed to spend with my wife and children and so on. reading. Improving the formalism may prove useful for making a new discovery. they really get things done. That's the most painful aspect of my life. but reading is really bad. And Victy just refused to be impressed with formalism. be impressed by real developments. The comics. But you've been so successful. or should have done. because I've taken on much more than any human being can possibly do. That was very important. He said. that's such a tiny fraction of all the things that I could do. I wish that I were capable of hard work. more effectively. sooner.achievement. because graduate students are frequently impressed with formalism. talked about "Ce vice impuni. these last few years. finally. Say I take on 50 times what a person can do. All my life I've been terribly lazy. How much of a role did hard work play. or increase the efficiency. something works. They know how to organize their lives and they actually get things done." If somebody is a real reading addict. a new theoretical discovery. Reading is a terrible addiction. might do. and worked on quantum chromodynamics much earlier that I did. My attention was scattered. But a lot of it is really wasted. That was very important for me. and in that case it's fine. There's a lot of talk now about drugs and alcohol and so on. I could certainly have followed up my work on quarks. in physics.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview of the material. say. Andre Gide. probably could have done."That unpunished vice. here and there. So they're efficient. All the junk. It's just formalism. I can do some hard work. in the way things have gone for you? Murray Gell-Mann: That's a very easy question. whatever they are. Not only are they hard working. the depth of the theory that you are applying it to. and so on. you try to read the newspaper every morning. I didn't work hard enough. Every day I fall several years further behind. that I don't regret at all. And it's very bad. or both. that's true. They're just a tiny number of so many things that I would have liked to do. Murray Gell-Mann: Well. How much of that was also the desire to have a personal life? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. No. Don't be impressed by formal developments. "That doesn't matter. Reading is perhaps the worst. Really. I would be so much happier. No. Cereal boxes? www. But. try to do. If I could reduce the commitments. and you read aspirin bottles and anything. for example. but they are effectively hard working. all the unimportant junk in the newspaper.

artificially. Murray Gell-Mann: No. which is to understand the general principles that underlie complex adaptive systems. just reading cracker boxes over and over again! It's a terrible addictive practice. It's on visions of the sustainable world. I think they just ignore them. But I'm not sure. into art. cultural anthropology. No. I started on cereal boxes. and principles that transcend many of these fields. you start to read a cracker box.achievement. visions of the sustainable world. You liked the daring historian who didn't stop when time did. with some other people. I've never asked my students what they think of all those digressions. C an we imagine what a sustainable global society might look like in the middle of the next century? C an we figure out what some of the transitions are that we would have to undergo as a global society. Murray Gell-Mann: It's true. medicine. social science. Then specific fields -. What are those principles? How do those things work? How do they process information so as to learn. But later on. anything you can think of. so called pre-biotic chemical evolution. That's just one example. computers that are programmed to solve problems and create strategies. Part of the way we look at the world. A compulsion. and complex adaptive systems on other planets throughout the universe. Anyway.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview Murray Gell-Mann: Well. Murray Gell-Mann: I don't know that I inspired them. that's not so bad. in order to get from here to there? And what are the trends in the world today that seem conducive to making those transitions? I'm also organizing. humanities. and thereby learn to read. it's always been true. But you've processed a good bit of it. If you were a young person these days. whatever they might be. There certainly are a lot of them. Perhaps those digressions are a reflection of your view that everything in this world is connected. Sometime I should have somebody ask the students what they think of the digressions. I just got through meeting with a group of people that a couple of us have organized here at C altech to hold a symposium next year on the future.immunology. Well. fundamental principles of complex adaptive systems. We just finished yesterday a preliminary conference on the same subject. I think they just pass right by. to learn to read. and my brother and I used to look at the world together. science. They apply to all learning. That was not a waste of time. I don't think so. All living things.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 18/32 . The chemical reactions that preceded life. Clearly with an interdisciplinary approach. It's all part of human culture. I've wasted a tremendous amount of time reading junk. adapt and evolve? www. law. like the immune systems of mammals. And I view culture as something that is unified. nuclear physics. that it's all part of the same fabric. Murray Gell-Mann: Oh yes. and so on and so forth. aspects of life. Murray Gell-Mann: Of course the future is very interesting. haven't you. what would you be interested in? What would you see as the most exciting areas of inquiry? Murray Gell-Mann: I think what some of us are trying to do today. Natural science. a big research project on the same subject. No. The must all obey certain principles. And for me. it was a cracker box. adapting and evolving systems throughout the universe. it gives you so many things to talk about. you probably inspired your students. every since I was little. Because there are so many important things that connect one field to another. I don't like the idea of breaking it up. I certainly digress a great deal. social science.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. sets of living things. everything. Sunshine.

I'll call you. It's very exciting. but don't call me. for example. mathematics. I do a lot of the recruiting for the Santa Fe Institute. Is the Santa Fe Institute directed largely at behavioral science? Murray Gell-Mann: No.achievement. they feel free of those restrictions.if you want to call it that -. by writing down formulas and solving equations. because it's a place where one is encouraged to make connections. even the www. physics. with many cases. that they must stick somehow to particular activities. and discuss things in particular ways. economics. both or all of which are evolving together. they began to argue about how you could put these things together. but principally complex adaptive systems. So some sort of synthesis of the two points of view began to be formed. computer models. That has helped us move more quickly toward integrating a number of problems that cut across disciplines. with certain probabilities for certain events. or encourage them. These days. It's far too complicated to approach analytically. same university. behavioral science. which I helped to organize. and to what extent particular grammatical universals. which the two colleagues had never done at home. When they come to the Santa Fe Institute. busy person. Murray Gell-Mann: That's right. and is co-evolving. We had five linguists from the same linguistics department. some famous. Of course they all knew one another very well. they had conversations they had never managed to have at home. at least to begin with. Computer science. It just goes on and on. And we bring people from all of these disciplines -." But instead. chemistry. It's apparently a real felt need. the same department of the same university. That's the kind of thing we're doing at the Santa Fe Institute. In a university. chemistry. I work on such and such and aspect. Not only is it a time series. You mean something that is not as restraining as the discipline they usually work in? Murray Gell-Mann: That's right. At Santa Fe Institute. what you're doing sounds interesting. the person says. to form research networks. "Well. Math. and other complex systems as well. The universe. In one case. the environment -. one can begin to model such things.psychology. but that time series is changing with time. and the other says he works on such and such. "When can I come? I've been waiting for this! I've been waiting all my life for something like this!" It's very interesting. and so on -. the environment is itself an adaptive complex system. That is fascinating to study and to think about.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. and also for individual researchers. with time. So you have two or more systems. people feel. You mean to reach out in ways that you might not if you expect to be judged only within your discipline? Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. And furthermore. Every time I phone somebody in some distant field. I know that person is going to say. Everything. whether it's true or not. anthropology. It is devoted to giving people from virtually all fields the opportunity to work together to understand how complex adaptive systems work. as well as just changing. were explained partially by one approach and partially by the other approach. natural science. They were actually all in the same discipline. immunology. Murray Gell-Mann: The study of complex adaptive systems cuts across archeology and linguistics. At home they just each stayed at a position.together for meetings. math. but one can approach it readily by making models.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview But all those things are constantly changing. but I'm already fully committed. in almost every single case. which I helped organize. But at the Santa Fe Institute. not particularly.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 19/32 .of the complex adaptive systems is itself changing with time. and we allow them. we had a seminar on the evolution of the human languages. but they were doing somewhat different things. for the science board which supervises the program. and so on and so forth. or an institute of technology. with the availability of large computers.

the reactions were in the laboratory. is a long time to decay. So. they were observed in cosmic rays. But they took what. the study of human beings is fairly complex. perhaps may also make for some difficulty. what does that mean? Murray Gell-Mann: It's just a name.achievement. But I just gave the name to these particles.or curious. I explained it with this so called strangeness theory. Initially. in that case. as we have about the world around us? Murray Gell-Mann: No. In context. for example. back in 1952. how they could be produced in large numbers and take a long time to decay. but violated in the decay. And the decay went by the weak interactions. curious particles. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. Murray Gell-Mann: Oh. Do you think we've learned as much about ourselves. Is this an example of what you were talking about earlier. The quantum number was conserved in the production. My forthcoming book on all these things is www. by our standards. One over one with ten zeros is obviously a very long time compared to that. for sure. that's one over one with 24 zeros.peculiar particles. Murray Gell-Mann: In my case. And I explained why that happened and facetiously gave the name strangeness to the quantum number that was involved. so the reactions were in the atmosphere. And it wasn't understood initially. I don't think so. The fact that we are studying ourselves. which of course involved a lot of archaeologists.particles because they were produced copiously in reactions. We haven't made so much progress on it because it is more difficult. about people as complex adaptive systems. which I gave actually. And among those. of the general laws interacting with varying circumstances to produce different outcomes? Murray Gell-Mann: No. It is easier to study the interaction of particles than it is the interaction of human beings. strange particles. fundamental physical situations. one is just dealing with the consequences of the fundamental laws.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview humanities to some extent. those interests preceded my interest in physics. the strange particles. The study of human beings is a very difficult thing. But in either case. We have a very good historian on the science board.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. You've taken your scientific interests and applied them in other fields that a good many physicists don't get interested in. Because they had this apparently paradoxical behavior of being produced strongly and decaying weakly. people were calling them things like that . reproducible. And survived them. It's much harder. C omplex adaptive systems are a much more difficult to study than the fundamental laws of physics. So the production could be done by the strong interactions and could be strong. for example. they were produced copiously. Later on. I wouldn't say this was an example of that. You made the pioneering study of what physicists call the "strangeness" of sub-atomic particles. They were called peculiar -. In specific. and we have done two sizable workshops on the pre-history of the Southwest. A short time would be ten to the minus 24 seconds. or strange or something -. Ten to the minus ten seconds. and thus the slump.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 20/32 . is a very long time. to certain particles.

It may take a couple of years to learn the right notations and so on. The "complex" refers to things like us. or hear about it myself.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview called The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. The question is. But I would want. Did it change your outlook in some way about life? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. I can't really enjoy something properly if I just do it or see it. and perceive that they have a stake in it.achievement. I like very much sharing experiences with somebody I love. So the biggest treasures of biological diversity are in the tropics. For me it's a very important part of life. in their search for a better life. or know about it. Because most of the problems of conservation and biological diversity are in the tropics. That's been a lot of fun. It's a romantic dream of a great many kids. to come home and do other things. Did she help bring you back to a broader reality? Murray Gell-Mann: Probably. in areas that very little study had been done. especially in theoretical endeavors. But I would do that anyway. It may not be how the person on the street prefers to state it. A very exciting companion. www. And it's been extremely educational. including intellectual. Sharing with a loved one is a very crucial part of living. and so forth. and I still have it. It's where most of the biological diversity is. There are some times that we get so wrapped up in our work. so that they have a stake in it. and that's not true of complex adaptive systems. poverty. What have you done. and that you might have wanted to do more. I've never really done it. and make new discoveries in natural history. and what did you want to do? Murray Gell-Mann: I would have liked to do pioneering exploration. and dogs and hamsters and snakes and so on with. The "simple" refers to the fundamental laws of physics. but they're intrinsically simple. You once described your marriage as having made you a much more whole person. and the dangers are the greatest in the tropics. and just a very pleasant companion. or conceivably in archeology. And that's been fun. and very witty. And that's perfectly correct. Probably she did. nothing can be done about those without simultaneously working on the living conditions of rural people in the tropics. Of course. but the fact is that the fundamental laws of physics are very simple. Problems of rapidly burgeoning populations.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 21/32 . is in harmony with protecting the biological diversity. but I've poked around in an awful lot of remote places in the last few years. The main thing is to have some wonderful person to do it with. that one could get very preoccupied with that. And Margaret was a very charming person. and it's where the biggest problems are. is there some splendid person to do it with? Somebody to raise children. And to engage in all sorts of other adventures.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. One has to build a kind of structure in which those people. It's also helped me a lot with my activities in conservation of biological diversity. You mentioned earlier that you had done a bit of exploration. in any case.

Again. If something like the air. and so forth. frequently you find the costs are very small. and the cost of information is considered. Organisms aren't just individuals. If you don't do something about clean air. but the problem is to do something about it in practice. You mean the things that are considered to have value are the things you have to write a check to pay for? Murray Gell-Mann: Right. and approximated by zero. but that clearly have value. or trivial costs. I don't claim to have studied those things very deeply. You've also had a lot to say about balancing ecological systems with economic systems. and to make propaganda against it.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. there are all kinds of market impediments. The survival of our society on this planet. But in practice and economic practice in so many places. Do you find something particularly exhilarating about going somewhere new and seeing how people live. but even just the superficial study is extraordinarily interesting. The usual economic calculations are caricatures. and if you remove market imperfections. most of this is forgotten. or negative. the brilliant economist will of course admit that is not correct. They have various constructs. to get people to improve their ways of thinking and their ways of behaving. which means that you actually do charge. Like costs.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 22/32 . And I have been upset by that for 20 years. which measures debt between the generations. that economics be generalized to include the values of. Murray Gell-Mann: It's very important when you do that. The extraordinary variety. I've devoted a lot of attention to that whole area. Now most very advanced researchers in economics agree that that sort of thing in principle is desirable. They leave out some other things. how they adapt to change? Murray Gell-Mann: And seeing how the animals and plants in the area relate to one another. they form a very complicated system with all sorts of very complex patterns of interaction. Murray Gell-Mann: That's very true. Anyway. But these huge costs are often not correct. the so-called inter-generational equity. or the oceans. lending organizations. is very much bound up with how soon we can learn to charge true cost. for example. That you actually make money. biological diversity and many other things. for instance. and true values in economics. But the people who do these things in practice often make these errors. And www. and all the things that are difficult to quantify are put equal to zero. and for 20 years I've been trying to figure out ways to fight it. and depreciate true values. and it's been very valuable in my conservation efforts. and survival of the other organisms on this planet. theoretically by treating them as externalities. like the social discount rate.often the market isn't free. saving money in many cases will make money. and in fact . are both exciting. it obviously is not true. As I said.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview Poking around in so many of those places over the last eight years or so has helped a lot with my work on that. It's all part of the program of trying to get closer to true costs. how they relate and adapt to their environment. with trying to live within your environment to get a better life. They form a system. Of course they have externalities. Value is assigned to those things that have value in some trivial sense. and combine those things with the usual economic calculations. There are all sorts of things we don't assign a dollar figure to. And the other things are for convenience but equal to zero. Relationships in their taxonomy. For example. and they do some theoretical work on it. Assign a value. They assume free markets. and the relationships.achievement. So you try to charge for them in some sense. and internalizing them. all of this is done in the textbooks. I don't mean the brilliant economist. that are very easily quantified. you're looking at huge costs for health concerns. or the forests are treated as free goods. and the relationships in their behavior.

C onference on the environment. conference on the environment. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. is to be held in '92 in Rio de Janeiro. He's the same man who made the film shown at the first conference in 1972. Otherwise the bottom line will be a perversion of reality. Perhaps the most critical aspect. to discuss some of the things that he ought to film. showing a blue planet. twenty years after the first.. I'm not talking about making money in terms of true value. of preserving our future? Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. I just said a few words. I was just meeting with him. But just in actual money. in their own language. and correction and refurbishing and reform of economic calculations is very important. but aspects of the same thing. of the greatest importance for the future. you say "thanks. One of the most critical. By the time you received the Nobel. on proposing the first U. It is already. you had gained a great deal of fame. And I congratulated the Swedes. The second U. were not to be different things. in the forests of Brazil. a 90-minute film to open that meeting. I may even appear briefly in the '92 film. www. She really liked it. which was held three years later in 1972 in Stockholm. That's the sort of thing I talked about.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. I said a few other things. and even a few kilometers into Argentina. We don't know of any good place to live anywhere close by. she enjoyed the whole thing very much." Really? Murray Gell-Mann: Tack själv.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview reducing carbon dioxide emissions will in some cases make money rather than cost. You don't say anything at the moment. I knew that. We had a wonderful time going to Stockholm together. and we ought to take care of it.achievement. That is one of the most polluted places in the world. I mentioned the new photographs of the Earth from space. When the King hands you the prize. There's a man who's making a film. and that will be a very exciting discussion there. I don't know. you think. partly in Swedish. Brazil. particularly. Later on that evening you make a speech. and attention. What impact did that have on your wife and family? Murray Gell-Mann: My wife liked it. partly about. I saw it in 1985. what were your feelings? What did you say upon receiving the Prize? Murray Gell-Mann: What did I say? I didn't say anything.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 23/32 . She was not anxious for publicity. Not the publicity. this generalization. This is a critical aspect.. what fragments are left of the Atlantic Forest that stretches from near the coast.N. It's exciting that the Brazilians are trying to preserve it now. I said the beauty of the laws of physics and the beauty of nature and so on. But you will still find lots of people who will calculate that it's very expensive and will cost a lot. It's very much a perversion. But just the whole series of events appealed to her a great deal. I'm not talking about making money in conventional terms. from the North of Brazil all the way down into Paraguay. other than this blue planet. When you received the Nobel Prize. and how precious our blue planet is. last night and the night before.N. Anyway. a brief speech. It was really nice. not very far from São Paulo.

All my expenses. He wanted to be photographed and he had his Halloween pirate costume. we got up. because he hadn't calculated that everybody got the paper. and it was the only one that would have permitted me to attend the University there. all the obstacles have been internal. The road to success is often a winding one. she made coffee. was delighted with the idea that a reporter and photographer were coming to the house. That was a part he hadn't anticipated. how you get a call from somebody. That of course was tragic. and not something that I brought on. and that everybody in his school would see his picture on the front page. But not anything in particular. but I wouldn't have wanted it particularly. did they? Murray Gell-Mann: No. very well. Especially because of Victor Weisskopf.A. You didn't want them to follow in your footsteps? Murray Gell-Mann: Not particularly. Everything has always gone wonderfully for me. he got all dressed and put on his pirate costume and came out. he was six years old at that time. was it something that affected your family? Murray Gell-Mann: My daughter and my son reacted oppositely. So that also was terrific. How much impact did that have on your work? www. business. but at that time it was from some news media. Nowadays it's from the Academy. my teacher. It was an extraordinary scholarship. science. whatever. Anything: art.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview Over the long term. and some reporter or photographer might be coming any minute from the Los Angeles Times. Except the death of my wife. was Nick in his pirate costume! But it was a mixed blessing for him. for example. It was the only one like that. Murray Gell-Mann: The opposite reaction of the two children was very curious. on the morning when they notified us. We've had the most wonderful things happen to me. My daughter dug deeper under the covers. All the obstacles were internal. Trini McC ormick Barnes. Just something that would be satisfying. because it was the day before Halloween. But it was Trini Barnes in memory of her brother. and if possible. The reporter and photographer showed up from the Los Angeles Times. either way. I can't really think of any obstacles that were placed in my path. Then I had some trouble with graduate schools. and of course the Los Angeles Times photographed him! The next day. Fantastic luck. not really. I was pleased to hear that I had gotten this thing. but it turned out that MIT was splendid. So we did. Well. I didn't know who had donated it. who had died young. They didn't become theoretical physicists. and I hadn't wanted to go to MIT. at 3:30 in the morning here in California. and that they would kid him about it. So he put it on. didn't come out for hours. A full scholarship to Yale. Donated by somebody whom I met later. I didn't particularly want either of my children to become anything in particular. Everything has gone very. who was my advisor. But my son. It was anonymous. And finally Margaret said we should get up and get dressed and she would make coffee. Times. smack in the middle of the front page of the L. And all the difficulties have been self-generated. I was not pleased to be deprived of my sleep. anything special. Times. because people kept calling. became a wonderful friend. Inefficiency. And it paid for everything at Yale. She didn't want to have anything to do with any of this. I wouldn't have objected. Were there particular obstacles that you encountered along the way? Murray Gell-Mann: No.achievement. You know. Always.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 24/32 . neurosis. because obviously we were not going to get anymore sleep. something great.A. October 30. it was called the McDill McC ormick Scholarship. who was seven years younger. in fact right on top of the front page of the L.

I know it happened to me. And if I didn't do anything. written up. I've had a lot of problems writing things. they were new and not totally silly points." So yes. After she was gone. then I wouldn't have the comparison of what I was doing with what I ought to be doing. I had a lot of ideas which I could have simply followed up. if I had tried it would be okay. as long as you haven't tried. Other people dismissing your ideas? Murray Gell-Mann: That too. then it might turn out to be a failure. In certain cases that keeps you from sitting down and trying anything. You talked earlier about being lazy. and so on. A lot of them actually.achievement. And it frequently happens that people haven't thought of it. it will be imperfect. it happens very often. at MIT. irrational. maladapted behaviors. I can always imagine that it would have been perfect if I had done it. this is silly. Because it seems so obvious? Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. I wrote a dissertation and I worked on other matters. But finally I did some things. But I didn't realize what a good idea was. So a lot of ideas that I had were actually worth publishing and worth discussing with people. And not only did I worry about failing.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. It makes you wonder how many times people have dismissed things that have occurred to them. In fact. Yes. very little. well. but I worried that if I actually did something. such as so many of us have. In fact. why bother to call attention to something. you know. I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Did you worry about failing at all? Your chosen area of theoretical physics is extremely competitive. a great many cases of compulsive. Murray Gell-Mann: When I was a kid. I went through a little of that in graduate school. the reading addiction is only one part of it. So lots of graduate students go through that. And I just dismissed them as trivial. everybody must know that. www. Again that I don't sit down and do it. because I worry that if I do it. when I was a graduate student. I think a great deal of neuroses of one sort or another. that's just some very simple idea.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 25/32 . So that was a problem. Did you also have doubts about your work along the way? Murray Gell-Mann: I had doubts that I would ever do anything important.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview Murray Gell-Mann: Oh. When I was supposed to be writing my dissertation. for example. I've often had that problem. I didn't do much work. it had a lot. everybody must know this. because then. but if I don't do it. And. laziness isn't all. because I'm a perfectionist about writing. I worried about failing. I began to do different things. but mainly that I dismissed them myself. You talk about the internal obstacles. Murray Gell-Mann: Or dismissed other people's things. I though. The problem at that time was that I didn't understand what was new research. But actually. you can figure. I just didn't realize that they were worth mentioning to the world. simple ideas are often quite important. It keeps them from doing work for a while. While she was ill. "Well. Murray Gell-Mann: Well.

"Well. I'm probably in better shape than I was at age 29. Do you ever get bored with your work? I get the sense that you see science as a game to some extent. If you. So." What do you do to keep fresh and creative. Some fraction of them I get done. and climbing hills. What is the responsibility of scientists as you see it? What responsibility do you feel to deal with www. there are always 50 other things that I'm doing. that you have always admired in others. let's say. that you don't have.achievement.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview It's like cleaning house right before final exams. and stick with it. theoretical science at least. Another thing that would probably be a good idea would be to cut out certain things in order to devote more attention to the rest. Associate with good people. Murray Gell-Mann: Well. but it's a very small fraction. but suddenly it must be done. some attribute. If you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the balance sheet. And they can't chew on everything. people who are young. Murray Gell-Mann: If I get bored with one thing. Getting things done. I won't do any of them. I'm involved in so many activities. I just described it. you might not see all the interrelationships between different fields. When your attention is fragmented too far. And you probably know more about what's important and what isn't. if I didn't have all these silly problems of addictions and so forth. or at least young at heart. is what you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about. if you try to do science. for example. Like walking. do a thorough. everything would be great.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. Something you haven't done in six months. Because science. and if I could only act on it. I think is the best thing. Then what matters is what you think about when you wake up in the middle of the night. I can scarcely be bored with all of them at the same time. I never thought of that. The principle is you pick an age you like. I'll sit here and read this newspaper. since I have so many things to do. but you become deeply involved in business. you can't really have deep and good ideas. Probably. Associate with amusing people. It's nerve-wracking. then you are not doing science. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. Murray Gell-Mann: I guess that conceivable. that's right.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 26/32 . I still do that kind of thing. without that breadth of interests. I probably can do things better than I could then. I'm still 29. good job on them. In other words. I still think of myself as 29. It's so obvious that I could do so much more. Other than the ones you had talked about. the parts of the mind out of awareness are chewing on the wrong thing. and running. But the easiest is to say. is there some quality. And what you are really working on. Murray Gell-Mann: It must be done right away. lively people. You can't have them in every field. So your creative skills are rationed in a certain sense. to renew yourself? Murray Gell-Mann: Goodness. On the other hand. you can tell. consists of waking up in the middle of the night with an idea for your theory. but I don't think so.

But that is quite different. again. I think. I think that scientists have some responsibility to make more or less responsible statements about things. rather than things that are merely shrill and polemical. yes. and then one says something about it. We wanted to ask you about some of the scientists you've known who took controversial stands on public issues. It can have a polemical streak to it. be excessively polemical. Basically. I don't disagree with the opinions of the Air Force. at that time. www. that is what I have tried to do. saying that because I won the Swedish prize in physics. they should initiate wherever possible. evil and reprehensible to try to label Robert Oppenheimer as some sort of a fiend. to think deeply about some important issue facing humanity. Making him out to be some sort of enemy agent because he had a different opinion from theirs was terrible.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 27/32 . together with these colleagues from many other fields.and we know who was doing it too.achievement. beyond the field you are in? You've certainly addressed many of them. who happened to agree with the Army instead. I can now make a pronouncement on all sorts of political subjects and so on. However. but I think that one has to be very careful about it. and should be greatly encouraged. I think that was a crime against Robert Oppenheimer. or any particular authority to discuss such matters. just because he had a set of opinions different from theirs. as I say. together with colleagues from a great many sectors. Murray Gell-Mann: They were entitled to their opinions. for example. But just because one has won the Swedish prize in some scientific subject doesn't mean that one has to shut up either! It's just that one shouldn't abuse. and so on. And anyway. or the future. He was entitled to his opinion and he was entitled to propagate his opinion. Do you feel there's been too little of that? Murray Gell-Mann: Much too little. So one has to be careful. it should not. And. But if one joins with colleagues from many other walks of life. many disciplines. also. and various other people. And. and they should not have been persecuted for their opinions. particularly together with those other people. But when one says something.. Murray Gell-Mann: I do a lot of that. one shouldn't abuse the privilege excessively in having this sort of title by sounding off on all sorts of things without thinking deeply about them. And theirs were those of the Air Force. I think at the time when Stalin's Soviet Union was obviously doing the same thing -. I think it was not much alternative to our doing it in this country. I have tried to help organize such efforts to think deeply about things.. There were many people who had no qualms about working on the atom bomb because of the circumstances. Murray Gell-Mann: Well.. I think that one has to be very careful of that.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -." Zel'dovich. They should not have had their clearances removed by some perversion of the security apparatus because of a conspiracy by Edward and Louis Strauss. but I think there was no reason to try to make out somebody. and Kurchatov. my friend "Ya B. I personally supported. First of all. Just because somebody is a physicist doesn't mean that person has any particular understanding of society." (Yakov Borisovich) Zel'dovich. and so on. Not just off-the-cuff pronouncements. to be a fiend. I think that's very good. At the time when those people were doing that. I think. serious discussions and serious research on issues facing the world. or the way things are going. people may not pay much attention to it. he's been involved on the wrong side of a lot of larger issues. Air Force people. but they thought that developing the hydrogen bomb was a different thing entirely. Otherwise it might not get much publicity. Edward Teller. Sakharov and "Ya B. But I consider it conspiracy. his opinions were those of the Army. the development of the thermonuclear weapon. and still do.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview the larger problems of society.

and in particular. But he and a number of other people thought that was very important. By that time. We now seem to be beyond the cold war. It's not possible to know. actually. And he thought it was very bad to work on the thermonuclear weapons.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 28/32 . Robert thought that it was very important to develop small fission weapons. is that it was considered unconscionable to misuse the security apparatus to try to blacken Robert Oppenheimer's name. sure. and still continues to some extent. he and a lot of other scientists believed that we could reach an agreement with the Soviet Union not to develop the thermonuclear weapons.. just because of a disagreement on policy.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. Conceivably they were right. around that time. Do you see any new threats to the freedom of expression in the scientific community? Murray Gell-Mann: Well yes. so that neither side would have them. maybe it was possible to make such a deal. But the crisis and hysteria was restricted to a few years in the 1950s. and don't recognize their right to express it? Murray Gell-Mann: Right now we don't have such an acute problem of suppression of ideas as we did then in this country. because of who was in charge of the Soviet Union at that time. Stalin was gone. I was never particularly fond of that idea. that continued until very recently. Is that because the ideological battle between groups led by the United States and the Soviet Union has receded? Murray Gell-Mann: Oh. by the time of the Oppenheimer hearing. I tend to doubt it. because others disagree with them.. Do you see any modern-day equivalent to those kinds of challenges of people's views. But Stalin did die. that's what it was. www. I don't know. In 1953. of course. For example.achievement. but the reason so many people are angry at Edward (Teller) and at many other of those conspirators.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview So you're saying that was basically an inter-service rivalry? Murray Gell-Mann: Basically.

exaggerating with www. that he was exaggerating a lot of the data. going too far with the evidence. and it hasn't changed much over the years. At the same time. I should have been. I did talk with the people at C altech.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. I helped to fight against that in the Louisiana creationism case by circulating. I just didn't think I could accomplish a lot. or something like that. I thought that Linus was exaggerating a little bit the evidence. but I was. that he had a point. And they used to try to get the teaching of evolution suppressed. I was here then.achievement. In retrospect. You mean the people who lived near nuclear testing sites? Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. he was. "Well." And he said. but one with a very heavy technical component.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 29/32 . is that Linus was complaining. Some sort of nonsense based essentially on a literal interpretation of the Bible. "But I don't agree with you on the rest!" And people couldn't believe that I was disagreeing with both sides. But I felt. that political question. rather than the general effect on the world population. and give it equal time. especially when one looks at the arguments they used. thinking about these issues myself a little bit. I agree with you about this and this. And if he had restricted himself largely to local populations. It seems to be a major threat. all over the world. I thought that denying that there was any problem. So you do see some threats to freedom of scientific inquiry or expression? Murray Gell-Mann: Well. And making somewhat extravagant claims. There are many different kinds of fundamentalism. and I was a consultant at Rand. even if one restricted oneself to things that were probably right.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview There are the fundamentalists. And so I was sort of in the middle. and I still think it's true. I think. But I was very young. I wasn't afraid of anything. Just almost unbelievable. the president. It was signed by virtually all of the American winners of the Swedish prizes in science. and I said. C altech. and equal emphasis. It turns out that there were plenty of bad things to say. Now the push has been in recent years to try to require teachers who explain evolution to explain some sort of nonsense at the same time. and to organize other scientists around the issue. though. but in fact. " Then I said. "Well that's nice. He was at Caltech for 41 years. was unhappy about Linus's remarks. who are trying to make it difficult to explain to students about evolution. I thought it was absurd. who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible in this country. I felt. perhaps. He felt compelled to take a stand on a political matter. That two justices could have voted the other way I have found just appalling. fundamentalism is a big threat in many places. My impression at the time. and just saying that national security considerations overrode everything else. but I didn't. or whatever it was that they wanted to say. Not timid exactly. I just didn't think that I could accomplish a great deal. it turns out that he should have concentrated much more heavily on local populations. Murray Gell-Mann: Yes. I don't know if it did or not. it wouldn't have been so bad. They have given up on that. and extrapolating results from known results much too much. perhaps a growing one. who were really getting it. and I was timid about doing much about it. and by virtually all of the state academies of science. among a lot of people. about health threats to local populations and the population of the world. an amicus curiae brief for the Supreme Court. at least in a letter to the newspapers. legitimately. We wanted to ask you about Linus Pauling as well. I should have written my views. So I wasn't very active. And I remember Lee DuBridge. and may have helped to influence the Justices in their 7-2 decision.

I don't know. I thought it was correct that he got the Peace Prize. for example. there is a whole spectrum of people doing the work. who was doing this exaggeration. Our institutions -.political institutions -. Well. but that was some seven years later. which is not given for scientific accuracy. and one that would meet some of the objections on the grounds of health and safety. that we seek ways of reforming our institutions so that they are more sensitive to the long term concerns. Some people are excessively conservative. a number of people here thought that it was not a good idea. I thought. If there is somebody way over there. nevertheless. but still defending the same position. it is extremely important that we do so. One that wouldn't compromise national security. I thought it wasn't such a bad idea that it went to Linus. So that also militates against paying attention to the long times. along with the other side. and finally the treaty was signed in 1963. that makes me a moderate. So that we are using. who helped to formulate the American position on the treaty. he did deserve it. is there something you would want them to understand? Murray Gell-Mann: I think that it is very important that human society. To Kennedy and Khrushchev. And it's the whole spectrum of people who constitute the movement. even though I thought that he had exaggerated back in the '50s the scientific evidence for his position. and the scientist sticks closely to the consequences of the evidence.achievement. to stop tests in the atmosphere. It's too bad that it was a scientist.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. I felt that Linus. Did you find that annoying? Murray Gell-Mann: Very maddening! There are so many issues confronting us. And each segment. But what I could never forgive Linus. I think. it took a number of years before people finally got around to agreeing that might be a good idea. Some people are in between. I was hoping was that we could find a solution. So why didn't we just try. look to the long run as well as the short run. But anyway. so that if they were cheating. and our institutions are not very well adapted to that. as far as the Peace Prize is concerned. It should have gone to Jerry Weisner. and so forth. If you were in front of a group of young people. even though I thought he had been too strident and exaggerated here and there. Then he apparently felt that the community here hadn't supported him enough. plays its role. Some people are exaggerating the data.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview the threat and the terms in which he stated. you could find out that somebody was cheating. and he left. for many purposes. what you might call small discount www. Including by his wife and children.are hooked up so that problems are looked at in the short run. and that it should have gone to those who negotiated the treaty. Predictions of the long run are of course less reliable. so to speak. it wasn't anything along these lines. that is producing the effect. In any of these controversies. and it was tests in the atmosphere that were rather easy to detect.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 30/32 . maybe. I thought that. but just the fact that he was worshiped so much. When Linus got his second prize from the Nobel Foundation for Peace. What was obvious was that it was tests in the atmosphere that were compromising health. in facing the future. whatever it is. It's better if the scientist leave the exaggeration to somebody else. He was the one that made the big fuss.

He said. I refused to try the other two. develop techniques to deal with their environment. And so. Then they asked me to try. And in honor of the 25th anniversary. I don't mean guns. Either that. so as not to spoil a perfect record. www. I think that we must learn to strike a proper balance between cooperation and competition. I aimed the blow gun a little bit above the target. or else the things you do are much more fun than the ones you used to do. Dan was quite impressed too. How did you get interested in blow guns? Murray Gell-Mann: I'm interested in weapons. the great usefulness of encouraging individuals to compete. It's been a real pleasure. also to deal with their enemies. He's a Nick also. firing at an Amazonian doll figure a few feet high. He took a turn at the blow gun. as well as organizations to compete. Including my son. I began to feel sorry for the target after a while. But there is also a role for cooperation.smack! -. instead of discounting the future at a huge rate. but anyhow. So it actually is not too badly wounded. I'm not interested in guns. Left it pulverized? Murray Gell-Mann: Actually. They were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the museum in Kota Kinabalu. Before we go. A couple of months ago I was in Sabah. and blew. and also in the capital. Is that because it's a reflection of people trying to develop some science to deal with their environment? Murray Gell-Mann: Well.Academy of Achievement: Print Preview rates. the great usefulness of competition. Sabah used to be called North Borneo. Anyway. And at the same time. part of Malaysia. I had done some practicing with my Amazonian blow gun at home. "I must be growing up. Neither one by itself is as good as a proper harmonious mixture of the two.right in the middle of the bull's eye with the first dart. formerly Jesselton. the second one was a the edge of the target. So you retired undefeated? Murray Gell-Mann: I retired undefeated. The first shot missed completely. But those people were quite impressed. could you tell us the blow gun story? Murray Gell-Mann: I guess. because I find theses things you do more interesting that I used to. I'm interested in a lot of things. we need institutions in favor of that as well. Well thank you for this interview.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 31/32 . He was very pleased. Of course. and I went over there to look at the museum. when I came home with that blow gun and the Amazonian figure that I used as a target. Just a few nicks.achievement. All the visitors were invited to shoot three blow gun darts at a target. but primitive weapons. We need to learn to strike a balance. there again. my son Nick was really delighted. and in the forest. So I was probably just lucky. Kota Kinabalu. So I finally stopped using it and started using other things." So we fired blow gun darts together for hours at this target. and the third one was closer in. I was with my friend Dan Martin.1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. Kill animals for food. and see how well they could do hitting it. who is the program officer for environment and population and several other things. That's all very well. they were having a blow gun contest. And it went -. In free market countries we appreciate the value of competition. Yes. because it is a rather nice object itself. He was in his early 20s then.

1/15/13 Murray Gell-Mann Interview -. 2008 20:18 EST www.org/autodoc/printmember/gel0int-1 32/32 .Academy of Achievement: Print Preview This page last revised on Mar 02.achievement.

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