Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Zweig Recollects

George Zweig, who as a graduate student independently proposed the idea of new particles inside protons and neutrons, has published an interesting paper recalling those years, titled "Memories of Murray and the Quark Model."

"Murray" is, of course, Murray Gell-Mann, who proposed the same idea independently, calling the particles "quarks." (Zweig called them "aces," because he originally thought there should be 4 of them. He says he would have called them "dice" if he'd known there should be six.) It's interesting to read about both their struggles trying to figure out if quarks were real, or just abstract accounting devices to account for the properties of exotic baryons.

Zweig also tells about a brutal Caltech seminar where Feynman and Gell-Mann sat in the front row and completely intimidated the speaker, who was a stutter. Gell-Mann rudely read a newspaper and waited for Feynman to tell him if anything important was going on. Feynman pressed the speaker again and again, which only made him more anxious and worsened his stuttering, until Feynman finally stormed out in a huff. Pretty obnoxious, actually.

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