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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index G > Murray Gell-Mann Quotes

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Murray Gell-Mann
(15 Sep 1929 - )

American theoretical physicist.


Science Quotes by Murray Gell-Mann (7 quotes)

All of modern physics is governed by that magnificent and thoroughly confusing discipline called quantum mechanics ... It has survived all tests and there is no reason to believe that there is any flaw in it.... We all know how to use it and how to apply it to problems; and so we have learned to live with the fact that nobody can understand it.
— Murray Gell-Mann
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Apply (38)  |  Belief (400)  |  Call (68)  |  Confuse (13)  |  Discipline (38)  |  Fact (609)  |  Flaw (8)  |  Govern (13)  |  Know (321)  |  Learn (160)  |  Live (186)  |  Magnificent (15)  |  Modern Physics (12)  |  Nobody (38)  |  Problem (362)  |  Quantum Mechanics (31)  |  Reason (330)  |  Survive (28)  |  Test (96)  |  Thoroughly (7)  |  Understand (189)

Both biological and cultural diversity are now severely threatened and working for their preservation is a critical task.
— Murray Gell-Mann
The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventure in the Simple and Compex (1994), 374-375.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (150)  |  Culture (85)  |  Diversity (46)  |  Ecology (55)  |  Preservation (28)  |  Task (68)

For me, the study of these laws is inseparable from a love of Nature in all its manifestations. The beauty of the basic laws of natural science, as revealed in the study of particles and of the cosmos, is allied to the litheness of a merganser diving in a pure Swedish lake, or the grace of a dolphin leaving shining trails at night in the Gulf of California.
— Murray Gell-Mann
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1969), in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.),Les Prix Nobel en 1969 (1970).
Science quotes on:  |  Basic (52)  |  Beauty (171)  |  Cosmos (39)  |  Dive (9)  |  Dolphin (3)  |  Grace (13)  |  Inseparable (6)  |  Lake (12)  |  Law (418)  |  Love (164)  |  Manifestation (30)  |  Natural Science (62)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Night (73)  |  Particle (90)  |  Revelation (29)  |  Shining (8)  |  Study (331)  |  Sweden (3)  |  Trail (8)

In 1963, when I assigned the name “quark” to the fundamental constituents of the nucleon, I had the sound first, without the spelling, which could have been “kwork.” Then, in one of my occasional perusals of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, I came across the word “quark” in the phrase “Three quarks for Muster Mark.” Since “quark” (meaning, for one thing, the cry of a gull) was clearly intended to rhyme with “Mark,” as well as “bark” and other such words, I had to find an excuse to pronounce it as “kwork.” But the book represents the dreams of a publican named Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Words in the text are typically drawn from several sources at once, like the “portmanteau words” in Through the Looking Glass. From time to time, phrases occur in the book that are partially determined by calls for drinks at the bar. I argued, therefore, that perhaps one of the multiple sources of the cry “Three quarks for Muster Mark” might be pronunciation for “Three quarts for Mister Mark,” in which case the pronunciation “kwork” would not be totally unjustified. In any case, the number three fitted perfectly the way quarks occur in nature.
— Murray Gell-Mann
The Quark and the Jaguar (1994), 180.
Science quotes on:  |  Nomenclature (129)  |  Quark (6)

My colleagues in elementary particle theory in many lands [and I] are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game. I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results. How can it be that writing down a few simple and elegant formulae, like short poems governed by strict rules such as those of the sonnet or the waka, can predict universal regularities of Nature?
— Murray Gell-Mann
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1969), in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.),Les Prix Nobel en 1969 (1970).
Science quotes on:  |  Astonishment (19)  |  Colleague (19)  |  Correctness (11)  |  Curiosity (89)  |  Delight (51)  |  Drive (38)  |  Elegance (20)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Formula (51)  |  Frequently (13)  |  Game (45)  |  Government (85)  |  Insatiable (4)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Particle Physics (9)  |  Poem (85)  |  Prediction (67)  |  Regularity (24)  |  Result (250)  |  Rule (135)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Sonnet (4)  |  Strict (7)  |  Universality (11)  |  Work (457)  |  Writing (72)

Perhaps we see equations as simple because they are easily expressed in terms of mathematical notation already invented at an earlier stage of development of the science, and thus what appears to us as elegance of description really reflects the interconnectedness of Nature's laws at different levels.
— Murray Gell-Mann
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1969), in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.),Les Prix Nobel en 1969 (1970).
Science quotes on:  |  Description (72)  |  Development (228)  |  Difference (208)  |  Early (39)  |  Ease (29)  |  Elegance (20)  |  Equation (69)  |  Expression (82)  |  Invention (283)  |  Law (418)  |  Level (51)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Notation (9)  |  Reflection (50)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Term (87)

The mathematics clearly called for a set of underlying elementary objects—at that time we needed three types of them—elementary objects that could be combined three at a time in different ways to make all the heavy particles we knew. ... I needed a name for them and called them quarks, after the taunting cry of the gulls, “Three quarks for Muster mark,” from Finnegan's Wake by the Irish writer James Joyce.
— Murray Gell-Mann
From asppearance in the BBC-TV program written by Nigel Calder, 'The Key to the Universe,' (27 Jan 1977). As cited in Arthur Lewis Caso, 'The Production of New Scientific Terms', American Speech (Summer 1980), 55, No. 2, 101-102.
Science quotes on:  |  Cry (13)  |  Mathematics (587)  |  Name (118)  |  Nomenclature (129)  |  Particle (90)  |  Quark (6)


See also:
  • 15 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Gell-Mann's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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