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Smolin, Gell-Mann, Higgs

  1. Jan 12, 2010 #1


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    Gold Member

    I have a habit of comparing author's descriptions and credits for significant theories or predictions in particle physics, especially when they involve two Nobel Prize winners.

    I hold them to a higher standard than most.

    That being said, in reading Lee Smolin's book , "Trouble with Physics", (highly recommended for the layman) and Murray Gell-Mann's, 'Quark and the Jaguar", I noticed that credit for the idea of combining spontaneous symmetry breaking with gauge theories that led to predicting the Higgs particle included a larger list for Gell-Mann than Smolin.

    Comparision below: page 61, Trouble with Physics, and pages 193-104, Quark and the Jaguar.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Smolin" [Broken]​
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson" [Broken]​
    Quote from wiki: "A 2006 statistical analysis of scientific research papers by José Soler, comparing number of references in a paper to the number of citations, declared Anderson to be the "most creative" physicist in the world"​
    [PLAIN]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Englert" [Broken] [Broken]​
    [PLAIN]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Brout" [Broken] [Broken]​

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Gell-Mann" [Broken]​
    [PLAIN]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Englert" [Broken] [Broken]​
    [PLAIN]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Brout" [Broken] [Broken]​

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_W._B._Kibble" [Broken]​
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Guralnik" [Broken]​
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._R._Hagen" [Broken]​

    From what I have been able to learn from Wikipedia, Englert and Brout were using the idea's created by Phillip Anderson.

    As Gell-Mann says in his book, that: Anderson's "general anticipation of the Higgs boson has not been widely recognized by elementary particle physicists. I cannot avoid a sneaking suspicion that if his contributions had been more generally recognized we would be spared some of his eloquent public arguments against the construction of new particle accelerators." Gell-Mann says of Anderson, now with him as Vice Chair at the Santa Fee institute, deserves credit for the discovery and calls the Higgs, the Higgson out of respect for Anderson's contributions in the rest of his book.

    That being said, my question is: given that Smolin and Gell-Mann come from a physics generation about two and a half decades apart, Gell-Mann born in 1929 and Smolin in 1955.

    Is this the primary reason for Gell-Mann's more complete list of credit for this discovery ? Does politics have anything to do with it ?

    Finally, can you think of other significant physics particle discoveries where underlying credit differs depending on the generation of the physicist being asked (backed with evidence) ?

    Rhody... :cool:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2010 #2


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    this is one of those HOT-topics in particle physics.

    There were 3 papers:

    they were publised at precisely the same time, and each took a different approach to prove the same thing: that if a gauge symmetry were spontaneously broken, you would NOT see massless particles as suggested by the Goldstone theorem. This was the key breakthrough that ultimately led to the success of the standard model.

    Anderson was working on something quite different: he was interested in explaining the Meisner effect in superconductors. In effect, he discovered what these three collaborations found years earlier, but it was not realized for what it was until later.

    I wouldn't put much faith in Smolin (or Gell-Mann for that matter!) and their "motives"! This lack of credit is one of those things that starts bar brawls in Gamow's Quantum Lounge!

    BTW: Hagen was my QM teacher, so I myself have some bias here. :biggrin:
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