With a New Afterword
"Our knowledge of fundamental physics contains not one fruitful idea that does not carry the name of Murray Gell-Mann."--Richard Feynman
Acclaimed science writer George Johnson brings his formidable reporting skills to the first biography of Nobel Prize-winner Murray Gell-Mann, the brilliant, irascible man who revolutionized modern particle physics with his models of the quark and the Eightfold Way.
Born into a Jewish immigrant family on New York's Lower East Side, Gell-Mann's prodigious talent was evident from an early age--he entered Yale at 15, completed his Ph.D. at 21, and was soon identifying the structures of the world's smallest components and illuminating the elegant symmetries of the universe.
Beautifully balanced in its portrayal of an extraordinary and difficult man, interpreting the concepts of advanced physics with scrupulous clarity and simplicity, Strange Beauty is a tour-de-force of both science writing and biography.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Strange Beauty|
|Release Date: 09-29-2010|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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Chapter OneIt was Memorial Day weekend of 1996, in the middle of what turned out to be one of New Mexico's worst droughts of the century. The seemingly endless dry spell reminded many of the climatic disaster said to have driven the Anasazi, the original inhabitants of this land, from their stone settlements around Mesa Verde, causing the collapse of a civilization. To escape the heat, I left my house in Santa Fe and drove as high as you can go into the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains. After leaving my Jeep in the ski basin parking lot, already some 10,000 feet above sea level, I began walking higher. My destination, La Vega, "the meadow," lay at the base of Santa Fe Baldy, an 11,600-foot peak of Precambrian granite that juts above the timberline.
Almost as soon as I reached the trail head, I realized that, once again, I had misjudged the perversity of New Mexico weather. Looking out across the Rio Grande Valley, I could see the next mountain range, the Jemez, where just weeks earlier a fire had devastated fifteen thousand acres of one of my favorite places, the wilderness backcountry of Bandelier National Monument. Now storm clouds were boiling up over the Jemez and sweeping toward the Sangre de Cristos. The temperature began dropping, and before long snow flurries, of all things, were swirling around me.
I was wishing I had worn a jacket and long pants instead of khaki shorts and a T-shirt, when, as I rounded a corner on the trail, I heard a familiar voice. "Well, hello," a man in a floppy cotton hat and a windbreaker called out enthusiastically. He was walking toward me from the opposite direction. "How are you?" he said. It took me...