Murray Gell-Mann

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If I have seen further than others, it is because I am surrounded by dwarfs.

Murray Gell-Mann (born 15 September 1929) is an American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles.


  • Today the network of relationships linking the human race to itself and to the rest of the biosphere is so complex that all aspects affect all others to an extraordinary degree. Someone should be studying the whole system, however crudely that has to be done, because no gluing together of partial studies of a complex nonlinear system can give a good idea of the behaviour of the whole.
    • Murray Gell-Mann in ISSS The Primer Project International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) seminar, October 12 - November 10, 1997.
  • While many questions about quantum mechanics are still not fully resolved, there is no point in introducing needless mystification where in fact no problem exists. Yet a great deal of recent writing about quantum mechanics has done just that.
    • Murray Gell-Mann (2002). The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex, chapter 12: Quantum Mechanics and Flapdoodle. Owl Books. p. 167. ISBN 0716727250. 
  • Three principles — the conformability of nature to herself, the applicability of the criterion of simplicity, and the "unreasonable effectiveness" of certain parts of mathematics in describing physical reality — are thus consequences of the underlying law of the elementary particles and their interactions. Those three principles need not be assumed as separate metaphysical postulates. Instead, they are emergent properties of the fundamental laws of physics.
  • You don't need something more to get something more. That's what emergence means. Life can emerge from physics and chemistry plus a lot of accidents. The human mind can arise from neurobiology and a lot of accidents, the way the chemical bond arises from physics and certain accidents. Doesn't diminish the importance of these subjects to know they follow from more fundamental things plus accidents.


  • The Feynman Problem-Solving Algorithm:
      (1) write down the problem;
      (2) think very hard;
      (3) write down the answer.
    • A remark about Richard Feynman's genius, often attributed to Gell-Man, but no specific citations have yet been found.


  • That which is not forbidden is mandatory.
    • This has become a common phrase among quantum scientists, and is often attributed to Gell-Mann, but no citations of original source has yet been located; it is seems to have been derived from the assertion made in the ant-colony of The Sword in the Stone (1938), the first part of The Once and Future King by T. H. White : EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY.

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