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Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics Paperback – October 17, 2000
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The reader finds that Johnson's careful attention to detail shows more than it tells through enlightening stories of Gell-Mann's troubled, romantic, or pretentious dealings with peers, family, and even strangers. Explaining his strange surname means investigating old phone books, scientific legend, and family history, as the scientist is unwilling to shed light on the mystery (it turns out that his father hyphenated it, and Murray dreamed up etymologies as needed--giving rise to the tangled web of myths). Johnson is up to the challenge of recording the life story of a man nearly as strange as the quarks he discovered and named, and Strange Beauty lives up to the promise of its title. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This month the biography of Murray Gell-Mann, arguably the most influential physicist of the latter part of the twentieth century appeared, but it was neither written by a fool nor was it all wrong.
A few years back, I read James Gleick's celebrated biography of Richard Feynman (Genius), the other great physicist of the latter part of the twentieth century, and Gell-Mann's closest rival and colleague. I felt that it suffered greatly from a problem that faces many biographers, that is, writing about someone you have never met. Gleick never met Feynman, much less knew him, and therefore it provided a distorted picture of the man. I never felt that Feynman's personality and thought process came through. Many of Feynman's closest intimates and family felt the same way and were more than disappointed by the biography.
In contrast, when I read George Johnson's recent biography of Murray Gell-Mann (Strange Beauty), I couldn't help thinking, "That's Murray!" "Yes, that's Murray!" (Recently I spoke with some close friends of Gell-Mann who felt the same way.) Author Johnson did have the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time with Gell-Mann and that certainly comes through. To a large degree you will get a strong sense of what Gell-Mann's personality is like. He can be extremely formidable, sarcastic with distinguished rivals as well as fools (he does not suffer fools gladly) and arrogant (adapting a phrase from Issac Newton, he once said, the reason I can see further than others is because I am surrounded by dwarfs).Read more ›
All in all, a well written and enjoyable book.
I'd also recommend Strange Beauty to anyone interested in the process of innovation. It's difficult to imagine a more competitive environment for pure creativity than that characterizing particle physics during much of this century. I took odd comfort from the fact that even among Nobel Prize winners, the process of innovation is marked by redundancy, countless dead ends, internecine struggle, pettiness, and seemingly sudden breakthroughs. Maybe we mere mortals need not be too discouraged when we find the same during our own efforts.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I did a search for "The Quark and the Jaguar" in the kindle store this popped up and I mistakenly bought it. Tricky Amazon!Published 4 months ago by James McLean Ledford
This book gives the unfortunate reader neither an intimate glimpse into Gell-Mann nor a skilful lay treatment of the particle physics, and I am convinced that the author never... Read morePublished 8 months ago by radioarno
Excellent read with some observations that extend beyond particle physics to life itself. The relationship between the complexity of sub atomic particle is reflected in nature, and... Read morePublished 14 months ago by william dowell
Good overview of the Golden Age of Particle Physics, in addition to providing a solid biography for Gell-Mann. Writing style is clear and to the point. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Josef
Very readable, very understandable, very informative. Johnson does just excellent work. Highly recommended for non-specialists. Read morePublished on July 29, 2013 by Richard Johnson
IThis man's accomplishments have been known to me for a long time, so to see the child-adult mind behind this life's work was quite exciting.Published on July 25, 2013 by Leslie Cohen
I enjoyed reading this book and lost some sleep staying up a couple of nights to finish it. Just look at the bibliography and you can see the extensive research that was involved... Read morePublished on June 21, 2013 by Mike in Palm Bay
J'ai lu et relu. Quelle vie passionnante ce grand savant a eue. Ses énormes capacités et ses petites faiblesses sont si bien décrites. Read morePublished on April 2, 2013 by Pierre Van Leeuw
I was interested in Gell-Mann since I read about his contribution to complexity and the Santa Fe institute. Read morePublished on September 7, 2012 by Santiago Roel