Murray Gell-Mann brings visibility to a crucial aspect of our existence that we can't actually see: elemental particles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics for introducing quarks, one of two fundamental ingredients for all matter in the universe.

Why you should listen

He's been called "the man with five brains" -- and Murray Gell-Mann has the resume to prove it. In addition to being a Nobel laureate, he is an accomplished physicist who's earned numerous awards, medals and honorary degrees for his work with subatomic particles, including the groundbreaking theory that the nucleus of an atom comprises 100 or so fundamental building blocks called quarks.

Gell-Mann's influence extends well beyond his field: He's a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He also serves on the board of the Wildlife Conservation Society and is a director of Encyclopedia Britannica. Gell-Mann, a professor emeritus of Caltech, now heads the evolution of human languages program at the Santa Fe Institute, which he cofounded in 1984.

A prolific writer -- he's penned scores of academic papers and several books, including The Quark and the Jaguar -- Gell-Mann is also the subject of the popular science biography Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in 20th-Century Physics.

What others say

"The names alone that Gell-Mann applies to his new theories and formulations reflect his sense of humor, immensely broad range of interests, and deep understanding. The theories themselves say that much more." — PBS

Murray Gell-Mann’s TED talks

Murray Gell-Mann on the TED Blog
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Browse an archive of science advice to Congress

July 25, 2008

Nonpartisan science advice in the US Congress? A newly opened online archive shows that it was possible — and stimulates a call to re-open the Office of Technology Assessment as an advisor to Congress. The OTA’s archive of 700+ scientific reports on topics ranging from addiction to terrorism to “personal rapid transit” spans the lifetime […]

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Wordle, an addictive new web toy

June 18, 2008

Jonathan Feinberg, a sometime collaborator of artist Golan Levin (watch Levin’s TEDTalk), has given the world an addictive new web toy. Wordle turns any block of text into a word cloud — like a tag cloud but prettier. It’s hard to stop using it once you start. TEDTalks transcripts produce these handsome results: ABOVE: Erin […]

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Language

Do all languages have a common ancestor? Murray Gell-Mann on TED.com

June 11, 2008

After speaking at TED2007 on elegance in physics, the amazing Murray Gell-Mann gives a quick overview of another passionate interest of his: finding the common ancestry of our modern languages. (Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, California. Duration: 2:15.) Watch Murray Gell-Mann’s short talk on TED.com, where you can download it, rate it, comment on it […]

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Quotes from Murray Gell-Mann

Modern language must be older than the cave paintings and cave engravings and cave sculptures and dance steps in the soft clay in the caves in Western Europe, in the Aurignacian Period some 35,000 years ago, or earlier. I can’t believe they did all those things and didn’t also have a modern language.
Murray Gell-Mann
TED2007 • 523K views Jun 2008
Informative, Fascinating