Weak isospin

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In particle physics, weak isospin is a quantum number relating to the weak interaction, and parallels the idea of isospin under the strong interaction. Weak isospin is usually given the symbol T or I with the third component written as , , or .[1] It can be understood as the eigenvalue of a charge operator.

The weak isospin conservation law relates the conservation of ; all weak interactions must preserve . It is also conserved by the other interactions. However, one of the interactions is with the Higgs field. Since the Higgs field vacuum expectation value is nonzero, particles interact with this field all the time even in vacuum. This changes their weak isospin (and weak hypercharge). Only a specific combination of them, (electric charge), is conserved. is more important than T and often the term "weak isospin" refers to the "3rd component of weak isospin".

Relation with chirality[edit]

Fermions with negative chirality (also called left-handed fermions) have and can be grouped into doublets with that behave the same way under the weak interaction. For example, up-type quarks (u, c, t) have and always transform into down-type quarks (d, s, b), which have , and vice versa. On the other hand, a quark never decays weakly into a quark of the same . Something similar happens with left-handed leptons, which exist as doublets containing a charged lepton (
e
,
μ
,
τ
) with and a neutrino (
ν
e
,
ν
μ
,
ν
τ
) with .

Fermions with positive chirality (“right-handed” fermions) have and form singlets that do not undergo weak interactions.

Electric charge, , is related to weak isospin, , and weak hypercharge, , by

.

Weak isospin and the W bosons[edit]

The symmetry associated with spin is SU(2). This requires gauge bosons to transform between weak isospin charges: bosons
W+
,
W
and
W0
. This implies that
W
bosons have a , with three different values of :


  • W+
    boson is emitted in transitions .

  • W
    boson is emitted in transitions .

  • W0
    boson would be emitted in reactions where does not change.

However, under electroweak unification, the
W0
boson mixes with the weak hypercharge gauge boson
B
, resulting in the observed
Z0
boson and the photon of Quantum Electrodynamics.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ambiguities: I is also used as sign for the ‘normal’ isospin, same for the third component aka . T is also used as the sign for Topness. This article uses T and .