The W and Z bosons are carrier particles

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The W and Z bosons are carrier particles

Post by jancancook on Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:32 am

The W and Z bosons are carrier particles that mediate the weak nuclear force, much like the photon is the carrier particle for the electromagnetic force. The W bosons are best known for their role in nuclear decay. Consider, for example, the beta decay of cobalt-60, an important process in supernova explosions.
60
27Co → 60
28Ni + e−
+ ν
e
This reaction does not involve the whole cobalt-60 nucleus, but affects only one of its 33 neutrons. The neutron is converted into a proton while also emitting an electron (called a beta particle in this context) and an electron antineutrino:
n0
→ p+
+ e−
+ ν
e
Again, the neutron is not an elementary particle but a composite of an up quark and two down quarks (udd). It is in fact one of the down quarks that interacts in beta decay, turning into an up quark to form a proton (uud). At the most fundamental level, then, the weak force changes the flavour of a single quark:
d → u + W−
which is immediately followed by decay of the W−
itself:
W−
→ e−
+ ν
e


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