Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 7: The Weak Nuclear Force

Hello again, my lovely readers! As promised, here is today’s post in everybody’s favorite series. Today we will be talking about yet another one of the fundamental forces, and one that has many extremely important implications. I hope you enjoy Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 7: The Weak Nuclear Force.

 

The weak nuclear force is one of the fundamental forces of nature. It is the 3rd strongest of the bunch, and is carried by the W and Z bosons. While all of the other forces are busy working on holding things together, the weak nuclear force governs how things fall apart, also known as decay. When a particle has lived out its entire life, it usually dies in a pretty spectacular way, not simply stopping to exist, but distributing its energy and mass equally into smaller particles. This phenomenon is known as decay, and it comes in many forms. Specific particles decay into other set particles. For example, Neutron decay. Neutron decay is one of the most important, and most relevant scientific topics ever discovered. A neutron that exists outside of a nucleus has a very long lifespan, existing for around 10 minutes. In terms of particles, this is an extremely long time. When a neutron has outlived its time, it decays into other particles, usually degrading into a proton, an electron, and an electron anti-neutrino, which is an antimatter particle. Neutron decay, which is a form of beta decay is better known as radioactivity, and is the cause of radioactivity in the first place.

 

The weak nuclear force has a very special property, which is the ability to change the flavor of a quark. Simply put, it has the ability to change one type of quark into another. This helps with the decay of certain particles, and still allows for the conservation of energy. This is especially useful in the processes of stars. A star is able to stay as big and as hot as it is by the process of nuclear fusion. Without the weak nuclear force governing the process, the sun would not be able to fuse in the first place, as no particles would be able to decay into other particles, and photons would be able to be released in the first place.

 

Here comes the fun part that I talked about in my last post: Electroweak theory. The weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force seem to be two very different forces, doing very different things. Yet this is not true. In fact, above a specific energy level, about 246 GeV, the two forces merge together into one single force, which is commonly referred to as the electroweak force. The reason for this is that the two forces do basically the same thing, but at different magnitudes. The weak nuclear force does its job at quantum levels, and the electromagnetic force tends to stick to macro levels. In fact, during the early moments after the big bang, the two forces were merged into one force, simply because the universe was so hot. This is the basis of electroweak theory.

 

Well everyone, that’s just about it for today’s post. Hope you enjoyed reading it, and stay tuned for the next one!

 

~Zane

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