Force carrier

Encyclopedia

In particle physics

, quantum field theories such as the Standard Model

describe nature in terms of field

s. Each field has a complementary

description as the set of particles of a particular type. A force

between two particles can be described either as the action of a force field generated by one particle on the other, or in terms of the exchange of virtual

) is quantized, and the quantum excitation

s of the field can be interpreted as particles. The Standard Model

contains the following particles, each of which is an excitation of a particular field:

In addition, composite particles such as mesons can be described as excitations of an effective field

.

Gravity is not a part of the Standard Model, but it is thought that there may be particles called gravitons which are the excitations of gravitational waves. The status of this particle is still tentative, because the theory is incomplete and because the interactions of

off of another, altering its trajectory, there are two ways to think about the process. In the field picture, we imagine that the field generated by one particle caused a force on the other. Alternatively, we can imagine one particle emitting a virtual particle

which is absorbed by the other. The virtual particle transfers momentum

from one particle to the other. This particle viewpoint is especially helpful when there are a large number of complicated quantum corrections to the calculation since these corrections can be visualized as Feynman diagrams containing additional virtual particles.

The description of forces in terms of virtual particles is limited by the applicability of the perturbation theory

from which it is derived. In certain situations, such as low-energy QCD

and the description of bound states, perturbation theory breaks down.

showed that the electrostatic force between electrically charged objects follows a law similar to Newton's Law of Gravitation. In time, this relationship became known as Coulomb's law

. By 1862, Hermann von Helmholtz

had described a ray of light as the "quickest of all the messengers". In 1905, Albert Einstein

proposed the existence of a light-particle in answer to the question: "what are light quanta?"

In 1923, through the work of the physicist Arthur Holly Compton at the Washington University in St. Louis

, the existence of Einstein's light-particle was made undeniably plain to physicists. Lastly, in 1926, one year before the theory of quantum mechanics was published, Gilbert N. Lewis

introduced the term "photon

", which soon became the name for Einstein’s light particle. From there, the concept of messenger particles developed further.

Particle physics

Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the existence and interactions of particles that are the constituents of what is usually referred to as matter or radiation. In current understanding, particles are excitations of quantum fields and interact following their dynamics...

, quantum field theories such as the Standard Model

Standard Model

The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles. Developed throughout the mid to late 20th century, the current formulation was finalized in the mid 1970s upon...

describe nature in terms of field

Field (physics)

In physics, a field is a physical quantity associated with each point of spacetime. A field can be classified as a scalar field, a vector field, a spinor field, or a tensor field according to whether the value of the field at each point is a scalar, a vector, a spinor or, more generally, a tensor,...

s. Each field has a complementary

Complementarity (physics)

In physics, complementarity is a basic principle of quantum theory proposed by Niels Bohr, closely identified with the Copenhagen interpretation, and refers to effects such as the wave–particle duality...

description as the set of particles of a particular type. A force

Force

In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, a change in direction, or a change in shape. In other words, a force is that which can cause an object with mass to change its velocity , i.e., to accelerate, or which can cause a flexible object to deform...

between two particles can be described either as the action of a force field generated by one particle on the other, or in terms of the exchange of virtual

**force carrier**particles between them.## Particle and field viewpoints

The energy of a wave in a field (for example, electromagnetic waves in the electromagnetic fieldElectromagnetic field

An electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by moving electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction...

) is quantized, and the quantum excitation

Excited state

Excitation is an elevation in energy level above an arbitrary baseline energy state. In physics there is a specific technical definition for energy level which is often associated with an atom being excited to an excited state....

s of the field can be interpreted as particles. The Standard Model

Standard Model

The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles. Developed throughout the mid to late 20th century, the current formulation was finalized in the mid 1970s upon...

contains the following particles, each of which is an excitation of a particular field:

- GluonGluonGluons are elementary particles which act as the exchange particles for the color force between quarks, analogous to the exchange of photons in the electromagnetic force between two charged particles....

s, excitations of the strongStrong interactionIn particle physics, the strong interaction is one of the four fundamental interactions of nature, the others being electromagnetism, the weak interaction and gravitation. As with the other fundamental interactions, it is a non-contact force...

gauge field. - PhotonPhotonIn physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

s, W bosons, and Z bosonsW and Z bosonsThe W and Z bosons are the elementary particles that mediate the weak interaction; their symbols are , and . The W bosons have a positive and negative electric charge of 1 elementary charge respectively and are each other's antiparticle. The Z boson is electrically neutral and its own...

, excitations of the electroweakElectroweak interactionIn particle physics, the electroweak interaction is the unified description of two of the four known fundamental interactions of nature: electromagnetism and the weak interaction. Although these two forces appear very different at everyday low energies, the theory models them as two different...

gauge fields. - Higgs bosonHiggs bosonThe Higgs boson is a hypothetical massive elementary particle that is predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics. Its existence is postulated as a means of resolving inconsistencies in the Standard Model...

s, excitations of one component of the Higgs field, which gives mass to fundamental particles. Their existence has yet to be confirmed by experiment. - Several types of fermions, described as excitations of fermionic fieldFermionic fieldIn quantum field theory, a fermionic field is a quantum field whose quanta are fermions; that is, they obey Fermi-Dirac statistics. Fermionic fields obey canonical anticommutation relations rather than the canonical commutation relations of bosonic fields....

s.

In addition, composite particles such as mesons can be described as excitations of an effective field

Effective field theory

In physics, an effective field theory is, as any effective theory, an approximate theory, that includes appropriate degrees of freedom to describe physical phenomena occurring at a chosen length scale, while ignoring substructure and degrees of freedom at shorter distances .-The renormalization...

.

Gravity is not a part of the Standard Model, but it is thought that there may be particles called gravitons which are the excitations of gravitational waves. The status of this particle is still tentative, because the theory is incomplete and because the interactions of

*single*gravitons may be too weak to be detected.## Forces from the particle viewpoint

When one particle scattersScattering

Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In conventional use, this also includes deviation of...

off of another, altering its trajectory, there are two ways to think about the process. In the field picture, we imagine that the field generated by one particle caused a force on the other. Alternatively, we can imagine one particle emitting a virtual particle

Virtual particle

In physics, a virtual particle is a particle that exists for a limited time and space. The energy and momentum of a virtual particle are uncertain according to the uncertainty principle...

which is absorbed by the other. The virtual particle transfers momentum

Momentum

In classical mechanics, linear momentum or translational momentum is the product of the mass and velocity of an object...

from one particle to the other. This particle viewpoint is especially helpful when there are a large number of complicated quantum corrections to the calculation since these corrections can be visualized as Feynman diagrams containing additional virtual particles.

The description of forces in terms of virtual particles is limited by the applicability of the perturbation theory

Perturbation theory (quantum mechanics)

In quantum mechanics, perturbation theory is a set of approximation schemes directly related to mathematical perturbation for describing a complicated quantum system in terms of a simpler one. The idea is to start with a simple system for which a mathematical solution is known, and add an...

from which it is derived. In certain situations, such as low-energy QCD

Quantum chromodynamics

In theoretical physics, quantum chromodynamics is a theory of the strong interaction , a fundamental force describing the interactions of the quarks and gluons making up hadrons . It is the study of the SU Yang–Mills theory of color-charged fermions...

and the description of bound states, perturbation theory breaks down.

## Examples

- The electromagnetic force can be described by the exchange of virtual photons.
- The nuclear forceNuclear forceThe nuclear force is the force between two or more nucleons. It is responsible for binding of protons and neutrons into atomic nuclei. The energy released causes the masses of nuclei to be less than the total mass of the protons and neutrons which form them...

binding protons and neutrons can be described by an effective fieldEffective field theoryIn physics, an effective field theory is, as any effective theory, an approximate theory, that includes appropriate degrees of freedom to describe physical phenomena occurring at a chosen length scale, while ignoring substructure and degrees of freedom at shorter distances .-The renormalization...

of which mesons are the excitations. - At sufficiently large energiesAsymptotic freedomIn physics, asymptotic freedom is a property of some gauge theories that causes interactions between particles to become arbitrarily weak at energy scales that become arbitrarily large, or, equivalently, at length scales that become arbitrarily small .Asymptotic freedom is a feature of quantum...

, the strong interactionStrong interactionIn particle physics, the strong interaction is one of the four fundamental interactions of nature, the others being electromagnetism, the weak interaction and gravitation. As with the other fundamental interactions, it is a non-contact force...

between quarks can be described by the exchange of virtual gluons. - Beta decayBeta decayIn nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

is an example of an interaction due to the exchange of a W boson, but not an example of a force. - GravitationGravitationGravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their mass. Gravitation is most familiar as the agent that gives weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall to the ground when dropped...

may be due to the exchange of virtual gravitons.

## History

The concept of messenger particles dates back to the 18th century when the French physicist Charles CoulombCharles-Augustin de Coulomb

Charles-Augustin de Coulomb was a French physicist. He is best known for developing Coulomb's law, the definition of the electrostatic force of attraction and repulsion. The [SI unit] of charge, the coulomb, was named after him....

showed that the electrostatic force between electrically charged objects follows a law similar to Newton's Law of Gravitation. In time, this relationship became known as Coulomb's law

Coulomb's law

Coulomb's law or Coulomb's inverse-square law, is a law of physics describing the electrostatic interaction between electrically charged particles. It was first published in 1785 by French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb and was essential to the development of the theory of electromagnetism...

. By 1862, Hermann von Helmholtz

Hermann von Helmholtz

Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a German physician and physicist who made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science...

had described a ray of light as the "quickest of all the messengers". In 1905, Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

proposed the existence of a light-particle in answer to the question: "what are light quanta?"

In 1923, through the work of the physicist Arthur Holly Compton at the Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis is a private research university located in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. Founded in 1853, and named for George Washington, the university has students and faculty from all fifty U.S. states and more than 110 nations...

, the existence of Einstein's light-particle was made undeniably plain to physicists. Lastly, in 1926, one year before the theory of quantum mechanics was published, Gilbert N. Lewis

Gilbert N. Lewis

Gilbert Newton Lewis was an American physical chemist known for the discovery of the covalent bond , his purification of heavy water, his reformulation of chemical thermodynamics in a mathematically rigorous manner accessible to ordinary chemists, his theory of Lewis acids and...

introduced the term "photon

Photon

In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

", which soon became the name for Einstein’s light particle. From there, the concept of messenger particles developed further.

## External links

- Messenger Particles - Cern Interactive Slide Show