Parity Violation

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Symmetry is broken

Illustr. Alex Rommel © 2022 Universität Innsbruck

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Before Chien-Shiung Wu and her ingenious experiment, people believed that the laws of physics would not change if we mirrored the coordinates of our universe. But the weak interaction breaks this symmetry.

Wu and her colleagues cooled down cobalt atoms and used a magnetic field to align their spins. Cobalt atoms decay into nickel atoms through the weak interaction, emitting an electron and an anti-neutrino. Wu expected to find these electrons homogenously in space; instead, most were found in the direction opposite to the spin of the cobalt atoms. This surprising result proved that we can distinguish our universe from its mirror image.

Illustr. Alex Rommel © 2022 Universität Innsbruck

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