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Concept# C-symmetry

Summary

In physics, charge conjugation is a transformation that switches all particles with their corresponding antiparticles, thus changing the sign of all charges: not only electric charge but also the charges relevant to other forces. The term C-symmetry is an abbreviation of the phrase "charge conjugation symmetry", and is used in discussions of the symmetry of physical laws under charge-conjugation. Other important discrete symmetries are P-symmetry (parity) and T-symmetry (time reversal).
These discrete symmetries, C, P and T, are symmetries of the equations that describe the known fundamental forces of nature: electromagnetism, gravity, the strong and the weak interactions. Verifying whether some given mathematical equation correctly models nature requires giving physical interpretation not only to continuous symmetries, such as motion in time, but also to its discrete symmetries, and then determining whether nature adheres to these symmetries. Unlike the continuous symmetries, the interpretation of the discrete symmetries is a bit more intellectually demanding and confusing. An early surprise appeared in the 1950s, when Chien Shiung Wu demonstrated that the weak interaction violated P-symmetry. For several decades, it appeared that the combined symmetry CP was preserved, until CP-violating interactions were discovered. Both discoveries lead to Nobel prizes.
The C-symmetry is particularly troublesome, physically, as the universe is primarily filled with matter, not anti-matter, whereas the naive C-symmetry of the physical laws suggests that there should be equal amounts of both. It is currently believed that CP-violation during the early universe can account for the "excess" matter, although the debate is not settled. Earlier textbooks on cosmology, predating the 1970s, routinely suggested that perhaps distant galaxies were made entirely of anti-matter, thus maintaining a net balance of zero in the universe.
This article focuses on exposing and articulating the C-symmetry of various important equations and theoretical systems, including the Dirac equation and the structure of quantum field theory.

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