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Concept# Dirac spinor

Summary

In quantum field theory, the Dirac spinor is the spinor that describes all known fundamental particles that are fermions, with the possible exception of neutrinos. It appears in the plane-wave solution to the Dirac equation, and is a certain combination of two Weyl spinors, specifically, a bispinor that transforms "spinorially" under the action of the Lorentz group.
Dirac spinors are important and interesting in numerous ways. Foremost, they are important as they do describe all of the known fundamental particle fermions in nature; this includes the electron and the quarks. Algebraically they behave, in a certain sense, as the "square root" of a vector. This is not readily apparent from direct examination, but it has slowly become clear over the last 60 years that spinorial representations are fundamental to geometry. For example, effectively all Riemannian manifolds can have spinors and spin connections built upon them, via the Clifford algebra. The Dirac spinor is specific to that of Minkowski spacetime and Lorentz transformations; the general case is quite similar.
This article is devoted to the Dirac spinor in the Dirac representation. This corresponds to a specific representation of the gamma matrices, and is best suited for demonstrating the positive and negative energy solutions of the Dirac equation. There are other representations, most notably the chiral representation, which is better suited for demonstrating the chiral symmetry of the solutions to the Dirac equation. The chiral spinors may be written as linear combinations of the Dirac spinors presented below; thus, nothing is lost or gained, other than a change in perspective with regards to the discrete symmetries of the solutions.
The remainder of this article is laid out in a pedagogical fashion, using notations and conventions specific to the standard presentation of the Dirac spinor in textbooks on quantum field theory. It focuses primarily on the algebra of the plane-wave solutions.

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Spin is an intrinsic form of angular momentum carried by elementary particles, and thus by composite particles such as hadrons, atomic nuclei, and atoms. Spin should not be understood as in the "rotating internal mass" sense: spin is a quantized wave property. The existence of electron spin angular momentum is inferred from experiments, such as the Stern–Gerlach experiment, in which silver atoms were observed to possess two possible discrete angular momenta despite having no orbital angular momentum.

Weyl equation

In physics, particularly in quantum field theory, the Weyl equation is a relativistic wave equation for describing massless spin-1/2 particles called Weyl fermions. The equation is named after Hermann Weyl. The Weyl fermions are one of the three possible types of elementary fermions, the other two being the Dirac and the Majorana fermions. None of the elementary particles in the Standard Model are Weyl fermions. Previous to the confirmation of the neutrino oscillations, it was considered possible that the neutrino might be a Weyl fermion (it is now expected to be either a Dirac or a Majorana fermion).

Gamma matrices

In mathematical physics, the gamma matrices, also called the Dirac matrices, are a set of conventional matrices with specific anticommutation relations that ensure they generate a matrix representation of the Clifford algebra It is also possible to define higher-dimensional gamma matrices. When interpreted as the matrices of the action of a set of orthogonal basis vectors for contravariant vectors in Minkowski space, the column vectors on which the matrices act become a space of spinors, on which the Clifford algebra of spacetime acts.

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