- Tau lepton
name = Tau Lepton
generation = Third
antiparticle = Antitauon
mass = val|1776.99|0.29|u=MeV/c2inote|http://pdg.lbl.gov
electric_charge = −1 e
color_charge = None
spin = ½
The tau lepton (often called the tau, tau particle, or occasionally the tauon; symbol SubatomicParticle|Tauon) is a negatively charged
elementary particlewith a lifetime of val|2.90|e=-13|u=s and a massof val|1777|u=MeV/c2 (compared to val|938|u=MeV/c2 for protons and val|0.511|u=MeV/c2 for electrons). It has an associated antiparticle (SubatomicParticle|Antitauon, the anti-tau) and neutrinos (the tau neutrinoand tau antineutrino).
The tau lepton belongs to the 3rd generation of
leptons. It is the third generation counterpart of the electron(1st generation) and the muon(2nd generation). Like the electron and muon, the tau lepton appears to be pointlike; no structure has been detected, and if there is any, it would have to be on a scale of less than val|1|e=-18|u=m. Also, like the electron and muon, the tau has a spin of 1/2. The tau lepton and its antiparticle carry the same electric charges as the electron and positron, respectively.
The tau is the only lepton that can decay into
hadrons—the other leptons do not have the necessary mass. Like the other decay modes of the tau lepton, the hadronic decay is through the weak interaction.
Since tau-like lepton number is conserved in weak decays, a tau neutrino is created when a tau lepton decays to a muon or electron.
branching ratioof the common tau decays are:
*17.84% for decay into a tau neutrino, electron and electron neutrino
*17.36% for decay into a tau neutrino, muon and muon neutrino
The tau lepton was detected in a series of experiments between 1974 and 1977 by
Martin Lewis Perlwith his colleagues at the SLAC- LBLgroup [http://prola.aps.org/pdf/PRL/v35/i22/p1489_1] . Their equipment consisted of SLAC's then-new e+-e− colliding ring, called SPEAR, and the LBLmagnetic detector. They could detect and distinguish between leptons, hadrons and photons. They did not detect the tau lepton directly, but rather discovered anomalous events:
"We have discovered 64 events of the form"
:SubatomicParticle|Positron + SubatomicParticle|Electron → e± + μ∓ + at least 2 undetected particles
"for which we have no conventional explanation."
The need for at least 2 undetected particles was shown by the inability to conserve energy and momentum with only one. However, no other muons, electrons, photons, or hadrons were detected. It was proposed that this event was the production and subsequent decay of a new particle pair:
:SubatomicParticle|Positron + SubatomicParticle|Electron → SubatomicParticle|Antitauon + SubatomicParticle|Tau → e± + μ∓ + 4SubatomicParticle|Neutrino
This was difficult to verify, because the energy to produce the SubatomicParticle|AntitauonSubatomicParticle|Tau pair is similar to the threshold for D meson production. Work done at
DESY-Heidelberg, and with the Direct Electron Counter (DELCO) at SPEAR, subsequently established the mass and spin of the tau.
The name "tau" was derived from the Greek τριτον ("third"), since it was the third charged lepton discovered. [http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/find/hep/www?r=SLAC-PUB-1923]
Martin Perl shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for physics with
Frederick Reines. The latter was awarded his share of the prize for detecting the neutrino.
List of particles
* [http://nobelprize.org/physics/laureates/1995/index.html Nobel Prize in Physics 1995]
* [http://www.symmetrymag.org/cms/?pid=1000018 Perl's logbook showing tau lepton discovery]
* [http://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/slacreports/reports01/ssi92-034.pdf A Tale of Three Papers] gives the covers of the three original papers announcing the discovery.
* M. L. Perl "et al", "Evidence for Anomalous Lepton Production in SubatomicParticle|PositronSubatomicParticle|Electron Annihilation" "Phys. Rev. Lett.", 35, 1489 (1975)
last = Yao
first = W. M
coauthors = et al.
title = Tau Lepton
journal = Journal of Physics G
volume = 33
date = 2006
url = http://pdg.lbl.gov/2006/listings/s035.pdf
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