This week's question was put to me by Peder Norrby (who has sent a lot of questions to the column, so his turn had definitely come due). He wants to know: What the hell is spin?

    He's right to be all worked up. Spin is one of those weird things in quantum mechanics that sounds so much like something from your ordinary experience that you might be tempted to think your intuition will help you out, but it won't. In fact, your intuition is much more likely to knee you in the groin and steal your girl. Don't trust it for a moment.

    So first off, all particles have a fundamental spin. Just like electric charge or mass, spin helps to define which type of particle is which. Alasdair did a really nice write-up of the standard model not too long ago, and a follow-up about particles that we might soon detect.


That was by far the most lucid explanation of spin I've ever read. I've read my fair share of all the usual suspects writing about quantum theory over the years and spin always broke my mind. This only damaged it slightly.

Thanks! Have some Higgs Boson Blues!

posted by user-inactivated: 1381 days ago