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In physics, C-symmetry means the symmetry of physical laws under a charge-conjugation transformation. Electromagnetism, gravity and the strong interaction all obey C-symmetry, but weak interactions violate C-symmetry maximally.


Charge Reversal in Electromagnetism

The laws of electromagnetism (both classical and quantum) are invariant under this transformation: if each charge q were to be replaced with a charge -q and the directions of the electric and magnetic fields were reversed, the dynamics would preserve the same form. In the language of quantum field theory, charge conjugation transforms:

  1. \psi \rightarrow -i(\bar\psi \gamma^0 \gamma^2)^T
  2. \bar\psi \rightarrow -i(\gamma^0 \gamma^2 \psi)^T
  3. A^\mu \rightarrow -A^\mu

Notice that these transformations do not alter the chirality of particles. A left-handed neutrino would be taken by charge conjugation into a left-handed antineutrino, which does not interact in the Standard Model. This property is what is meant by the "maximal violation" of C-symmetry in the weak interaction.

(Some postulated extensions of the Standard Model, like left-right models, restore this C-symmetry.)

Combination of Charge and Parity Reversal

It was believed for some time that C-symmetry could be combined with the parity-inversion transformation (see P-symmetry) to preserve a combined CP-symmetry. However, violations of even this symmetry have now been identified in the weak interactions (particularly in the kaons and B mesons). In the Standard Model, this CP violation is due to a single phase in the CKM matrix. If CP is combined with time reversal (T-symmetry), the resulting CPT-symmetry can be shown using only the Wightman axioms to be universally obeyed.

Charge Definition

To give an example, take two real scalar fields, φ and χ. Suppose both fields have even C-parity (even C-parity refers to even symmetry under charge conjugation ex. Cψ(q) = Cψ( − q), as opposed to odd C-parity which refers to antisymmetry under charge conjugation ex. Cψ(q) = − Cψ( − q)). Now reformulate things so that \psi\ \stackrel{\mathrm{def}}{=}\ {\phi + i \chi\over \sqrt{2}}. Now, φ and χ have even C-parities because the imaginary number i has an odd C-parity (C is antiunitary).

In other models, it is possible for both φ and χ to have odd C-parities.


  • Sozzi, M.S. (2008). Discrete symmetries and CP violation. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-929666-8.  

See also



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