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When a particle spins in the same direction as its momentum, it has right helicity, and left helicity otherwise. Neutrinos, however, have some kind of inherent helicity called chirality. But they can have either helicity. How is chirality different from helicity?

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I think this wikipedia article does a reasonable job in explaining the difference. If, after reading the article, you are still confused be sure to come back to ask further questions. – Marek Nov 19 '10 at 19:52

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

At first glance, chirality and helicity seem to have no relationship to each other. Helicity, as you said, is whether the spin is aligned or anti aligned with the momentum. Chirality is like your left hand versus your right hand. Its just a property that makes them different than each other, but in a way that is reversed through a mirror imaging - your left hand looks just like your right hand if you look at it in a mirror and vice-versa. If you do out the math though, you find out that they are linked. Helicity is not an inherent property of a particle because of relativity. Suppose you have some massive particle with spin. In one frame the momentum could be aligned with the spin, but you could just boost to a frame where the momentum was pointing the other direction (boost meaning looking from a frame moving with respect to the original frame). But if the particle is massless, it will travel at the speed of light, and so you can't boost past it. So you can't flip its helicity by changing frames. In this case, if it is "chiral right-handed", it will have right-handed helicity. If it is "chiral left-handed", it will have left-handed helicity. So chirality in the end has something to do with the natural helicity in the massless limit.

Note that chirality is not just a property of neutrinos. It is important for neutrinos because it is not known whether both chiralities exist. It is possible that only left-handed neutrinos (and only right-handed antineutrinos) exist.

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At first glance, they seem like very related concepts to me, actually! – Noldorin Nov 20 '10 at 21:20

So this is how I see it...

...particle spins,

if momentum direction = spin direction, helicity is positive, if momentum direction <> spin direction, helicity is negative...

chirality is complementary to helicity in that...

if the elements (momentum and spin) are reversed, the same outcome is observed, but is opposite in direction.

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Try to give proper explanation. – Curious Nov 22 '12 at 4:17

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