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I'm trying to understand how the Gell-Mann–Nishijima relation has been derived: \begin{equation} Q = I_3 + \frac{Y}{2} \end{equation} where $Q$ is the electric charge of the quarks, $I_3$ is the isospin quantum number and $Y$ is the hypercharge given by: \begin{equation} Y = B + S \end{equation} where $B$ is the baryon number and $S$ is the strangeness number.

Most books (I have looked at) discuss the Gell-Mann–Nishijima in relation to the approximate global $\mathrm{SU(3)}$ flavour symmetry that is associated with the up-,down- and strange-quark at high enough energies. But I have yet to fully understand the connection between the Gell-Mann–Nishijima and the $\mathrm{SU(3)}$ flavour symmetry.

Can the Gell-Mann–Nishijima relation somehow been derived or has it simply been postulated by noticing the relation between $Q$, $I_3$ and $Y$? If it can be derived, then I would be very grateful if someone can give a brief outline of how it is derived.

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Indeed, the formula only appeared empirically in 1956, before the eightfold way, for hadrons, long before quarks; and was seen to be such a basic fact that it informed the way flavor SU(3) was put together; and was subsequently spatchcocked into the gauge sector of the EW theory a decade after that--hence the alarming asymmetry of the hyper charge values.

Its basic point is that isomultiplets entail laddering of charge, $I_3$ being traceless, but in the early days of flavor physics, with just the strange quark, an isosinglet required its charge to be read by something, and so was incorporated into the 3rd component of Gell-Mann's diagonal $\lambda_8$, providing the needed 2nd element of its Cartan sub algebra.

Note that, in left-right flavor physics, say after the introduction of the charmed quark, C came as an addition to the strangeness, additively in the hypercharge, so (S+C+B)/2, whereas in the left-handed sector of the EW theory charm and strangeness (and T and B-ness) are in weak isodoublets, having escaped the hypercharge pen!

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The Gell-Mann–Nishijima relation arises from electroweak symmetry breaking. If we vev our Higgs SU(2) doublet, $$ \langle(\phi^+, \phi^0)\rangle = (0, v/\sqrt{2}), $$ we find that the theory remains invariant under a combination of the diagonal, Cartan SU(2) generator, the weak hypercharge, and the hypercharge, $Y$, because $$ e^{iQ} \langle(\phi^+, \phi^0)\rangle = \langle(\phi^+, \phi^0)\rangle\\ Q \langle(\phi^+, \phi^0)\rangle = (T_3 + Y/2) \langle(\phi^+, \phi^0)\rangle = 0 $$ because on our Higgs doublet, $$ T_3 + Y/2 = \left(\begin{array}{cc} 1/2 & 0\\ 0 & -1/2\end{array}\right) + \left(\begin{array}{cc} 1/2 & 0\\ 0 & 1/2\end{array}\right) = \left(\begin{array}{cc} 1 & 0\\ 0 & 0\end{array}\right) $$ One can always find a combination of the U(1) and Cartan generator of SU(2) which annihilates the vacuum. This form of the relation and these hypercharge assignments are a convention. The general form is $Q=T+aY$, with $a$ determined from the the hypercharge of the Higgs boson.

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  • $\begingroup$ PS, sorry if I am telling you things you already know, I'm not sure whether you expected a deeper answer. $\endgroup$ – innisfree Mar 16 '14 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. I have the feeling (although I am not sure) that the Gell-Mann–Nishijima relation (originally proposed in 1953 by Nishijima and 1956 by Gell-Mann) is something used to build the standard model, rather than that the standard model can be used to predict the the Gell-Mann–Nishijima relation. $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 16 '14 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ Well the hypercharges are picked to give the correct integer electric charges. But I wouldn't say that the GM-N relation was more fundamental than the SM gauge group and spontaneous symmetry breaking pattern. $\endgroup$ – innisfree Mar 16 '14 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, but the GM-N formula has been derived before (or at the start of) the development of the Standard Model. Thus, it seems backwards to explain the GM-N formula using the Standard Model. $\endgroup$ – Hunter Mar 16 '14 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @innisfree: Here you assume the Higgs has hypercharge of $1$. Is there a way to prove that the Higgs has a hypercharge of $1$ without knowing that $Q= T_3+Y/2$? $\endgroup$ – JeffDror Mar 16 '14 at 17:27

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