From Wikipedia's article on color charge:

"Shortly after the existence of quarks was first proposed in 1964, Oscar W. Greenberg introduced the notion of color charge to explain how quarks could coexist inside some hadrons in otherwise identical quantum states without violating the Pauli exclusion principle. The theory of quantum chromodynamics has been under development since the 1970s and constitutes an important component of the Standard Model of particle physics.[citation needed]"

Could anybody elaborate/explain this statement, esp. In light of the "citation needed" note at the end.

In other words, is an intuitive picture possible as to the reasons why quarks come in different colors (or can it only be explained in abstract spin space terms) and can an analogy be given between the Pauli exclusion principle for electrons (arising from opposite spins), and the color charges given to quarks?


1 Answer 1


In a very basic way, before the discovery of quark color you had a problem with particles like $\Delta^{++}$, since they should have three up quarks. Since the quarks are fermions with $s=1/2$, you could not make a totally anti-symmetric function with them. Therefore people conjectured that a new quantum number called 'color' should exist, and this would be responsible for not violating the exclusion principle.

In a more modern way, when you construct the theory of QCD, you impose a set of symmetries do the lagrangian and when you 'gauge' these you get fields responsible for interactions (in the case of QCD, the gluons, with color charge).

The closest thing to a principle like the exclusion principle I can think in terms of color is the fact that you can only have bound states of quarks with neutral color (like mesons, with one quark and one anti-quark).

  • $\begingroup$ This can be a separate question if you like, but, in light of your answer, would it be correct to say that red, green and blue are symmetrical with respect to the strong force, but not with respect to parity. If this is a silly question based on lack of background or would take too long to answer, please ignore it and I will read up more and come back to it later. Thanks $\endgroup$
    – user81619
    May 31, 2015 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not a specialist in QCD (I work with QFT in curved space-times), but it seems reasonable to me that the strong force should not differentiate between colors. But I don't understand your reasoning regarding parity. $\endgroup$ May 31, 2015 at 18:56

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