Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
A quantized attribute, analogous to electric charge, introduced in the classification of a subset of elementary particles—the so-called baryons—including the proton and neutron as its lightest members. As far as is known, electric charge is absolutely conserved in all physical processes. Hypercharge was introduced to formalize the observation that certain decay modes of baryons expected to proceed by means of the strong nuclear force simply were not observed. See Electric charge
Unlike electric charge, however, the postulated hypercharge was found not to be conserved absolutely; the weak nuclear interactions do not conserve hypercharge—and indeed can change hypercharge by ±1 or 0 units.
When the known baryons are classified according to their electric charge and their hypercharge, they naturally group into octets in the scheme first proposed by M. Gell-Mann and K. Nishijima. The quarks, hypothesized as the fundamental building blocks of matter, must have fractional hypercharge as well as electrical charge; the simplest quark model suggests values of 1/3 and 2/3, respectively. See Baryon, Elementary particle, Quantum mechanics, Quarks, Unitary symmetry